WTO: 2012 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

Summary of General Council meeting of 25 July 2012

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WTO members welcomed the conclusion of the ratification process of the Protocols of Accession of the Russian Federation and Vanuatu, which will become the 156th and 157th WTO members on 22 and 24 August, respectively.

 

1. Accession of Vanuatu — Request by Vanuatu to Re-open the Protocol of Accession

The General Council adopted a decision to re-open the Protocol of Accession of Vanuatu (WT/L/862) so as to allow the Government of Vanuatu to submit its instrument of acceptance. Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister stressed that, despite the domestic difficulties his country had experienced on its road to accession, the process had been a valuable instrument for the needed domestic reforms. Several delegations expressed support for the decision and commended Vanuatu for its efforts in bringing the process to its conclusion.

 

2. Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

The Director-General’s report can be found here.

In view of the gravity of the current economic situation, several delegations reaffirmed the value of the rules-based multilateral trading system and the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) and made calls to refrain from implementing protectionist measures. In this regard, the importance of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism and peer reviews was reiterated.

On the negotiations, delegations in general agreed with the need to intensify work in the second half of the year. They in particular highlighted the work undertaken on trade facilitation in the Committee on Trade and Development Special Session — where focus had been on the Cancún 28, the special and differential treatment agreement-specific proposals and the monitoring mechanism — and on Dispute Settlement Understanding. Some members also welcomed progress on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement.

On trade facilitation, most delegations noted that technical progress was being made. Several developing-country delegations said that trade facilitation was not self-balancing and could not be a lone candidate for an early harvest. 

Several delegations also stressed that the single undertaking should not be abandoned, the DDA mandate should not be modified and the principles of multilateralism, equity, inclusiveness, bottom-up and development should be respected. 

A number of delegations reiterated that agriculture was central in the Doha Round and that cotton had to remain a priority. On fisheries subsidies, reference was made to paragraph 173 of the Rio+20 Declaration and members were encouraged not to put off action in this area. 

It was also stressed that, while all areas were worth exploring, members should enhance their engagement in those areas where progress could be achieved in order to advance the whole negotiating process; this did not imply that other areas were being neglected.   

 

3. Work Programme on Small Economies — Report by the Chairman of the Dedicated Session of the Committee on Trade and Development

The Chairman of the Dedicated Session reported on the recent discussions in the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD), which had focused on the impact of non-tariff measures on small economies. Subjects for future discussion would include the impact of WTO rules on small economies, the institutional constraints they faced and the effect of trade liberalization. Barbados (small, vulnerable economies) highlighted the significant impact that measures such as private standards or food regulations had on small economies, which had often a very limited export base.

 

4. Accession of Least-developed Countries

    a) Recommendations by the Sub-Committee on least developed countries (LDCs) to further strengthen, streamline and operationalize the 2002 LDC Accession Guidelines

Following a report by the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on LDCs, the General Council adopted the decision contained in WT/L/508/Add.1, based on the understanding that it would not prejudice the rights and obligations of existing LDCs in line with the Decision in favour of LDCs in Annex F of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

    b) Accession of Lao PDR and Yemen — Reports by the Facilitators

The Chair of the Working Party on the Accession of Lao PDR and the Chair of the Sub-Committee on LDCs reported on the progress made on the accession processes of Lao PDR and Yemen, respectively. 

In taking note of these two statements, the General Council Chair said that, in accordance with the long-standing practice of Accession Working Parties, agreements at the level of the Working Party were ad referendum, until formal decisions were taken by the General Council or the Ministerial Conference.

 

5. Work Programme on Electronic Commerce — Review of Progress

Deputy Director-General Singh gave an overview of the work taking place on E-commerce following the Eighth Ministerial Conference Decision (WT/L/843) and noted that overall there was more substantive engagement on this matter than in the past. He drew attention to a proposal by Ecuador and Cuba on a Workshop on E-Commerce, Development and SMEs (WT/COMTD/W/189), which had been discussed by the CTD and had also been the focus of the discussions in the informal consultation he had held on 2 July. The Chair of the CTD gave an oral report. The General Council took note of the reports submitted by the Goods Council, the Services Council (G/C/49 and S/C/38) and of the oral report by the CTD.

 

6. Waivers under Article IX of the WTO Agreement1

    a) Philippines — Request for a Waiver relating to Special Treatment for Rice of the Philippines  — Statement by the Chairman of the Council for Trade in Goods

Following a statement by the Chairman of the Goods Council, the General Council agreed to allow the Goods Council additional time to consider a request for a waiver on special treatment for rice by the Philippines (G/C/W/665).

    b) Review of Waivers pursuant to Article IX:4 of the WTO Agreement

In accordance with paragraph 4 of Article IX of the WTO Agreement, “any waiver granted for a period of more than one year shall be reviewed by the Ministerial Conference not later than one year after it is granted, and thereafter annually until the waiver terminates.”  Seven waivers were on the agenda of the Council for review.2

 

7. Ninth Session of the Ministerial Conference — Date and Venue

The General Council formally agreed that the Ninth Ministerial Conference will be held in Bali, Indonesia, in the first week of December 2013 and that it would revert to the precise dates after the summer break.

 

8. Guidelines for the Appointment of Officers to WTO Bodies — Statement by the Chair

The General Council took note of the elements of convergence that the Chair had drawn from the process of consultations she had conducted. She stressed that the guidelines for the appointment of officers were not being revised, but that some practical steps were necessary to improve the way the process operated under the guidelines. She intended to put these steps into practice at the next slate of names exercise at the end of the year.

 

9. Improving the Guidelines for Granting Intergovernmental Organizations Permanent Observer Status in the WTO — Statement by the Chair

The Chair noted that she had continued her consultations on this matter, and that she would resume the process after the summer.

 

10. Measures to Streamline the Production of Documents and the Conduct of Meetings — Statement by the Director-General

The Director-General provided an update on the implementation of the measures concerning savings and more efficient use of resources, focusing in particular on the areas of translation, printing and distribution, and scheduling and management of meetings.

 

11. Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration — Report on meeting of May 2012

The Council adopted the Budget Committee recommendations in paragraphs 23 and 25 of the Committee report in WT/BFA/130.

Matters discussed under “Other Business” were:

  • A statement by Cuba on the legal status of the Cuban brand Havana Club in the United States
  • A statement by India concerning some figures in the latest report on G20 trade measures
  • The appointment of Amb. D’Alotto (Argentina) as Chairman of the Working Party on the accession of Algeria
  • Future consultations on the Chairmanship of the Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance and of the Negotiating Group on Market Access
  • Administrative measures for members in arrears.

 

Notes:

1. In connection with this item, the attention of members is drawn to the decision-making procedures under Articles IX and XII of the WTO Agreement agreed by the General Council on 15 November 1995 (WT/L/93). Back to text

2. For the full list, see item 6.b in WT/GC/W/658. back to text

 

 

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