The following items were discussed by the General Council:
1. Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC)
The Council heard a report by the Director-General on recent developments in the Doha Round (see news item). In the discussion, several delegations called for the early harvest of issues of importance to least-developed countries (LDCs), including duty-free quota-free market access, cotton and the services waiver for LDCs, adding that this would give credibility to the development mandate of the Round. Most speakers supported the “cocktail approach” outlined by the TNC Chair, while emphasizing the need for transparency and inclusiveness. Some stressed the importance of continued political guidance, in particular at the upcoming APEC and OECD meetings.
2. Work Programme on Small Economies — Report by the Chairman of the Dedicated Session of the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD)
The new Chair of the Dedicated Session of the CTD said that the small and vulnerable economies were continuing their internal group discussion and engagement with other WTO members and they planned to make new submissions in some negotiating groups.
3. Committee on Budget, Finance And Administration — Report on meeting of March 2010
The Budget Committee Chair reported on the March meeting, in particular with respect to the renovation work of the WTO building and a report on diversity in the WTO Secretariat.
4. The financial and economic crisis and the role of the WTO — Communication from Argentina, Ecuador and India — Statement by the Chairman
The Council Chairman reported on his recent consultations on the proposal (WT/GC/W/617 and Add.1), noting that all delegations he had met had agreed that transparency should be enhanced and no-one had objected to further analysis being undertaken. However, divergent views remained on whether the analysis should be global or sector-based, and on a possible methodology. He was continuing his contacts with delegations in order to get a sense of the best way forward.
5. Implementation of the Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements on a permanent basis — Communication from China, India and Pakistan
India introduced its joint submission with China and Pakistan (WT/GC/W/621) proposing that the General Council should advise the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules to immediately start consultations, aiming at reviewing, and modifying if necessary the Transparency Mechanism. At the end of the discussion, the Chairman noted that there seemed to be general support for the intent of the proposal and he would inform the Chair of the Rules Group of the discussions.
6. Harmonization Work Programme under the Agreement on Rules Of Origin — The way forward — Communication from China, India and Pakistan
India, Pakistan and China introduced their proposal (WT/GC/W/622), stressing that this was unfinished work from the Uruguay Round, which had not received the attention it deserved. Their proposal set out the next steps and timetable for the work, including bringing some aspects of it back to the General Council. After a lengthy and detailed discussion, the Chairman noted that different perspectives had emerged in the discussion, and he would consult with WTO members on the best way to proceed on this issue.
7. Request by the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the WTO — Communication from Egypt on behalf of the Arab Group
The Council agreed to establish a Working Party to examine Syria's request for accession, with standard terms of reference and composition, and to grant Syria observer status in the WTO (see news item).
Zambia (on behalf of the LDC Group) informed
delegations of the Dialogue on LDC Accession which was to take place in the
WTO on 5 May; the Chairman reported on the recent informal consultations he
had undertaken with WTO members so as to understand their priorities in the
work of the Council over the coming months; and the Chairman announced that
he would continue his consultations on the appointment of a new Chair of the
Negotiating Group on Rules, in conjunction with Amb. Agah (Nigeria).
The next General Council meeting is scheduled for 29-30 July 2010.