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WTO NEWS: 2004 NEWS ITEMS

5 May 2004
IMPORT LICENSING

31 notifications reviewed amid concern that not enough received

The WTO Import Licensing Committee on 5 May 2004 reviewed 31 notifications submitted under various provisions of the agreement, a situation some members described as an improvement but still unsatisfactory.

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The committee’s main function is currently transparency and review, and as usual, the main purpose of this hour-long meeting was information on members’ import licensing procedures. On the table were six questions or replies to questions, and 31 notifications from 21 members. Delegates spoke on a handful of these.

The chairperson continued her efforts — and her predecessors’ and the Secretariat’s — to encourage members to notify their import licensing measures. This includes notifying if they have no import licensing requirements at all.

In general, compliance with the notification obligations still remains low. The chairperson noted that 24 of the WTO’s 147 members have never notified anything, most of them members since the beginning in 1995. While many are least-developed countries, some are not, she said. In addition, 33 members have never notified their laws and regulations. And 37 members have never submitted replies to the committee’s Questionnaire on Import Licensing Procedures since they became WTO members, while many members have missed the annual 30 September deadline for this notification — e.g. only 40 members notified last year.

The US, which has been most active in trying to encourage members to meet their obligations to notify under the agreement, said the situation is improving, but remained concerned and looked forward to further progress.

Altogether, on the agenda were reviews of 10 notifications on legislation, 19 replies to the Questionnaire on Import Licensing Procedures, and two notifications on new import licensing procedures or changes to existing procedures.

Among the issues that were discussed were:

  • Brazil’s import licensing requirements for soda ash (Brazil said this could be used to process cocaine into “crack”) and lithium carbonate (according to Brazil, could be used in the production of nuclear energy) — questions from the US (document G/LIC/Q/BRA/1).

  • China’s import licensing policies in general — questions from the US (G/LIC/Q/CHN/8 and 4)

  • Indonesia’s import licensing requirements for textiles — the US questioned whether the measures would really prevent smuggling as Indonesia argued (G/LIC/Q/IDN/2, 2/Add.1, and 3) — and also for sugar, iron and steel — Australia questioning how the measures could meet the stated objectives of protecting public health, security, public safety, public morals, etc (G/LIC/Q/IDN/4)

  • Turkey’s import licensing requirements for some agricultural products — US questions (Turkey’s replies in G/LIC/Q/TUR/2).

  • Replies to the committee’s Questionnaire on Import Licensing Procedures: Canada sought more information from Brazil (more detailed list of products subject to non-automatic licensing) and China (whether lists of quota-owners would be released), and the US from India (whether a full list of customs classifications of exports and imports would be available on the relevant website).

  

Chairperson

Ms Philippa Davies of Jamaica.

At the end of today’s meeting she handed over to Ms Victoria Campeanu of Romania for the coming year.

The committee’s vice chairperson changed, Mr Lucien Mazzega of France handing over to Mr Dayaratna Silva of Sri Lanka.

  

Next meeting

Thursday 30 September 2004

  

Background

Import licensing
Explanation in “Understanding the WTO”

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