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WTO NEWS: 2003 NEWS ITEMS

26 February 2003
Agreement reached on WTO waiver for “conflict diamonds”

The WTO Council for Trade in Goods, on 26 February 2003, agreed to recommend that the General Council grant requesting members a waiver for trade measures taken under the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds.

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The agreed decision recognized “the extraordinary humanitarian nature of this issue and the devastating impact of conflicts fuelled by trade in conflict diamonds on the peace, safety and security of people in affected countries and the systematic and gross human rights violations that have been perpetrated in such conflicts”.

The waiver was requested by Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and United States. They requested a waiver from GATT rules to give legal certainty to domestic measures taken under the Kimberley Process aimed at curbing the trade in conflict diamonds while supporting legitimate diamond trade.

The WTO waiver decision would exempt — from 1 January 2003 until 31 December 2006 — trade measures taken under the Kimberley Process by these 11 members and other members that would subsequently join from GATT provisions on most-favoured-nation treatment (Article I:1), elimination of quantitative restrictions (Article XI:1) and non-discriminatory administration of quantitative restrictions (Article XIII:1).

Participants in the Kimberley Process, on November 5, 2002, issued the Interlaken Declaration expressing their intent to implement an international scheme of certification for rough diamonds to help break the link between armed conflict and the trade in rough diamonds. The Kimberley Process provides that each participant should “ensure that no shipment of rough diamonds is imported or exported to a non-Participant”.

The Chairman of the Goods Council, Ambassador M Supperamaniam of Malaysia, thanked Canada for conducting the informal consultations that led to the agreement on the waiver. He added that this issue had been handled in a cooperative and pragmatic manner by members. It was noted that the waiver is open for other member to join until or even after the decision is adopted by the General Council.

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