Trade ministers from 21 Asia-Pacific nations agreed on June 3 to a formula that would be used to cut tariffs on non-agricultural products, organizers said. The ministers attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum adopted the so-called "Swiss formula" to calculate future tariff reductions in the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) field. The agreement was a set-back for developing countries who were pushing for a different method that was viewed as more tolerant of their higher protectionist tariff rates.
Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile commented, "The Swiss formula, as it is known, involves steeper cuts to higher tariffs in order to harmonize tariff rates across countries. This greatly reduces the gap between high and low tariff rates and in addition sets a top limit for all tariffs."
"This achievement in NAMA will provide the much needed political impetus to the NAMA Doha negotiations," said South Korea's trade minister Kim Hyun-Chong, who chaired the two-day talks. U.S. trade representative Rob Portman expressed agreement with Hyun-Chong's statement and said this agreement held potential for a "dramatic improvement" in global economics.
The WTO launched the Doha Round of trade talks in the Qatari capital in 2001, aiming to break down more tariffs and other barriers to commerce and to try to use trade to give developing countries a boost. But discussions have stumbled repeatedly in the past four years.