GENEVA — A major grievance of textile and clothing exporters from rich and poor countries alike is the nontariff barriers they face, from Customs delays to excessive inspections.
In the World Trade Organization’s Doha round of trade talks, affected countries have presented long lists of barriers.
One of the objectives ministers agreed to when they launched the round in November 2001 was to reduce or eliminate nontariff barriers for industrial goods, in particular, on products of interest to poor countries.
The U.S. has argued it is critical that WTO members develop appropriate and transparent methods to remove such obstacles and to secure “meaningful improvements” in market access.
But the U.S. submission emphasized “we should not underestimate the challenge that lies before us” in its submission to the Swiss chairman of the market access talks for goods, Pierre Louis Girard.
In a similar vein, the European Union stressed that some nontariff?barriers are based on legitimate policy objectives, such as public safety, health, security, environmental or consumer protection. But the EU acknowledged that?they also may be dictated by “protectionist designs” which are incompatible with?WTO rules that impose “unjustified burdens on traders.”
Some of these measures impose unnecessary costs on business and consumers or distortions to trade, asserted New Zealand.
Many WTO negotiators fear that any market access obtained in the talks through cuts in industrial tariffs could be undermined if countries are allowed to continue to resort to hidden barriers.
Developing countries are equally critical about the harmful effects of the barriers. Mauritius, for example, said it favors that priority be given to eliminating administrative bottlenecks and complex distribution networks. Hong Kong said the varying degrees of classifications of garments acts as an impediment to trade, as extra time is required to process documents.
A group of seven African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, complained that trade preferences given by rich countries cannot be fully used because of the restrictive nature of the rules of origin.
South Korea and India cited the unreasonable enforcement of rules of origin for textiles.
Pakistan’s submission complained that cotton yarn and cloth has been subjected to quarantine certification and as a result?denied access.
Turkey complained that discriminatory preshipment inspections on all products and the imposition of minimum import prices on apparel and footwear act to curb trade.
WTO countries have yet to agree on how to proceed on the issue.
There appears to be a fair amount of support for Canada and Chile’s proposal to launch negotiations on trade facilitation at the Cancun ministerial in September.