The World Trade Organization: The Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) Negotiations
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) in the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha
Round has emerged as a major stumbling block in the seven-year negotiations Doha round
negotiations. NAMA refers to the cutting of tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTB) on industrial and
primary products, basically all trade in goods which are not foodstuffs. While the agriculture
negotiations have often overshadowed the NAMA talks, trade of industrial and primary products
continue to make up the bulk of world trade. Average tariffs in developed countries have declined
from 40% at the end of World War II to 6% today through successive rounds of General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/WTO trade negotiations. Developed countries seek the
reduction of continuing high tariffs in the developing world, particularly from such countries as
Brazil, India, and China. Developing countries seek special and differential treatment and tie their
cuts in industrial tariffs to reductions in agricultural tariffs and subsidies.
Several econometric studies have modeled the possible effect of industrial tariff liberalization on
the global economy. The studies vary based on the assumptions and data used. All but one found a
greater net welfare benefit from liberalization of manufacturing tariffs than from agriculture. The
studies indicate that developing countries in the aggregate would gain the most from
manufacturing liberalization, at least in relative terms, and that the single largest gainer in terms
of net welfare benefit would be China.
A recent summit of WTO trade ministers, held in Geneva on July 21-29, 2008, broke up without
agreement over a dispute concerning agricultural safeguards. Over the past year, committee level
negotiations have proceeded following the release of a draft modality text in July 2007 and
revised in February, May, and, most recently, July 10, 2008. The main stumbling block has been
the negotiation of the tariff reduction formula. Members agreed to a Swiss-formula non-linear
tariff reduction formula approach at the December 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial, one in which
higher tariffs are decreased more than lower tariffs. However, disagreements persist about the size
or amounts of the tariff cuts. The talks also seek to reduce the incidence of non-tariff barriers,
which include import licensing, quotas and other quantitative import restrictions, conformity
assessment procedures, and technical barriers to trade. The use of sectoral tariff elimination and
special and differential treatment for developing countries have also proven controversial.
Legislation to implement any agreement that results from the Doha Round negotiations would
need to be passed by Congress. U.S. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), under which Congress
agreed to a time line for voting on implementing legislation with no amendments in return for
consultation and adherence to Congressional negotiating objectives, expired on July 1, 2007.
Consequently, there may be attempts to revise or extend TPA in order to consider legislation
resulting from a Doha agreement.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Evolution of the NAMA Negotiations.............................................................................................2
Possible Effects of a NAMA Agreement.........................................................................................4
Major NAMA Negotiating Issues....................................................................................................8
July 2008 Draft..................................................................................................................11
Special and Differential Treatment for Developing Countries................................................13
Prospects for the Negotiations.......................................................................................................16
Table 1. Tariff Averages in Selected Countries................................................................................2
Table 2. Net Welfare Benefits from Manufacturing Liberalization: Results from Selected
St udies ........................................................................................................................ .................. 6
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................17
Talks on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) in the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Doha Round refer to the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on industrial and
primary products, basically all trade in goods which are not foodstuffs. While the agriculture
negotiations have received greater scrutiny in the Doha round, trade of industrial and primary
products, the subject of the NAMA negotiations, continue to make up the bulk of world trade.
Nearly $13.6 trillion in manufactures and primary products were traded worldwide in 2007, 1
accounting for 80.5% of world trade activity. In the United States, industrial and primary 2
products accounted for 66% of exports and 81% of imports in 2007. Hence, the outcome of these
negotiations could have a substantial impact on the U.S. trade picture and some effect on the
overall U.S. economy.
Previous to the Doha Round, industrial tariff negotiations were the mainstay of General
Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. These rounds led to the reduction of
developed country average tariffs from 40% at the end of World War II to 6% today. However,
average tariff figures mask higher tariffs for many labor intensive or value-added goods that are
especially of interest to the developing world. Moreover, average tariff levels in developing
countries remain high, with average industrial tariffs averaging about 13%.
For the United States and other developed countries, prospective gains from the NAMA talks in
this round would be from the reduction of high tariffs in the developing world, particularly from
such countries as Brazil, India, and China. Developing countries were exempted from making
concessions in market access in previous rounds, thus sustaining the heavy tariff structure in
those countries. Developing countries are leery of opening up their markets to competition, often
making the argument that protectionist policies were employed in the development of many th
successful economies, from the European and North American economies in the 19 century to th
the rise of the East Asian tigers in the 20 century. However, as negotiating positions have made
clear, developed countries are demanding more access for their industrial products as a price for
opening up their agricultural sectors, where many developing countries have a comparative
advantage. Conversely, developing countries have held industrial tariff negotiations hostage to
movement on agriculture. This dynamic has been one of the factors contributing to the current
deadlock in the negotiations.
1 World Trade Organization, World Trade 2007, Table 2,
2 Bureau of Economic Analysis, “U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, December 2007,”
Table 1. Tariff Averages in Selected Countries
Country Manufacturing Agriculture
Quad Countriesa 4.0 10.7
United States 4.6 9.5
European Union 4.2 19.0
Japan 3.7 10.3
Canada 3.6 3.8
Large Middle Incomeb 13.1 26.6
Lower-Incomec Countries 13.2 16.6
Source: World Bank, Global Economic Prospects, 2004.
Note: Applied most favored nation, ad valorem tariff averages.
a. United States, European Union, Japan, Canada (average).
b. Brazil, China, India, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey.
c. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, Togo, Uganda, Zimbabwe.
Legislation to implement any agreement that results from the Doha Round negotiations would
need to be passed by Congress. If considering such legislation, Congress may examine the extent
to which a potential agreement opens foreign markets to U.S. exporters through the reduction of
both tariff and non-tariff barriers. Congress may also examine a potential agreement by its impact
on the health of the U.S. manufacturing sector, and its impact on manufacturing employment.
The current round of trade negotiations were launched at the 4th Ministerial of the WTO, held at
Doha, Qatar in November 2001. The course of the negotiations were set in the Doha Ministerial
Declaration, which provided the negotiating objectives of the round in general terms. The
objectives for the non-agriculture market access negotiations were described in Paragraph 16,
We agree to negotiations which shall aim, by modalities to be agreed, to reduce or, as
appropriate, eliminate tariffs, including the reduction or elimination of tariff peaks, high
tariffs, and tariff escalation, as well as non-tariff barriers, in particular on products of export
interest to developing countries. Product coverage shall be comprehensive and without a
priori exclusions. The negotiations shall take fully into account the special needs and
interests of developing and least-developed country participants, including through less than
full reciprocity in reduction commitments... To this end, the modalities to be agreed will
include appropriate studies and capacity-building measures to assist least-developed
countries to participate effectively in the negotiations.
The NAMA paragraph was short on specifics and left the modalities for the talks to negotiations.
The general nature of the document reflected the reluctance of many members to sign up for the
round, and the language has been characterized as the least common denominator of what could
be agreed upon at the time. However, the declaration gives certain clues about what path the
negotiations would take. First, the declaration showed a clear intent to address concerns of the
developing countries by a commitment to reduce tariff peaks and escalations, to concentrate on
products of export interest to developing countries, and to provide special and differential
treatment (SDT), including “through less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments” which
became a mantra for developing countries. However, the language on reducing tariff peaks, high
tariffs, and escalation also suggests the desire for a degree of tariff harmonization. This, in turn,
would suggest the use of a non-linear reduction formula (see “Tariff Reduction” below).
Paragraph 16 allowed members to take away from the Ministerial what they wanted, and to return
to specifics later. This initial ambiguity has haunted the negotiations to this day.
Negotiations proceeded at a slow pace in 2002 and 2003. Several deadlines for agreement on
negotiating modalities (i.e., methodologies by which negotiations are conducted) were missed in
the agriculture and industrial market access talks. Without agreement, negotiators looked toward
the September 2003 Cancún Ministerial to resolve the modalities. In the weeks before Cancún,
negotiating documents to achieve this resolution were criticized by all sides, and expectations of
the Ministerial were reduced to achieving an agreement on the framework for the modalities to be
used in future negotiations.
During this period, the United States favored an aggressive tariff-cutting negotiating strategy. In
December 2002, the United States proposed the complete elimination of tariffs by 2015. This
proposal would have eliminated “nuisance” tariffs (tariffs below 5%) and certain industrial sector 3
tariffs by 2010, and would have removed remaining tariffs in 5 equal increments by 2015. This
proposal applied to all countries and did not contain SDT language. Throughout the negotiations,
the United States generally has sought to limit the scope of special and differential treatment,
maintaining that it is in the developing countries’ own interest to lower tariffs, not least to
promote trade among developing countries.
The initial European Union (EU) tariff reduction proposal relied on a “compression formula,” one 4
in which all tariffs are compressed in four bands with the highest band being 15%. A joint
submission by the United States, Canada, and the EU before the Cancún Ministerial first
proposed the use of a Swiss-style harmonization (i.e. non-linear) formula for tariff reduction. This
joint paper did contain SDT language for developing countries in the form of credits awarded for 5
unilateral liberalization activity.
In the end, industrial market access was not even discussed at the Cancún Ministerial, which
broke up over agriculture and the so-called “Singapore issues.” Yet, a draft text from the
Ministerial, known as the Derbez text, became the basis for the July 2004 Framework Agreement,
which, in turn, formed the basis for subsequent negotiations. The July Framework Agreement
reaffirmed the use of an unspecified non-linear formula applied line-by-line that provides
flexibilities for developing countries. The text also supported the concept of sectoral tariff
elimination as a complementary modality for tariff reduction on goods of particular export
interest to developing countries, but it advanced no concrete proposal.
3 Market Access for Non-Agriculture Products, Communication from the United States, (TN/MA/W/18), December 2,
4 Market Access for Non-Agriculture Products, Communication from the European Communities, (TN/MA/W/11),
October 31, 2002.
5 “Non-Agricultural Market Access: Modalities,” Joint Communications from the United States, the European Union,
and Canada, (TN/MA/W/44), September 1, 2003.
In negotiating the July Framework, developing countries resisted the wholesale inclusion of the
Derbez text. They insisted on a paragraph, included as the first paragraph of the text, indicating
that “additional negotiations are required to reach agreement on the specifics of some of these
elements,” the elements being the formula, treatment of unbound tariffs, flexibilities for
developing countries, participation in sectoral tariff modalities, and preferential tariff
beneficiaries. As in the Doha Ministerial, ambiguity allowed for an immediate agreement, but
sowed the seeds of future disagreement.
As in other sectors, subsequent negotiations on NAMA have been conducted on the basis of the
July Framework Agreement. Although it was hoped that modalities could be achieved in time for th
the 6 Ministerial at Hong Kong, this proved optimistic, and progress was limited to incremental
steps. For example, while the July Framework called for a non-linear, harmonizing tariff
reduction formula, the Hong Kong Ministerial finally settled on the Swiss formula for tariff 6
reduction, but did not settle on coefficients for that formula. At the Ministerial, WTO members
agreed on a new deadline of April 30, 2006, to achieve final negotiating modalities and to
establish draft schedules based on these modalities by July 31, 2006. These deadlines were not
met, and after a contentious negotiating session on agriculture on July 23, 2006, Director-General
Pascal Lamy suspended the Doha Round for a period that was to last approximately six months.
Following the July 2006 suspension, several WTO country groups such as the G-20 and the
Cairns Group of agricultural exporters met to lay the groundwork to restart the negotiations.
Although these meeting did not yield any breakthrough, Lamy announced the talks were back in
“full negotiating mode” on January 31, 2007. Key players in the talks such as the G-4 (United
States, European Union, Brazil, India) conducted bilateral or group meeting to break the impasse
in the first months of the year. In April 2007, G-6 negotiators (G-4 plus Australia and Japan)
agreed to work towards concluding the round by the end of 2007, yet a G-4 negotiating session in
Potsdam collapsed anew in June 2007.
On July 17, 2007, the chairman of the NAMA negotiating group released a modalities text to be
considered by the negotiating committee. While this text has proved controversial, it served as the
basis for continued, if fruitless, Geneva negotiations for the next year revising the texts on 7
February 8, May 19, and most recently, July 10, 2008. However, a summit of WTO trade
ministers held in Geneva on July 21-29, while making some progress on NAMA issues, broke up
over an intractable dispute concerning agricultural safeguards. Individual modalities proposed by
this paper are addressed in the negotiating issues section below.
Several studies seek to estimate the potential gains emanating from the reduction of tariffs on
industrial products resulting from a successful outcome of the Doha negotiations. These studies
typically attempt to quantify the net welfare benefit from various liberalization scenarios. They
use models of the world economy known as computable general equilibrium (CGE) models,
which provide computer simulations of the world economy through equations that simulate the
relationship between economic variables. The models use the versions of the Global Trade Action
6 For a detailed treatment of the current status of the negotiations, see “Major NAMA Negotiating Issues” below.
7 “Draft Modalities for Non-Agricultural Market Access,” hereinafter (TN/MA/W/103), February 8, 2008,
(TN/MA/W/103/Rev.1), May 19, 2008, (TN/MA/W/103/Rev.2), July 10, 2008.
Project (GTAP) database, which compiles trade flows, and estimate the economic impact of such 8
flows on tariff revenues, production, prices, and welfare.
Assumptions made in modeling the world economy, as well as the version of the GTAP data used,
affect the results of the studies. For example, it has been noted that models that use the most
recent data (GTAP version 6, using 2001 data) have found smaller welfare gains to the world
economy from trade liberalization. Previous versions of the data did not reflect ongoing trade
liberalization such as China’s entry into the WTO, the implementation of preferential trading 9
arrangements, or the phase-in of previous liberalization commitments. The results also depend
on whether a given model uses static or dynamic assumptions such as constant or increasing
returns to scale, or whether the model accounts for unemployment or technology transfer. The
focus of these reports are often on the effects of agricultural liberalization or on the potential
gains (or losses) of developing countries. However, this section restricts itself to those studies that
model industrial or primary product tariff reductions. Table 2 provides a summary of the model
outcomes described below.
One well-known attempt to gauge the impact of the multilateral trade liberalization is the
Michigan Model, a multi-country, multi-sector, general equilibrium model that is used to analyze 10
various trade policy changes and scenarios. In this study, conducted at the beginning of the
round, the model measures the welfare effects of a 33% reduction in tariffs and subsidies on
agriculture, the same reduction on tariffs in manufactures, and service sector liberalization.
According to this model, a 33% reduction in manufacturing tariffs would result in a net welfare
benefit of $163.4 billion to the world economy. The United States would achieve a net $23.6
billion welfare gain, although Japan ($45.2 billion) and the EU (39.2 billion) would receive
greater gains. Overall, the developed countries would achieve $113.4 billion in net welfare gains
and the developing countries led by China ($10.9 billion) would receive the other $50 billion in
worldwide net benefit. The model’s outcome suggests, the United States could gain primarily
from services liberalization ($135 billion), would receive some net welfare benefit from
manufacturing tariff liberalization ($23.6 billion), but could suffer a net welfare loss of $7.23 11
billion from the agricultural liberalization assumed in the model. The model suffers from the use
of older data from 1995, but is bolstered by more dynamic assumptions such as increasing returns
to scale and monopolistic competition.
8 For more information, see the GTAP website at Purdue University, https://www.gtap.agecon.purdue.edu/about/
9 Frank Ackerman, “The Shrinking Gains from Trade: A Critical Assessment of Doha Round Projections,” October
10 Drusilla K. Brown, Alan V. Deardorff, and Robert M. Stern, “Computational Analysis of Multilateral Trade
Liberalization in the Uruguay Round and Doha Development Round,” University of Michigan Discussion Paper #489.
11 Ibid., p. 13.
Table 2. Net Welfare Benefits from Manufacturing Liberalization: Results from
Net Welfare Benefit
Michigan Model (2001) 33% Tariff Reduction $163.4
full liberalization $105 World Bank (2005)
50% developed/33% developing tariff reduction $21.6
50% developed/33% developing tariff reduction $53.1 Carnegie (2006)
36% developed/24% developing tariff reduction $38.6
Full liberalization $200.8 UNCTAD (2005)
Swiss formula coefficients, $134.7
3.4% developed/ 12.5% developing
Swiss formula coefficients, $107.6
6.8% developed/ 25% developing
OECD (2006) full liberalization $23.4
The World Bank and several other organizations have modeled the effect of trade liberalization
using more recent GTAP-6 data from 2001. The World Bank study found that full liberalization of
all merchandise trade (including agriculture) could lead to a $287 billion increase in real income
by 2015. Full liberalization in industrial manufactures alone would lead to a $105 billion increase
in real income, divided between a $38 billion increase from textiles and apparel liberalization,
and a $67 billion increase from liberalization for other manufacturers. Developed countries could
receive the largest share of benefit from full liberalization in dollar terms ($57 billion v. $10
billion for developing countries), but developing countries may achieve greater benefits in
proportion to the size of their economies. The World Bank study found that developing countries
would receive a preponderance of the benefits resulting from textile and apparel liberalization
($22 billion v. $16 billion in the developed world).
The World Bank study also modeled possible Doha Round outcomes. In computing a 50%
reduction by developed country tariffs and a 33% reduction by developing countries for all
merchandise trade (agriculture and industrial), the study found that welfare gains from such
liberalization could total $96.1 billion. Of this amount, industrial tariff liberalization could
provide $21.6 billion of extra net welfare benefit with $7.1 billion accruing to developing 12
A Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study13 uses an applied general equilibrium
model with some novel features that attempt to account for the presence of unemployment in
developing countries (most studies assume full employment), and to chart the dynamic effects of
12 Kym Anderson, Will Martin and Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, “Doha Merchandise Trade Reform: What’s At
Stake for Developing Countries,” World Bank Policy Research Paper, February 2006.
13 Sandra Polaski, “Winners and Losers: The Impact of the Doha Round on Developing Countries,” Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, 2006, p.70.
technology transfer, which increases along with trade. The model poses two different scenarios
for possible manufacturing outcomes of the Doha Round: an ambitious scenario of a 50%
reduction in developed country tariffs and a 33% reduction in developing country tariffs and a
more modest scenario for manufacturing with a 36% reduction in developed country and a 24%
reduction in developing country tariffs. The authors of the model warn the extent of liberalization
may be overstated due to the model’s use of applied, rather than bound tariffs.
The study found global real income gains from manufacturing were $53.1 billion for the
ambitious scenario and $38.1 billion for the modest scenario. The liberalization of manufacturing
tariffs represented over 90.6% of the gains from the Doha round liberalization in the ambitious
scenario and over 87% for the more modest formula. In the ambitious scenario, the gains were
apportioned between $30.2 billion (56.8%) for developing countries and $23 billion (43.2%)
accruing to developed countries. The more modest scenario yielded $21 billion to developing
countries and $16.4 billion to developed countries. In either scenario, the largest recipient of
welfare gains is China at $14.8 billion and $10.6 billion, respectively. These figures represent
nearly half of all gains shown for the developing world, and slightly more than 1/4 of the gains
overall. The study suggests that some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa would be net losers in
manufactured goods liberalization. In terms of net gains or losses of world export market share
for developing country manufacturing exports under the modest scenario, China would be the
largest gainer with an approximate 0.33% increase in its share of world exports. Some countries
including Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa would lose industrial
market share under the modest scenario. For the United States, the model suggests that real
income gains resulting from manufacturing liberalization would be nearly $6.5 billion for the
ambitious Doha scenario and $4.5 billion in gains for a more modest outcome.
The United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also models trade 14
liberalization in industrial sectors. The UNCTAD model uses a static CGE model that assumes
perfect competition and constant returns to scale. The study models welfare gains under free trade
and under several “Swiss” formula scenarios, the formula under which negotiations are now 15
taking place (see “Tariff Reduction” below). Under the complete liberalization scenario, the net
welfare benefit accruing to the entire world was estimated at $200.8 billion, with developing
countries accruing $135.3 billion of that. Over 1/3 of that gain would accrue to China ($48.6
billion). The EU would receive the largest gains among developed countries at $28.5 billion, and
the study predicted the United States would receive $11.2 billion in benefits.
The UNCTAD study also models Swiss formula reductions using coefficients equaling the
average weighted industrial bound tariff by group (3.4% for developed countries, 12.5% for
developing countries) with one scenario modeling the respective coefficients at twice that level.
This model generated net welfare gains between $107.6 billion and $134.7 billion. Under the
scenarios, developing countries gained $65.2 billion to $86.9 billion of this figure, nearly 2/3 of
the gains. Again, China gained the most between $34.8 billion and $41.2 billion, around ½ of
total world welfare gains. The model shows U.S. gains of $5.8 billion and $7.0 billion,
respectively. While this study has the advantage of using an agreed-upon negotiating modality,
the study does not use coefficients actually proposed during the negotiations.
14 Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba and David Vanzetti, “Now What? Searching for Solutions to the WTO Industrial
Tariff Negotiations,” http://188.8.131.52/tab/events/namastudy/coping.asp?pf=1.
15 The study also modeled other tariff cutting modalities that were not adopted by WTO negotiators; these are not
A 2006 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study found that
worldwide net welfare gains from full tariff liberalization in manufactured goods could be $23.4
billion, which represented 56% of all tariff reduction gains. Seventy-three percent of this gain
went to developing countries ($17 billion) with $6.3 billion accruing to the developed world. In
relation to the size of their economies, developing countries gained relatively more with such
gains equaling 0.33% of developing country GDP, versus 0.05% for developed countries. Notable
in this survey was an outcome showing that North America would suffer the largest welfare loss
from manufacturing liberalization ($6.8 billion) due to, according to the authors, an unfavorable
terms-of-trade effects in the motor vehicle and related industries, resulting from lower prices in 16
the sector. The study also modeled several Swiss formula scenarios, but the models did not
differentiate between agriculture and manufacturing tariffs.
Because of the differing assumptions made in these models and the different datapoints generated
by them, it is difficult to generalize about their results. All but one found a greater net welfare
benefit from liberalization of manufacturing tariffs than from agriculture. The studies suggest that
developing countries would gain the most from manufacturing liberalization, at least in relative
terms, and that the single largest gainer in terms of net welfare benefit would be China. Most of
these studies indicate the United States could achieve modest net welfare gains from
The principal negotiating issue in the NAMA talks has been over the tariff formula. The
December 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial declaration endorsed the use of a non-linear, “Swiss”
style, tariff reduction formula. This result builds on previous negotiations, beginning with the
Doha Ministerial Declaration, which launched the round in November 2001. That Declaration
committed member nations to negotiate the reduction or elimination of tariffs, based on
modalities to be agreed in the talks. Negotiating modalities discussed for the NAMA talks
included cuts determined by formula, by a request-offer approach, or by agreement to harmonize
or eliminate tariffs in a specific sector—all of which had been used in previous rounds of
The Doha Declaration called for the reduction or elimination of tariff peaks or tariff escalation.
Tariff peaks refer to a country’s adoption of the maximum allowable tariff in order to protect
sensitive products from competition. Tariff peaks are levied by the United States for certain
textile products, footwear, and watches. Tariff escalation is the practice of increasing tariffs as
value is added to a commodity. As an example of tariff escalation, cotton would come in with a
low tariff, fabric would face a higher tariff, and a finished shirt would face the highest tariff.
Tariff escalation is often employed to protect import-competing, value-adding industries. Peak
tariffs and escalations tend to be levied particularly against the products of developing countries,
thereby adding to the cost of consumer goods in developed countries.
16 Prezemyslaw Kowalski, “The Doha Development Agenda: Welfare Gains from Further Multilateral Tariff
Liberalization,” in Trading Up: Economic Perspectives on Development Issues in the Multilateral Trading System,
OECD, 2006, p.32.
Negotiations to achieve modalities proceeded at a slow pace, but after more than two years
including the ill-fated Cancun Ministerial, the July 2004 Framework Agreement endorsed a non-
linear formula applied on a line-by-line basis as a modality to conduct tariff reduction
negotiations. A non-linear formula works to even out or harmonize tariff levels among
participants. This type of formula would result in a greater percentage reduction of higher tariffs
than lower ones, resulting in a greater equalization of tariffs at a lower level than before.
Negotiations on a “line-by-line” basis means that the formula would not be applied as an average
to industrial categories, but to the tariff line of each individual product. A harmonization formula
would also work to reduce tariff peaks and tariff escalations, another stated goal of the Doha
Declaration. By contrast, an example of a linear formula would be one that reduced tariffs by a
certain percentage across the board. Consequently, this formula would not change the relative
tariff rates among members. A country with relatively high tariffs before undergoing the formula
would still have high tariffs relative to other countries afterwards. This approach is generally
favored by countries with high tariffs or certain tariff peaks that the country seeks to preserve.
After a further 18 months of largely fruitless negotiations, the December 2005 Hong Kong
Ministerial formally adopted the Swiss formula as the non-linear formula by which industrial
tariff cuts would be negotiated. It is known as the Swiss formula because it was the formula
proposed by Switzerland, and later adopted by GATT members, to cut tariffs in the 1970s Tokyo
Round. The Swiss formula is,
where T, the resulting tariff rate, is obtained by dividing the product of the coefficient (a) and the
initial tariff rate (t) by the sum of the coefficient (a) and the initial tariff (t). Selection of the
coefficient is key, because it determines the final tariff; a lower coefficient results in a lower tariff
(T). In addition, the equation works in such a way that the coefficient also represents the
country’s maximum tariff after the formula has been applied.
Although the Ministerial agreed to a Swiss formula, it did not agree on the coefficients that would
finalize the negotiating modalities. Before the Round was temporarily suspended in July 2006,
negotiations in Geneva were being conducted around the use of two coefficients for the formula,
with one value for developed countries and another, higher, value for developing countries. The
EU in its cross-cutting proposal of October 2005 proposed a coefficient of 10 for developed
countries and 15 for developing and least developed countries (LDCs); this ratio was 17
subsequently endorsed by the United States. Pakistan proposed that the developed countries 18
have a coefficient of 6 and developing countries a coefficient of 30. Other proposals suggested a
range of figures. New Zealand has suggested that the difference between the two should be no 19
more the five percentage points. Developing countries contend that they should be afforded a
higher coefficient based on language in the Doha Ministerial Declaration affording them “less
than full reciprocity in reduction commitments.”
“U.S., EU to Work Together on NAMA,” Inside U.S. Trade, March 3, 2006.
18 “The Way Forward, Communication from Pakistan, (TN/MA/W/60), July 21, 2005.
19 “New Zealand’s Ambitious NAMA Plan,” Washington Trade Daily, June 9, 2006.
An alternate developing country proposal distinct from the Swiss formula with multiple 20
coefficients was one put forth by Argentina, Brazil, and India, known as the ABI proposal. ABI
also used the Swiss formula, but it proposed the coefficient to be the tariff average of each
country, thus each country would have its own coefficient. ABI would not result in tariff
harmonization among countries because there would not be a common coefficient; however, it 21
would result in harmonization across products within each country’s tariff schedule.
Just prior to the ill-fated June 30-July 1, 2006 mini-ministerial in Geneva, Pascal Lamy suggested
a possible compromise in the form of the 20-20-20 proposal. In addition to advocating a ceiling
of $20 billion in U.S. domestic agriculture support and the use of the G-20 agricultural market
access proposal for developed countries, Lamy advocated a developing country of coefficient of
20 for the NAMA Swiss formula. The NAMA element of the proposal was criticized by U.S. and
EU officials as lacking ambition. U.S. manufacturing groups scored the proposal as failing to
provide sufficient market access to make a deal worthwhile to U.S. manufacturers. Brazil, for its
part, attacked the proposal as too ambitious, and renewed its call for a coefficient of 30 for
The NAMA chairman’s negotiating draft of July 2007 (and reaffirmed in February 2008)
suggested a Swiss formula coefficient of [8-9] for developed countries and between [19-23] for
developing countries. The chairman calculated that such a coefficient range would yield an
average tariff of 3%, 90% of tariffs below 5%, and tariff peaks of 7%-8.5% for the United States 22
and Europe. For developing countries, the chairman calculated the average bound tariff resulting
from the suggested coefficients as 12%, with 80% to 90% of tariff lines below 15%. Thirty-one
developing countries would apply these tariff reductions; least developed countries (LDCs) would
be exempt from reduction commitments and recently-acceded members (such as China, Taiwan,
and Vietnam) would be granted a higher coefficient to reflect the ambitious reductions these
countries have already undertaken in order to join the WTO.
The July 2007 NAMA draft reflected a middle ground between the more ambitious coefficient
range [10-15] of the developed country proposal and that of the NAMA-11 [10-35]. Such a
middle ground was proposed by Chile and drew support from Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica,
Hong Kong, Peru, Singapore, and Thailand. This proposal called for a developed country
coefficient of “less than 10” and “between the upper teens and low twenties” as a developing 23
Reaction to the July 2007 draft was cool on all sides. The NAMA-1124 group of countries
criticized what they considered the asymmetry of the proposal with the agriculture text, claiming
that it demanded more from developing countries than the agriculture text did from developed
countries. It also claimed that the proposal did not reflect the “less than full reciprocity” 25
commitment for developing countries reflected in the Doha Declaration. Three members of
20 “Market Access for Non Agricultural Products,” (TN/MA/W/54), April 15, 2005.
21 Sam Laird, “Economic Implications of WTO Negotiations on Non-Agricultural Market Access.,”
22 “Chairman’s Introduction to the Draft NAMA Modalities,” (JOB(07)/126), July 17, 2007, p.3. Brackets indicate a
range of possible proposals, or disagreement or uncertainty concerning such proposals.
23 “Developing Country Support Builds For Compromise NAMA Proposal,” Inside U.S. Trade, July 13, 2007.
24 NAMA-11 is an ad hoc negotiating group of developing countries consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India,
Indonesia, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa, Tunisia and Venezuela.
25 Statement of the NAMA-11 Group, July 25, 2007, available at http://www.iatp.org/tradeobservatory/
NAMA-11, Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela, indicated that the draft could not be the basis for 26
further negotiations. Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union scored the proposal
for not being ambitious enough to provide a satisfactory level of market access.
The current July 2008 draft, as modified by the Lamy proposal at the July 2008 Ministerial and 27
incorporated in the chairman’s post summit report, suggests an 8 coefficient value for developed
countries and a sliding scale approach for the value of the coefficient for developing countries.
Under this proposal, the developing country coefficient would be tied to the use of one of the so-
called ‘Paragraph 7’ flexibilities that had been introduced in the July 2004 framework agreement.
Under that agreement, developing countries may choose one of the following flexibilities: (1)
apply less than formula cuts for up to 10% of tariff lines provided that the cuts applied are no less
than half the formula cuts and that the tariff lines do not exceed 10% of the value of a member’s
non-agricultural imports, or (2) keep tariff lines unbound or not applying formula cuts for 5%of
tariff lines provided they do not exceed 5%of the value of a member’s non-agricultural imports.
The bracketed percentages were initially posited as working hypotheses, then adopted by the July
2007 draft modality text, and then removed in the February 2008 revised draft. While this was
seen by some as a step backward in the negotiations, according to the chairman it was done to
increase the range of flexibilities available to developing countries to encourage them to accept 28
the existing range of coefficients in the overall tariff reduction formula.
The result of these negotiations has been the proposal to tie these Paragraph 7 or ‘sliding scale’
flexibilities directly to the overall formula cuts. Thus, a developing country adopting coefficient
x= 20 could choose (1) to apply less than formula cuts for up to 14% of tariff lines provided that
the cuts applied are no less than half the formula cuts and that the tariff lines do not exceed 16%
of the value of a member’s non-agricultural imports, or (2) keep tariff lines unbound or not
applying formula cuts for 6.5% of tariff lines provided they do not exceed 7.5% of the value of a
member’s non-agricultural imports.
A developing country adopting coefficient y=22 would adopt figures in the July 2007 brackets
(above). A developing country adopting coefficient z=25 would not avail itself of any flexibilities,
as it has made the least formula reductions. The range of values for the coefficient and for the
percentages of tariff lines subject to the flexibilities indicate the range of figures subject to final
The use of these flexibilities has been further complicated by the so-called ‘anti-concentration
clause,’ which provides that the flexibilities available to developing countries shall not be used to
exclude full chapters of the harmonized tariff schedule (HS) from full formula reductions. Both
the United States and the EU have been adamant that the flexibilities should not be used in a way
to exclude whole industrial sectors from formula cuts, as reflected in the 2 digit HS chapter.
26 “U.S. Criticizes Draft NAMA Text, Refutes Developing Nation’s Arguments on Tariffs,”
International Trade Reporter, July 26, 2007.
27 “Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products,” [Job(08)/96], August 12, 2008, available at http://www.wto.org/
28 “Draft Modalities for Non-Agricultural Market Access,” (TN/MA/W/103), February 8, 2008, p.6.
Meanwhile, developing countries have opposed expanding the scope of the anti-concentration
clause beyond the statement that it should not apply to full HS chapters, as agreed by all members
at Hong Kong. The Lamy draft modalities set full formula tariff reductions as a minimum of 20%
of national tariff lines or 9% of the value of imports of the Member in each HS chapter.
The July 2008 draft also provides for certain flexibilities for countries participating in customs
unions such as the Southern African Customs Union (SACU)(South Africa, Namibia, Botswana,
Lesotho, and Swaziland) and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay). These
flexibilities are sought to allow these countries to maintain a common external tariff, while
subjecting them to formula cuts.
Countries that have recently joined the WTO, so-called ‘recently-acceded members (RAMs), had
to commit to tariff reductions and bindings as a part of their accession negotiations. Thus, they
have been given some additional flexibilities in the proposed modalities. Albania, Armenia,
Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Tonga, Vietnam, and Ukraine will not be
required to undertake any tariff reductions beyond their accession commitments this round, and
China, Oman, Croatia, and Taiwan will have extended periods in which to phase-in their tariff
commitments. Another group of countries, so-called ‘small and vulnerable economies’ (SVEs),
countries with less than 0.1% of world trade and whose economies are reliant on the production
of a few products, would be allowed flexibilities in the amount and structure of their tariff
reductions, but would be required to increase the level of their tariff bindings. However,
Venezuela’s request to be considered as an SVE, due to what it claims to be its concentrated
pattern of imports and reliance on petroleum exports, was not looked upon favorably by the 29
A second issue in the negotiations is the process of tariff binding and the use of bound tariffs in
the reduction formula. Under Article II of the GATT, tariffs are “bound” at a specific levels of
customs duty when an agreement is reached between nations on a most-favored nation basis to:
(1) lower a duty to a stated level; (2) maintain an existing level of duty; or (3) not to raise a duty
above a specified level. Tariffs can be bound as a specific duty per item or as an ad valorem duty.
An ad valorem tariff is set as a percentage of the value of an imported good, while a non-ad
valorem or specific tariff uses some other measurement such as a fixed rate per unit or weight of
goods. The binding of tariffs provides for stability and predictability in the trading system by
preventing the raising of tariff rates except under strict circumstances accompanied by
The Uruguay Round achieved success in binding tariffs in both developing and developed
countries. For all countries, the percentage of imports under bound rates increased from 68% to
87%. The percentage of imports under bound rates increased from 78% to 99% in developed
countries, from 73% to 98% in transition economies, and from 21% to 73% in developing 30
29 “U.S. Firm on NAMA Sectoral Commitments, As Chair Issues Warning on Unresolved Items,” International Trade
Reporter, July 10, 2008.
30 “Understanding the WTO. Tariffs: More Bindings and Closer to Zero,” http://www.wto.int/english/thewto_e/
The value of tariff binding to the world trading system is that it sets a maximum tariff which
cannot be exceeded without penalty. However, many countries actually apply much lower tariffs
to imported goods. These applied tariffs can vary widely from bound tariffs especially in
developing countries. Although the United States, the EU, and several other NAMA “Friends of
Ambition” advocated the use of applied tariffs as the basis by which tariff formula cuts be made,
the 2004 July Framework and the subsequent Hong Kong Ministerial document decided to
implement tariff cuts based on bound rates.
This decision had implications for the tariff formula. Because bound tariffs are often significantly
higher than applied tariff levels, reductions from applied rates would result in greater cuts to
actually applied tariffs. Thus for the negotiations to provide actual market access, as opposed to
just cutting the binding rate, the formula coefficient must be lower. Higher coefficients would
work to exclude some tariff lines from any actual cuts in applied tariffs, especially in developing
A second goal of the Doha negotiations in this area concerns the binding of tariffs by developing
countries. Because the binding process commits a country not to raise tariffs beyond a certain
level, binding has been seen as the first step in tariff reduction. Under the 2004 Framework
Agreement, reductions in unbound tariff lines would be calculated from twice the currently
applied rate. However, the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration adopted a ‘constant non-linear
mark-up approach,’ but did not adopt any particular formula. Generally, such an approach would
add a certain number of percentage points to the applied rate of the unbound tariff line in order to
establish the base rate on which the tariff reduction formula would be applied. The July 2008 31
draft suggests a mark-up of applied rate plus 25 percentage points.
The Framework also provided flexibility for developing countries who have bound less than 35%
of their non-agricultural tariff lines. They would be exempt from tariff reduction commitments in
the Round provided that they bound the remainder of their non-agricultural tariff lines at an
average level of 28.5%. Subsequent discussions on this issue have backtracked somewhat,
however, with the July 2008 draft proposes that countries with binding coverage below 15% of
tariff lines bind [70-90%] of currently unbound tariffs, and countries and countries with binding 32
coverage at 15% or above bind [75-90%] of their tariff lines.
In addition, all tariffs are to be bound in ad valorem terms; all remaining non-ad valorem tariffs
would be converted and bound by a methodology to be determined through negotiation. While
non-ad valorem tariffs are more prevalent in agriculture, they continue to be employed for non-
agricultural tariffs and are not solely a developing country phenomenon. One study calculates that
figure is 82.8%.
Aside from the formula-based flexibilities and binding concessions described above, the
negotiations, it provides least developed countries (LDCs) with other special and differential
31 TN/MA/W/103/Rev.2, p.3.
32 ibid, p. 5.
33 Marc Bacchetta and Bigit Bora, “Industrial Tariff Liberalization and the Doha Development Agenda,” WTO
Working Paper, 2003, p. 15.
treatment. LDCs would not be required to apply formula cuts, nor participate in the sectoral cuts,
but would undertake to “substantially” increase their level of bound tariffs. The Hong Kong
Ministerial also agreed that developed countries and developing countries in a position to do so
would grant LDCs duty-free and quota-free access to 97% of their tariff lines as part of their
Doha obligations. The negotiations have also acknowledged the challenge of designing tariff
reductions for countries that are already beneficiaries to various preference programs such as the 34
U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act or the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) Initiative.
To ameliorate such preference erosion, the draft modalities provide extended implementation
periods for tariff reduction for certain tariff lines on which some developing now receive non-
reciprocal tariff preferences.
The industrial market access talks also encompass negotiations on the reduction of non-tariff
barriers (NTBs). Non-tariff barriers include such activities as import licensing, quotas and other
quantitative import restrictions, conformity assessment procedures, and technical barriers to trade.
The 2004 July Framework instructed members to submit notification of NTBs by October 31,
2004, for negotiators to identify, examine, categorize, and ultimately, negotiate. Although this
notification procedure occurred, little substantive negotiations on the NTBs identified
subsequently took place.
The NAMA drafts have included various horizontal and vertical proposals that would be subject
to text-based negotiations under a modalities agreement. The horizontal proposals include a
proposed agreement on remanufactured goods and a 2006 EU-and NAMA-11-sponsored
mechanism to facilitate solutions to specific NTBs, apart from the dispute settlement system, as 35
they arise. Vertical proposal have been put forward concerning NTBs for chemical products;
electronics; electrical safety and electromagnetic compatibility; labeling of textiles, clothing,
footware, and travel goods; and automotive products.
WTO members have agreed to consider the use of sectoral tariff elimination as a supplementary
modality for the NAMA negotiations. Sectoral initiatives, such as tariff elimination or
harmonization, permit a critical mass of countries representing the preponderance of world trade
in a commodity to agree to eliminate tariffs in that good. Such an arrangement requires the
participation of the major players, however, because under the most-favored-nation principle
those tariffs would be eliminated for all countries, even those not reciprocating. The 1996
Information Technology Agreement is an example of a completed sectoral tariff elimination
agreement in which 41 countries have eliminated tariffs on 180 products.
The Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration took note of these sectoral negotiations and instructed 36
negotiators to determine which sectors “could garner sufficient support to be realized.” Sectoral
34 The EBA is an EU tariff preference program that provides LDCs with tariff-free, quota-free access for their exports,
35 Now known as “Ministerial Decision on Procedures for the Facilitation of Solutions to Non-Tariff Barriers,”
(TN/MA/W/103/Rev.2), Annex 5, p. 20.
36 “Doha Work Program: Ministerial Declaration” (WT/MIN(05)/DEC), December 22, 2005, p. 4.
negotiations have been proposed for automotive and related parts; bicycles and related parts;
chemicals; electronics/electrical products; fish and fish products; forest products; gems and
jewelry; hand tools; industrial machinery; open access to enhanced health care; raw materials; 37
sports equipment; toys; and textiles, clothing and footwear.
The United States has been the main proponent of sectoral negotiations and has linked level of
overall formula cuts to participation in the sectorals. The United States has sought to have
developing countries commit to sectorals and to the level of cuts prior to determining the level of 38
formula cuts. Some developing countries have participated in these discussions, and have
proposed some sectors, other developing countries have questioned engagement in sectoral
negotiations prior to settling on a formula for negotiations.
While the current NAMA draft, as modified by the Lamy proposal and the subsequent chairman’s
report, reaffirms the voluntary aspects of sectoral negotiations, it calls upon members to commit
to negotiate the terms of at least two sectoral initiatives in order to achieve critical mass (or “with
a view to making them viable” in the chairman’s report). Any developing country member
participating in a resulting sectoral initiative would be able to increase its coefficient in the
overall tariff reduction formula by an increment to be determined. The July 2008 draft also
introduced the possibility of special and differential treatment for developing countries
participating in the sectorals including “0 for x” tariff reductions, longer implementation times
and partial product coverages. The chairman’s statement also broached the exclusion from
sectorals of tariff lines for which the Paragraph 7 flexibilities were applied (see above) by
The revisions to the NAMA text have proved controversial. The National Association of
Manufacturers charges that the chairman’s text “undercuts the possibility of meaningful sectoral
agreements,” through the expansion of special and differential treatment, and urges USTR 39
Schwab not to allow this document to become the negotiating text going forward. The switch in
the terms used to describe the level of participation that would make a sectoral initiative feasible,
from ‘critical mass’ to ‘viable’ was also seen as weakening the text. This is because the term
“critical mass” has come to mean the initiative would include countries comprising 90% of world
trade, thus requiring the participation of China and maybe other developing countries. The term
viable, by contrast, does not have such a defined connotation, perhaps giving these countries a 40
pass on participation.
37 TN/MA/W/103/Rev.2, p. 6.
38 “U.S. Firm on NAMA Sectoral Commitments, As Chair Issues Warning on Unresolved Items,” WTO Reporter, July
39 National Association of Manufacturers, “NAM Dismayed by New WTO Industrial Text,” Press Release, August 14,
40 “U.S. Charges NAMA Report Weakens Sectoral Initiative Language,” Inside U.S. Trade, August 15, 2008.
Although Doha Round negotiations are continuing, U.S. trade promotion authority (TPA) expired
on July 1, 2007. The parties likely will seek to achieve progress in the talks in the hope that the th
110 Congress may extend TPA to consider a possible Doha Round agreement. Congressional
consideration of TPA extension legislation may provide a venue for a debate on the status of the
Round and the prospects for reaching an agreement consistent with principles set forth by
Congress in granting TPA.
If progress is not made in the Doha Round, or if it goes into a period of limbo, there may be
consequences for industrial tariff liberalization. First, the negotiation of bilateral and regional free
trade agreements may accelerate. In the wake of the 2006 negotiation suspension, the United
States, the EU, Brazil, and India all announced plans to concentrate on additional bilateral
liberalization. While bilateral or regional free trade agreements (FTA) potentially can completely
remove tariffs or any other trade distortions between negotiating countries, the proliferation of
these agreements may complicate international trade as exporters must navigate competing tariff
schedules, rules of origin, or other non-tariff barriers. This prospect can lead to trade diversion, a
circumstance in which countries trade based on tariff levels and not on comparative advantage. A
related question is whether the proliferation of these agreements may erode the willingness of
participating countries to negotiate multilaterally, especially if countries are able to strike deals
with their major trading partners.
A further consequence may be the loss of agreements already made at the negotiations. While the
NAMA talks are far from completed, some components (such as the Swiss formula) have been
agreed. It is possible that prolonged disagreements may imperil the progress that has been made
as countries may withdraw what they have agreed to without signs of forward momentum.
It is also unlikely that the NAMA talks can achieve a breakthrough in the absence of progress in
the agriculture talks. For good or ill, the agriculture talks have become the linchpin of the
negotiations. Aside from the intrinsic importance developing countries place on the agricultural
talks, many developing countries appear to have used the NAMA negotiations as a bargaining
chip to hold out for better agriculture offers. These countries often hold defensive positions in the
NAMA talks and seek expanded agricultural access in protected and subsidized developed
country agricultural markets as recompense for any NAMA concessions they might make.
Conversely, developed countries seek market openings in industrial products to offset their
concessions in agriculture. Because of the negotiating principle of the single undertaking, in
which nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, separate agreements in discrete negotiating
areas are unlikely.
Ian F. Fergusson
Specialist in International Trade and Finance