Negotiations at the World Trade Organization

An important role of the World Trade Organization is to house negotiations on trade liberalization. WTO members have a standing mandate for multilateral negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda, and are also pursuing plurilateral negotiations where subsets of the membership are interested in specific areas of liberalization, such as information technology and environmental goods.

Doha Development Agenda

The WTO Doha Round of negotiations was launched at the fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, in November 2001. One of the fundamental objectives of the Doha Round is to improve the trading prospects of less developed countries, thus it is often referred to as the Doha Development Agenda. The mandate for the negotiations provided by the Doha ministerial declaration included negotiations on agriculture, services, non-agricultural market access, trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, WTO rules (e.g., anti-dumping, subsidies), dispute settlement, trade facilitation, and trade and environment, among others. The broader Doha Development Agenda negotiations have been at an impasse since 2011. However, at the ninth Ministerial Conference in Bali in December 2013, members concluded negotiations on a key element of the Doha Development Agenda – an agreement on trade facilitation.

Canada views the WTO as the best forum for achieving broadly-based trade liberalization, and supports the goal of better integrating developing countries into the international trading system. For more information, please see the Doha Development Agenda.

Information Technology

The WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is a tariff liberalization agreement agreed in 1996 through a “Ministerial Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products”, signed initially by 29 WTO members; participation in this plurilateral agreement has consistently increased since then. It requires each participant to bind and eliminate customs duties for all products specified in the Agreement, and the tariff elimination is implemented on a most-favoured nation (MFN) basis. The ITA covers a large number of high technology products, including computers, telecommunication equipment, semiconductors, semiconductor manufacturing and testing equipment, software, scientific instruments, and their parts and accessories.

In light of new technological developments, some WTO members agreed that the current product coverage of the ITA should be expanded and in June 2012, an informal process was initiated towards launching negotiations for the expansion of the product coverage of the ITA. This process led to the establishment of a technical working group of Members, including Canada, meeting outside of the formal framework of the WTO ITA Committee. Negotiations to expand the ITA are ongoing.

Environmental Goods

On July 8, 2014, Canada joined a number of other World Trade Organization members, including China, the European Union, Japan and the United States, in launching negotiations toward a new WTO plurilateral agreement on environmental goods. Such an agreement would eliminate tariffs on a range of environmental goods. More open trade would create new markets for Canadian manufacturers, provide incentives for Canadian businesses to develop new products to protect the environment, and increase the availability and lower the cost of environmental goods for Canadians. For more information, including periodic updates and statements by Minister Fast, please see the Plurilateral Environmental Goods Agreement.

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