WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

Chairman's statement

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Proposed Agenda

  

He stressed that the overall objective is “to produce a successful Ministerial Conference; one which, despite the current problems in the Round, will help to reinforce the value of the WTO system for all its members”. 

Amb. Agah said in his consultations, most delegations stressed that the Eighth Ministerial Conference, to be held in Geneva on 15-17 December 2011, should send out the message that “the WTO is not synonymous with the Doha Round: the WTO is more than the Round”. At the same time, he said there was a general sense that the Conference “could not, and should not, avoid addressing the Doha Round”.

He noted that the possible deliverables under the Doha mandate for the Ministerial Conference are being pursued through the Trade Negotiations Committee chaired by the Director-General. 

The Chair said that suggestions for the agenda have ranged from a focus on development, including Aid for Trade and issues related to least developed countries and small and vulnerable economies, to improving the WTO accession processes.

For future WTO work, he said suggestions have included trade and currency exchange rates, climate change, and food security.

He encouraged delegations to move from general to the specific in making proposals: “in line with the gentleman's agreement, the onus is on proponents to build consensus around their proposals and to do so before the six-week deadline for the Conference agenda”.

The Chair reminded delegations that they all have rejected a “Christmas tree” approach to the Ministerial, adding that "we should keep in mind that there are limits to what Ministers can do in three days".

He pointed out that “after the summer break we will have less than 14 weeks until the Ministerial...this is a very short timeframe in which to finalize the substantive content of the conference and settle remaining procedural issues”.

  

Report on the negotiations

Director-General Pascal Lamy, as Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, recalled that at the TNC meeting in May there was a shared view among delegations that, while the Round could not be concluded in 2011, the Ministerial Conference in December should deliver some results.

Subsequently, at the June meeting, the possibility of a small package including least-developed country-related and other issues was discussed (“LDC-Plus”). 

He said, however, that it had become clear in the course of his consultations that, as evidenced in the TNC meeting on 26 July 2011, the LDC-Plus package was not shaping up as members had wished. 

The Director-General suggested that members should focus on the two tracks: non-Doha Round issues and the Doha Round agenda after the Ministerial Conference, on which he would intensify consultations in the autumn.  In parallel, members should continue working on possible Doha Round deliverables that could respond to the aspiration of the LDCs.
  

The Third Global Review of Aid for Trade 

The Director-General, reporting on the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade held at the WTO on 18-19 July 2011, said that the focus of the new work programme should be on “Deepening Coherence”. It should also explore how Aid for Trade can support the interface with trade and development in areas such as intellectual property, services and standards).  It could also contribute to interface of trade with other important areas, such as food security, gender empowerment, climate change adaptation or energy. 

He highlighted six areas to be examined in moving forward: resource mobilization; mainstreaming; engaging the private sector; aid effectiveness; South-South cooperation; and regional integration. 

Many delegations stressed the increasing importance of Aid for Trade for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and renewed their commitment to the initiative.
  

Work Programme on Small Economies

The Chairman of the Dedicated Session of the Committee on Trade and Development, Amb. Anthony Mothae Maruping of Lesotho, said that small and vulnerable economies (SVE) proponents had been very active during the Third Global Review on Aid for Trade, and were further defining an SVE framework on Aid for Trade. 

Barbados, on behalf of the  SVEs, highlighted the importance of the Global Review in showing results, but also identifying shortcomings and improvements needed.  It said that the impact of Aid for Trade on SVEs was encouraging. 
  

Work Programme on E-Commerce

Cuba introduced a joint communication with Ecuador and Nicaragua, co-sponsored by Bolivia, on “effective participation of developing countries in e-commerce as a means to combat poverty”. The communication highlighted in particular the factors limiting e-commerce in developing countries, including limited infrastructure, disparity in the availability of banking facilities and discriminatory conditions relating to access to Internet.  The communication also contained a number of proposed actions for Ministerial consideration and a draft Decision. 

Deputy Director-General Harsha V. Singh reported on recent developments in the WTO e-commerce work programme. He said that work had been undertaken in the Services Council, where, in addition to a joint US-EU proposal on trade-related principles to support the expansion of information and communication, the Chair reported that the Secretariat had produced a compilation of elements related to the electronic supply of services, as well as on statistics on trade flows in services.

He said he had also held an informal consultation, where there was overall agreement that the discussion and documents presented would provide a good basis to take this work forward.  He said delegations had got the ball rolling again on e-commerce in a substantive way, and this momentum should continue until the December General Council, at which time members would consider possible recommendations to the Ministerial Conference. 

Many delegations expressed appreciation for the reinvigoration of the work programme and their intention to fully participate in future work.
  

Other matters

There were nine waivers before the Council for review  and comments were made on a number of them, in particular on  the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (United States),  the Andean Trade Preference Act (United States) , the African Growth Opportunity Act (United States)  the waiver on Preferences for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (European Union)  and the waiver on Preferential Treatment for LDCs .

In a brief overview of the situation concerning members in arrears, the Director-General reported that the number of “inactive members” had been reduced by 60% to seven. He said he would continue his efforts to find solutions to the problems of members in arrears. 

The Chairman announced that, following consultations, it had been agreed that Ambassador Yi Xiaozhun (China) would serve as Chair of the Working Party on the Accession of Laos.

He also informed delegations that he was in the process of conducting consultations to appoint the Chairs of the Special Sessions of the Committee on Agriculture and of the Committee on Trade and Environment, respectively. More time was needed to reach consensus, and he would continue this process after the summer.

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