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Scrap metal duties to be scrapped?

The World Trade Organisations (WTO) seven-year-old Doha Development Round is planning the final phase of its negotiations, which could eliminate worldwide most import duties on a wide range of waste metal scrap.

Such a mutual zero duty deal is the goal of a special raw material sectoral negotiation within the rounds market access for non-agricultural products (or NAMA) talks. In Europe, this would affect scrap imported in and out of the EU, which is considered one country at the WTO.

There is no guarantee that sufficient critical mass will be secured importing and exporting countries signing up must account for 90% of world trade in raw materials, (which also includes liquid fuels, solid fuels, virgin metals and other substances). But it is possible. In a United Arab Emirates report on these special talks, materials quoted as potentially being included in a zero-duty deal included ferrous metal, copper, aluminium, magnesium, cobalt and manganese waste and scrap.

Even if these talks fail, a final industrial goods trade talks draft deal issued this month by NAMA chairperson Don Stephenson includes a consensus formula for significantly reducing import duties covering all industrial goods, including all wastes. And assuming the talks finish as planned this year, these reductions are almost certain, and could come into force by 2010.

Although the final reduction figure has not yet been agreed, the range of cuts being debated is steep. Stephenson told a WTO press conference: A lot of the architecture for the various modalities are agreed or close enough that I would risk proposing them.

An agreed sliding-scale formula would ensure existing higher duties are cut more than smaller duties, and developing countries reduce tariffs less than developed countries.

Initial looks at the calculations proposed suggest the steepest likely cut to a 10% (for example) import duty for any industrial good entering a developed country would be reducing it to 4.4%; with 100% coming down to 7.4%. The weakest cut so far under discussion for developed countries would be 10% down to 5%; 100% down to 9%. For developing countries, the steepest range is 10% down to 6%; and 100% to 13%; while at its weakest, 10% falling to 7.7%; and 100% down to 25.9%.


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