WTO: 2012 NEWS ITEMS

COUNCIL FOR TRADE IN GOODS

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Australia introduced a joint statement by 23 delegations (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, the European Union, Guatemala, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Paraguay, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and Hong Kong, China) urging Ukraine, in the interest of the multilateral trading system and the global economy, to withdraw its notification to re-negotiate its tariffs on a large number of products. They said that Ukraine’s notification covers 371 tariff lines, and that this goes beyond the intended scope of the WTO provision on tariff negotiations (Article XXVIII of GATT 1994).  They said it is unclear to what extent Ukraine would be able to compensate other members, as required by that provision. They also expressed concern about what they said was lack of transparency on this matter by Ukraine. 

Egypt, Uruguay, Mexico, El Salvador, Israel, China, Dominican Republic, Peru and Pakistan supported the statement.

Ukraine said that it was following the established procedures in a transparent manner, and that its notification is normal practice and should not be seen as protectionist. It has held meetings on this matter with many delegations, and would continue the negotiations. Ukraine added that it strongly believes in the ability of the WTO to accommodate the needs of its members.

The EU expressed concern over what it described as a surge of protectionist measures taken recently by the Russian Federation. It criticized two measures in particular: the ban on importation of live animals, especially slaughtered pigs; and the recycling fee for automobiles, which imposes fees on imported cars but gives a choice of non-payment to domestic cars. The EU said it is consulting with Russia on these measures.

Japan also expressed concern that the recycling fee discriminates against foreign car companies. The US shared the concern about the recycling fee. In addition, it urged Russia to take the final step to join the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA), and to notify its Customs Union to the WTO. Norway expressed concern over Russia’s system of permits subject to veterinary control.

Russia requested all comments in writing so it could respond in writing.

On another matter, the EU said it is increasingly concerned by the use of Brazil of IPI tax to protect the domestic automobile sector. It said the amount of the tax depends on how much manufacturing and parts are sourced in Brazil, and that this is designed to favour domestic manufacturers. It expressed concern that this system would be replicated in other economic sectors of Brazil.

Australia, Canada, Hong Kong China, Japan, Korea and the US shared the EU concerns.

Brazil said that its INOVAR AUTO programme, set to expire in December 2017, aims only to encourage technical development, raise environmental standards and improve the quality of cars in Brazil. It said the incentives depend on the energy efficiency of vehicles, and the measures are in line with WTO disciplines. It is willing to discuss this matter with interested members.

Several delegations reiterated concerns expressed at previous meeting regarding Indonesian trade measures on horticultural products, and on Ecuador’s “mixed tariffs” system for textiles and footwear.

 

Waiver extended for Kimberley Process

The United States, on behalf of 17 members (Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, EU, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Turkey and the US), requested an extension of the WTO waiver to the Kimberley Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds, which is set to expire at the end of the year. It said extending the waiver would give legal certainty to trade measures of the Kimberley Process participants aimed at breaking the link between armed conflict and rough diamonds.

The Russian Federation, the Philippines, Singapore and Venezuela requested to be included in the list of co-sponsors.

Israel, Singapore, Thailand, the EU and Croatia, Turkey and Sri Lanka supported the waiver extension. Botswana said the waiver extension would give much needed support to vulnerable economies. 

Zimbabwe said it welcomes and supports the waiver extension, but expressed concern about what it described as coercive measures taken by the US that have led to low prices for diamonds from Zimbabwe. It said it needs to reap the full benefits of the Kimberley Process.

The US said Zimbabwe was referring to measures by a US government agency that is not part of the Kimberley Process.

The Council approved the request for extending the waiver by six years or until 31 December 2018, and forwarded the draft decision in this regard to the General Council for adoption.

The EU requested the extension for a further six months of the period for withdrawal of concessions in connection with the EU enlargement of 1 May 2004 (25 member states) and 1 January 2007 (27 member states).  The Council agreed to these extensions; thus the period for withdrawal of concessions will now be 1 August 2013 for the EU 2004 enlargement and 1 July 2013 for the EU enlargement of 2007. 

The Philippines said it has made good progress in its meetings with members on its request for a waiver relating to special treatment for rice. However, it needed more time to complete the negotiations, and expressed the hope that the waiver could be approved by the Council at its next meeting.

Australia, Canada, China, El Salvador and Thailand appreciated the constructive dialogue and consultations they have had with the Philippines but indicated that more time for consultations was needed. India, Indonesia and Pakistan supported the waiver request.

The Council considered three collective waiver requests and decisions for extension of the existing waivers in connection with the introduction of Harmonized System (HS) 2002, HS 2007 and HS 2012 changes into WTO schedules of tariff concessions. It agreed to forward the draft waiver decisions to the General Council for adoption in order to extend the validity of the current waivers until 31 December 2013.  

 

Other matters

Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela said a WTO workshop on “E-Commerce, Development and SMEs” will take place in April 2013. They  highlighted the importance that access to the newest technologies and tools represented to developing countries, and how these would allow their small and medium-sized enterprises to become real partners of the new world of the economy of information, rather than a mere source of commodities and low-cost workmanship.

The Chair, Amb. Tom Mboya Okeyo (Kenya), reported the recent notification of the following regional trade agreements: Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EFTA states and Ukraine, FTA between Colombia and the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), FTA between the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan, FTA between the Russian Federation and Belarus, FTA between the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, FTA between the Russian Federation and Moldova, FTA between the Russian Federation and Tajikistan, FTA between the EFTA states and Hong Kong, China, FTA between the EFTA states and Montenegro,  and Trade Promotion Agreement between the US and Panama.

The Council adopted the annual reports of its subsidiary bodies, as well as its own annual report for submission to the General Council.

Under “Other Business”, the EU expressed concern about a recycling fee for vehicles that Ukraine is intending to adopt. It said this measure is similar to that of Russia, and that it discriminates against imports. Ukraine took note of the concern.

The Chair announced that the next regular meeting of the Council will be held on 25 March 2013.

 

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