The Council for Trade in Goods, on 24 March 2009, agreed on a slate of chairpersons of its subsidiary bodies for this year. It elected by acclamation Amb. Elin Østebø Johansen (Norway) to succeed Amb. Karen Tan (Singapore) as its new chairperson.

The 2009 chairpersons:

  • Committee on Market Access: Mr. Barney RILEY (New Zealand)

  • Committee on Agriculture: Ms. Valeria CSUKASI (Uruguay)

  • Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures: Ms.Miriam CHAVES (Argentina)

  • Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices: Mr. Pasquale de MICCO (Italy)

  • Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures: Mr. Raimondas ALIŠAUSKAS (Lithuania)

  • Committee on Safeguards: Ms.Dineswaree MOHUN (Mauritius)

  • Committee on Import Licensing: Mr. Marco J. KASSAJA (Tanzania)
    Committee on Rules of Origin: Ms. Vera THORSTENSEN (Brazil)

  • Committee on Customs Valuation: Dr. Mohammad SAEED (Pakistan)

  • Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade: Mr. Ami LEVIN (Israel)

  • Committee on TRIMs: Mr. Vasile RADU (Romania)

  • Working Party on State Trading Enterprises: Mr. Haitao ZHU (China)

  • ITA Committee: Mr. Khalid EMARA (Egypt)

US waiver requests approved

The Council approved long-standing waiver requests from the US on the following trade preference programmes: the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA).

The US said these programmes served an important development purpose, and that it was committed to get WTO approval for them.

Mauritius, on behalf of the AGOA beneficiaries, thanked the US. Kenya said AGOA is an important contribution to the development of Sub-Saharan Africa. Barbados said that CBERA is essential to the economic progress of the region in the light of the current crisis and rising protectionism. Haiti said the programme has the potential to create millions of jobs. Jamaica said the programmes now have legal certainty, which was important for investors and traders. Colombia, Peru, Dominica and Rwanda also underlined the economic importance of the programmes.

Bolivia said ATPA has helped create 25,000 local jobs in sectors like textiles and jewellery, but expressed concern that the US had not given sufficient recognition to its campaign against illegal drugs. The US assured Bolivia that the forthcoming review of that country's eligibility under ATPA would be fair and thorough.

Paraguay said its opposition to the waivers was based on the complaints of local producers about unfair competition from neighbouring countries. However, in view of the start of a new dialogue with the US, it has decided to withdraw its objection.

The Goods Council agreed to forward the draft waiver decisions to the General Council, and recommend their adoption.

Turkey submits paper on textiles studies

Turkey introduced a paper, which it said was a compilation of recent studies on main trends in the textiles and clothing sector after the phase-out of quotas at the end of 2004. It said the studies point out that although some members have increased market share, many developing countries were facing the risk of substantial losses in jobs and export revenues. It proposed that the WTO take a coordinating role in overcoming these difficulties.

A number of members, including the Dominican Republic, Jordan, Mauritius, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco welcomed the paper and looked forward to further discussion at the next meeting.

China said that Turkey's initiative in this area had not progressed since 2005 because it ran counter to the principle of trade liberalization and the spirit of competition. India also reiterated its objection to a WTO work programme on the textiles sector.

The chair said it was clear there were divergent views on this subject. She said the Council will revert to this item at its next meeting, and encouraged members to meet beforehand to help the Council move forward on this issue.

Regional trade agreements

The chair noted the recent notification of free trade agreements between Japan and the Philippines, the EC and Cőte d'Ivoire, the US and Oman, the US and Peru, Turkey and Georgia, China and Singapore, and Australia and Chile.

The next meeting of the Council is scheduled for 12 May 2009.

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