Tariffs and Non-Tariff Measures

Under the WTO's Doha Development Agenda, the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiating group’s mandate is "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.”

Canada's Position

Our objective in these negotiations is to obtain “real” improvements in market access for Canadian exporters, i.e. bound commitments on maximum tariffs that would be lower than the tariffs currently being applied. Key markets of interest to our exporters include industrialized countries in Europe and Asia as well as major developing countries such as India, Brazil, China and many others.

Tariff Barriers:

By late June 2006, there was an emerging consensus that the best mechanism to achieve the Doha mandate would be a “Swiss formula” applied to all tariff lines, with two coefficients (one for developed countries and one for developing countries) that would reduce high tariffs by proportionately more than low ones. Canada favours a Swiss formula with an aggressive (low) coefficient for developed countries in order to improve our access to those markets, as well as a developing country coefficient that, while somewhat higher, would still deliver meaningful gains in major emerging markets.

To take ambition beyond what a formula would likely achieve, Canada is a leading supporter of sectoral agreements, in which tariffs for certain industrial sectors would be completely eliminated or at least harmonized and reduced by greater-than-formula cuts. Canada has proposed agreements for forest products, fish and fish products, chemicals (including fertilizers) and raw materials, and other members’ sectoral proposals are also being considered. We have been advocating high ambition by all members with respect to environmental goods, in keeping with the Doha mandate.

Non-Tariff Barriers:

The mandate of the NAMA negotiating group also includes further efforts to reduce or remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that act to unduly restrict trade. In this regard, Canada’s position is that governments must retain the right to apply measures in support of legitimate objectives, while regulating in the public interest in the least trade-restrictive manner possible. In NAMA, there has been work on “horizontal” NTBs of interest to all members and not specific to any particular product or group of products, as well as “vertical” NTBs for such sectors as electronics, automotive products and textiles and apparel. While NTBs are in some ways more difficult to define and address in a multilateral setting than tariffs, there is potential for the Doha Round to deliver meaningful improvements in some areas.

The Development Agenda:

Studies show that tariff reductions hold great potential to increase trade and investment, thus contributing significantly to economic development. We therefore have been urging developing countries to participate in the NAMA negotiations to the fullest extent possible. At the same time, Canada recognizes that developing countries have specific needs and priorities that can be addressed through the concept of “special and differential treatment” (S&DT), including through “less than full reciprocity in reduction commitments”. For example, we do not expect least developed countries (LDCs) to reduce their tariffs, and we are also prepared to negotiate appropriate S&DT provisions for other developing countries, including small, vulnerable economies. Discussions have included special treatment under the application of the tariff-reduction formula, certain exceptions to the formula, and/or longer phasing-in of tariff reductions, as well as specific S&DT provisions for developing countries that participate in sectoral agreements. Canada has been aiming for a NAMA result that recognizes the special circumstances of developing countries without unduly compromising our goal for improved access to key markets.

Current Situation

Although the framework for making detailed commitments was supposed to be tabled in June 2006, WTO members were unable to bridge the outstanding gaps in negotiating positions. The Director-General, Pascal Lamy and the WTO membership subsequently recommended that the negotiations be suspended in July 2006.

Despite the suspension, work continued to take place behind the scenes and on January 31, 2007, the negotiations were re-launched. Work has continued throughout 2007, both in multilateral technical discussions in Geneva, as well as in small groups. Canada continues to be engaged at all levels of the negotiations and Minister Emerson met with his counterparts at the Cairns Group meeting in Lahore, Pakistan (April 16-18, 2007), the Doha Round ministerial on the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (May 16, 2007), and the APEC ministerial meetings in Australia (July 5-6, 2007 and September 5-6, 2007) where the Doha Round was a key topic of discussion. At the APEC Leaders’ meeting in Sydney, Australia (September 8-9), APEC leaders issued a separate statement on the Doha Round negotiations.

To help focus the non-agricultural market access negotiations (NAMA), the Chair of the NAMA negotiating group, Canada’s Ambassador to the WTO, Mr. Don Stephenson, released a first draft of a Chairman’s text in July 2007. The text is a working document prepared by the Chair with guidance provided by the 151 members of the WTO. As such, it is not a summary of consensus views among WTO members, but is meant to present a possible compromise between the various positions held in these negotiations in order to focus further negotiations.


Canada conducted a public consultation with respect to non-agricultural market access when the Doha Round was launched. Since that time, consultations have been ongoing with the provinces, industry, academia, non-governmental organizations and the general public. Input from these groups and individuals will continue to be an essential element in the development of Canada's trade-negotiating priorities and strategies.

Contact Point

If you have questions or comments, please contact the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development at:

Multilateral Market Access Division (TMA)
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 promenade Sussex Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G2
Fax: 613-944-4840
E-mail : consultations@international.gc.ca