Summary of General Council meeting of 21 October 2010

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The following items were discussed by the General Council:

1. Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

The Director-General, as Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), reported on the TNC’s activities since his last report to the Council, including the TNC meeting held on 19 October. He stressed that the aim of the cocktail approach, including small groups, was to energize, not supplant, the multilateral negotiating process and that its objective remained to reach a level of ambition and balance that all Members could subscribe to. He invited delegations to take the engagement to a higher gear by going deeper and wider in the discussions and proposed that Members re-evaluate and take stock of the overall process and discuss the next steps in mid-November, benefiting also from the discussions of the G20 and APEC leaders. The Informal Group of Developing Countries said that, while supporting the cocktail approach, it believed that the small group process needed to be fine-tuned and that transparency needed to be fully respected.

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

The Chairman of the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) reported that proponents of small and vulnerable economies (SVEs) continued to be active in the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations, including in recent meetings of the negotiating groups and that they had been closely following work on Aid for Trade. He added that the Secretariat was revising a paper compiling all the proposals made to date by the proponents of SVEs, which was to be ready for a meeting of the Dedicated Session at the end of the year.

3. Aid for Trade — Preparations for the Third Global Review — Statement by the Director-General

The Director-General highlighted the question “is Aid for Trade working?”, which had been asked in the letters sent to Members in conjunction with the OECD, and introduced the joint WTO-OECD monitoring and evaluation exercise which would underpin the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade - scheduled for July 2011 - the focus of which would be to assess the impact and outcome of Aid for Trade on the ground. He explained that the exercise was based on three main elements: an analysis of trade flows by the OECD; self assessment questionnaires; and case stories outlining what was working well and what needed improvements in the area of Aid for Trade. He called on Members to submit the self-assessment questionnaires and case stories by 31 January 2011. In the discussion which followed, delegations supported the approach of case stories showcasing the impact and outcome of Aid for Trade and stressed the importance they attached to Aid for Trade and its Third Global Review.

4. Transparency for Preferential Trade Arrangements — Report by the Chairman of the Committee on Trade and Development

The CTD Chairman reported that, at the meeting held on 4 October, the Committee had approved the text on a Transparency Mechanism for Preferential Trade Arrangements. This important development was the result of intensive work and consultations which had begun in 2007, following the mandate given by the General Council. He noted that some members were completing internal procedures in order for the mechanism to be adopted in the near future, possibly at the next General Council meeting. Several delegations emphasized the importance of the mechanism to enhance understanding of PTAs and increase transparency and looked forward to its adoption.

5. Accession priorities for 2010 in respect of LDCs — Communication from Zambia on behalf of the LDC Group (WT/GC/128)

The delegation of Zambia (on behalf of the LDC Group) emphasized that accessions for least-developed countries (LDCs) should be conducted in accordance with the letter and spirit of the 2002 General Council Decision. He noted that the accessions of three LDCs — Samoa, Vanuatu and Yemen — had been established as part of the 2010 priorities. The Group believed that at least two accessions, Vanuatu and Yemen, were ready to be completed in 2010. In the discussion which followed, several delegations stressed that accessions of LDCs should be based only on technical, trade-related considerations, that the process should be consistent with their development needs, that no excessive demands should be placed on acceding LDCs and that technical assistance had a key role to play. Other delegations highlighted that the approach on LDC accessions had been fully based on the Guidelines agreed by the Council and some added that the completion of the accession process also lay in the hands of the applicant country and that important reforms were needed, as well as technical assistance. Some delegations stressed that this was a systemic issue, not one pertaining only to individual accessions, and that members should reflect on the need to undertake a systematic revision of accession processes.

6. WTO Pension Plan — Annual Report of the Management Board for 2009

In presenting the Annual Report for 2009 (WT/L/802), the Chairman of the Management Board stressed that, in 2009, the WTO Pension Plan had witnessed a significant rebound from the performance of 2008 and that a major reform had been agreed in order to restore the actuarial balance of the Plan. The Council took note of the Report.

7. Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration — Report on meeting of October 2010

The Council adopted the report of the Budget Committee contained in WT/BFA/118 and approved the specific recommendations contained in paragraphs 19 and 21 therein.

8. Date and Venue for the Eighth Session of the Ministerial Conference

Under “Other Business”, the Chairman reminded delegations that, at the Seventh Ministerial Conference, Ministers had agreed to hold the following Ministerial Conference at the end of 2011. He announced that, on the basis of contacts he had with delegations, there was wide acceptance that the Conference should take place in Geneva and that it would be held on 15-17 December 2011 at the Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG).

9. Chairmanship of the Working Party on the Accession of Ethiopia

Under “Other Business”, the Chairman informed Members that it had been agreed that Ambassador Steffen Smidt (Denmark) would serve as Chairman of the Working Party.

10. Administrative Measures for Members in arrears:

Under “Other Business”, the Chair of the Budget Committee informed the Council of the members that were under Administrative Measures in Categories II - IV. The Director-General highlighted the positive developments concerning this issue, and that in the last 20 months the total number of Members subject to administrative measures had reduced from 27 to 16.

The next General Council meeting is scheduled for 14-15 December 2010.


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