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WTO NEWS: 2004 NEWS ITEMS

15 November 2004
DOHA DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

WTO launches negotiations on trade facilitation

At the first meeting of the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation held on 15 November 2004, Members agreed on a Work Plan and a schedule of meetings

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The Chairman, Ambassador Muhamad Noor Yacob of Malaysia, said that the Work Plan he submitted to the Negotiating Group was based on intensive consultations with delegations.

The Plan provides for work to proceed on the basis of Members' contributions and other input that the Negotiating Group may request.

The approved agenda of the Negotiating Group is as follows:

  • Clarification and improvement of relevant aspects of Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994; enhancement of technical assistance and support for capacity building; effective cooperation between customs or any other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues;  

  • Special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries;  

  • Least-developed country members;  

  • Identification of trade facilitation needs and priorities; concerns related to cost implications of proposed measures;  

  • Technical assistance and support for capacity building;  

  • Working with and work of relevant international organizations.

The Group agreed to hold its next meeting on 22-23 November 2004, and to invite the IMF, OECD, UNCTAD, World Customs Organization and the World Bank to attend on an ad hoc basis.

At the meeting, many delegations underlined the importance of the agenda items related to the needs of developing countries and LDCs. Landlocked countries expressed the hope that negotiations would be of practical benefit to them, pointing out that they faced higher transport costs compared to other Members.

On another matter, smaller delegations urged that their resource constraints be considered in the scheduling of future meetings.

The 1996 Singapore Ministerial Conference launched the study of trade facilitation in the WTO. From 1997 to 2003, this work has been carried out in the Council for Trade in Goods.

The General Council, on 1 August 2004, decided by explicit consensus to commence negotiations on trade facilitation on the basis of the modalities set out in Annex D of the July Package.

Annex D states in part that: “Negotiations shall aim to clarify and improve relevant aspects of Articles V, VIII and X of the GATT 1994 with a view to further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. Negotiations shall also aim at enhancing technical assistance and support for capacity building in this area. The negotiations shall further aim at provisions for effective cooperation between customs or any other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.”

The Trade Negotiations Committee, on 12 October 2004, established the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation and appointed Ambssador Noor as its Chairperson.

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