30 September 2004

China’s regime discussed as others’ notifications stay ‘disappointing’

China’s import licensing regime in general and the affect on specific goods such as Japanese vehicles were among the topics discussed in the Import Licensing Committee on 30 September, which also approved its latest annual report and biennial review report.

Also on the agenda were a number of questions and notifications. Again, the chairperson said she was “very” disappointed at the number of countries that have failed to submit required notifications, including information on their laws and regulations. This had happened despite reminders, including a letter she sent to members on 30 July, Dr Campeanu said.


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China’s transitional review

The discussions about China came under the country’s third transitional review, required almost annually for a period, under Beijing’s membership agreement. Four members asked questions:

  • JAPAN (document G/LIC/Q/CHN/11, focusing on import quotas for automobiles). Japan said that some import licences are being rejected, even for vehicles where import licences are now supposed to be automatic, and asked China to ensure that the regulations are not “mis-applied” particularly when all quotas on automobiles are eliminated in 2005. China said it would continue to implement its membership commitments, and that its current regime is consistent with WTO rules.

  • US (G/LIC/Q/CHN/12, focusing on quarantine permits for animal and plant products, the entities responsible for approving imports, and whether licences can be bought or sold.) China said the quarantine questions should be discussed in the committees on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Technical Barriers to Trade, when quarantine officials from Beijing would be present. It said that the list of entities can be found in the relevant regulations on the Commerce Ministry website (translations into English are underway and will be notified to the WTO when they are ready). And it confirmed that buying, selling or transferring licences is illegal. The US responded that it considers the quarantine conditions to be part of import licensing, but would be happy to hear the replies in the other committees, assuming the replies are comprehensive.

  • EU (G/LIC/Q/CHN/13, focusing on China’s revised Foreign Trade Law, in particular trading rights and restrictions on imports and exports). China said it gave detailed replies to similar questions in the Market Access Committee and assured members that the revised law will be implemented in a way that is fully consistent with its membership obligations.

  • CANADA (because the question had just been received from Ottawa, it will be circulated in writing later). Canada said that for shipments of recyclable material to China, the Chinese require their officials to inspect the material in Canada before shipping. The Chinese charge for travel and accommodation as well as inspection. Since the Chinese reportedly do not include travel and accommodation costs when inspecting similar shipments from other countries, this discriminates against Canada, the delegate said. The Chinese delegate did not have a reply yet, suggesting this might be handled in the committees on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures or Technical Barriers to Trade, and asked for more information.

China’s written information for the transitional review is in document G/LIC/W/23. Separately, it has also answered questions on import licensing procedures in G/LIC/N/3/CHN/3.


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Questions and notifications

Only about a dozen new notifications were on the table for discussion at this meeting. “The compliance with the notification obligations under this agreement remains low,” Chairperson Campeanu said. “No member has requested any technical assistance to fulfill the obligations either.”

Altogether 24 countries have never notified any laws or regulations under any provision of the Import Licensing Agreement since it took effect in 1995 or since they joined the WTO. They are: Angola, Belize, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Israel, Kuwait, Lesotho, Macedonia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Rwanda, St Vincent and Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tanzania and Thailand.

Some members supported Dr Campeanu in praising countries that have notified and in calling for better compliance with the requirement to notify. One added that this is important since non-tariff barriers are being negotiated in the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) talks.

Among the issues that were questioned were:

  • Brazil’s requirements on certain lithium compounds — The US had follow-up questions from discussions at the last meeting. It wanted Brazil to elaborate on its argument that controls are needed because the lithium compounds could be used for nuclear energy (rather than to protect domestic producers) and it asked Brazil to notify the measures in full, as required under the Import Licensing Agreement.

  • The EU’s import licensing for pigmeat and enriched uranium — the US wanted to know why new regulations limit each importer to 10% of the pigmeat quota, which would restrict exporters wanting to supply more than 10%; and it wanted the EU to explain and notify the restrictions on uranium. The EU said it had explained the pigmeat quota in the Agriculture Committee and would circulate details to the Import Licensing Committee; and it would try to reply on uranium for the next meeting.


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The committee approved its annual report to the General Council, and its biennial review of the agreement’s implementation and operation. The annual report will be circulated in the document series G/L/-; the biennial review in the G/LIC/- series (both will be available on the import licensing gateway page)


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Next meetings

Thursday 18 May and 28 September 2005 (other meetings possible if required)


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Ms Victoria Campeanu of Romania
(vice chairperson: Mr Dayaratna Silva of Sri Lanka.)


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Import licensing
Explanation in “Understanding the WTO”
Previous meeting, 5 May 2004
WTO Documents Online : Official documents cited here can be downloaded here. Go to “search” and insert the document number, eg “G/LIC/Q/CHN/11”, in the “document symbol” field.