WTO: 2006 NEWS ITEMS

  
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The Council for Trade in Goods, on 20 November 2006, agreed to forward the European Communities enlargement to include Bulgaria and Romania to the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements for examination, and approved the extension of the WTO waiver for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for conflict diamonds.

The European Communities said that on 28 September 2006, it had provided tariff information to members regarding its upcoming enlargement — expected on 1 January 2007 — to include Bulgaria and Romania. It announced that it was accepting claims of interest from that date and was willing to start compensation negotiations with members having negotiating rights.

Ecuador said that as the main supplier of bananas to the two new EC members, it expected appropriate compensation. It expressed concern that it has not received any compensation from the previous EU enlargement to 25 members, and reserved its right to withdraw concessions in this regard. Honduras, Australia and Colombia shared concerns about lack of progress with the previous EC enlargement. Guatemala said it had informed the EC of its trade interest in sugar.

The EC took note of the concerns, adding that it would be flexible about the 90-day deadline for claiming negotiating interests if a country would have difficulties in analyzing trade data due to its revised submission.

The Council forwarded the EU notification to the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements and the following trade agreements for examination: Honduras-Mexico, Guatemala-Mexico, Jordan-Singapore, Japan-Malaysia, EFTA States-Korea, United States-Bahrain, Costa-Rica and Mexico and EC-Algeria.

The Council approved and forwarded to the General Council for adoption a draft decision extending by six years the WTO waiver, which expires at the end of this year, for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds. The waiver covers measures taken by members listed in the annex of the decision (Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States and Venezuela) necessary to prohibit the export of rough diamonds to non-participants in the scheme.

The draft decision recognized the “devastating impact of conflicts fuelled by trade in conflict diamonds on the peace, safety and security of people in the affected countries”. It notes that the scheme “has responded to the call of the United Nations General Assembly to give urgent and careful consideration to devising effective and pragmatic measures to address the problem of conflict diamonds”.

The Council also approved and forwarded to the General Council for adoption a draft decision extending until 31 December 2011 the waiver on Canada’s duty free treatment to imports from Commonwealth Caribbean countries under the CARIBCAN initiative.

It approved Cuba’s request for an extension (until 31 December 2011) of the waiver relieving it from a GATT provision which provides that a member which ceases to be a member of the International Monetary Fund shall enter into a special exchange agreement with the WTO.

The United States reiterated its requests for waivers on its African Growth and Opportunity Act, Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act and the Andean Trade Preference Act. It said it had continued to informally consult with members that have expressed concerns about these waivers. The US said that it is hoping for agreement by the next meeting on language that would alleviate China’s concerns with the draft waiver decisions. However, it said that a more serious problem was Paraguay’s request for compensation.

Benin, speaking on behalf of the African Group, underlined the importance of AGOA for encouraging investments and creating jobs and urged the granting of the waivers as soon as possible. It suggested that to facilitate approval, AGOA could be treated separately from the other waiver requests.

Caribbean and Latin-American beneficiaries of the US trade arrangements also urged the approval of the waiver requests.

Paraguay said that the concerns of countries discriminated against by trade arrangements should be listened to. It expressed willingness to continue with consultations on this matter.

The Chairman reported that there continued to be divergent views on the EC’s waiver request for its tariff quota for bananas of ACP origin. The EC acknowledged that there was no alternative but to suspend consideration of its request. Ecuador said it would continue to oppose the EC request as long as it believed discriminatory treatment existed in the EC banana regime.

Panama reported that after bilateral consultations, Colombia agreed to remove customs measures on certain products from Panama. Colombia confirmed that the two countries have reached a customs co-operation agreement. Hong Kong, China welcomed the development and requested more details of the bilateral solution, especially on Colombia’s new “estimated-price” system for textile products and toys. Chinese Taipei, Guatemala and Thailand also urged Colombia to provide more information.

On textiles, Turkey again reiterated its proposal for a work programme in the textiles and clothing sector. It stressed that its proposal has no link with the NAMA negotiations, and that it simply wanted a Secretariat study on a sector of great importance to many members. Turkey said that it had been encouraged by the support of many delegations.

China said that it was still not convinced that Turkey’s proposal is relevant to the work of the Goods Council. India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Hong Kong, China also reiterated their opposition to a work programme for textiles.

The United States, Jordan, Tunisia, El Salvador, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritius and Mexico supported Turkey’s proposal.

The Chairman said he would hold further consultations on this issue.

The Council conducted its fifth transitional review of China in the area of trade in goods. In reply to questions from the EU, Japan and the US, China said its export restrictions on a few products are aimed at protecting the environment and preserving natural resources, and are consistent with the GATT. On the Government Procurement Agreement, it said that a team from 21 government agencies has been set up to prepare an initial offer. On imports of books and magazines, China said it has the right to protect public morals and national security. China said it considered VAT refunds for steel exports not to be export subsidies. The EU and the US said that China had made good progress in implementing its accession commitments but that they continue to have concerns in a number of areas.

On market-access matters, the Goods Council approved and sent to the General Council for adoption three decisions relating to the Harmonized System.

The Goods Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 13 March 2007.

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