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The United States, also on behalf of 12 other members (Australia, the European Union, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Turkey), read a joint statement expressing deepening concerns regarding what it said were trade-restrictive measures taken by Argentina. It said that since 2008, Argentina had greatly expanded the list of products subject to non-automatic import licensing requirements, including laptops, home appliances, air conditioners, tractors, machinery and tools, autos and auto parts, plastics, chemical, tyres, toys, footwear, textiles and apparel, luggage, bicycles and paper products. It said that in January 2012, Argentina announced regulations requiring pre-registration, review and approval of each and every import transaction. It said that these regulations were creating long delays and adding huge costs for many exporters. It urged Argentina to remove these trade restrictions, adding that these members reserve their rights to pursue this matter further. Mexico said that it was joining the statement because Argentina's measures were having a serious impact on Mexican exporters.

China said that it hoped that the measures are only temporary as a large number of its exporters has also been affected. Chile, Colombia, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, China also expressed concerns.

Argentina rejected the joint statement as unjustified. It maintained that the measures were compatible with WTO rules, adding that it had undertaken new measures to facilitate the processing of imports. It said that it had responded to these concerns in previous meetings of the Goods Council and the Import Licensing Committee. It noted that its imports rose by 30% in 2011 — the highest increase among G-20 countries and evidence that it was not restricting imports. Argentina expressed concern about the threat to the use of legitimate policy tools by developing countries to promote development, especially during the current economic crisis. It said that developed countries were the ones restricting trade through the use of subsidies and tariff peaks.

Other trade concerns

Australia reiterated its concerns about Brazil’s increase of the industrial product tax on the automotive sector. It said that locally manufactured automobiles were exempted from this tax, and it had doubts on whether the measure would indeed be temporary. Korea, the European Union, Canada, the United States, Japan and Hong Kong, China, also expressed concerns. Brazil referred these delegations to its previous statements on the subject, adding that it would continue bilateral talks with members.

The United States reiterated its concerns that Ecuador’s new “mixed tariffs” on footwear and textile products exceeded its bound tariffs (30 per cent) under the WTO, and requested additional information from Ecuador. The EU, Canada and Japan shared the US concerns. Cuba and Venezuela said that Ecuador was in line with its WTO commitments. Ecuador said that it had just had a round of informal consultations with interested delegations on this matter, and reiterated that its measure is fully in line with its WTO obligations.  It later circulated a paper on its calculations, as well as latest import figures.

Korea asked Chinese Taipei whether its subsidies for the purchase of domestic electric appliances would be terminated at the end of this month, as originally scheduled. Chinese Taipei confirmed that the programme would indeed end as scheduled. It stressed that the programme was aimed at encouraging consumers to shift to energy-efficient appliances, and that it did not discriminate against imports.

The European Union reiterated concerns that Ukraine’s customs officials use minimum values instead of transaction value as required by the WTO Customs Valuation Agreement in assessing duties on imports. Norway, the United States and Switzerland shared these concerns. Ukraine said it was ready to continue informal talks on this matter.

Philippine waiver request

The Philippines requested a waiver for its special treatment for rice. It said it had been negotiating in the Committee on Agriculture with interested members since November 2011 on a draft waiver decision, and expressed hope that members could agree to a decision before the current waiver expires in June 2012.

The European Union said that in principle it could support the waiver request. Indonesia said the request had merits, and encouraged interested delegations to engage with the Philippines.

The United States said it has a number of serious concerns, and that it looked forward to further bilateral meetings with the Philippines. Australia, Canada, Pakistan and El Salvador also said they would continue bilateral talks with the Philippines.

The Philippines said it was ready for the bilateral discussions with interested delegations in Geneva and in capitals.

Other matters

  • The Chair noted the notification of nine regional trade agreements: Free Trade Agreements between Chile and Honduras, Peru and Chile, the Dominican Republic and Central America, New Zealand and Malaysia, China and Costa Rica, Korea and the US; Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and Eastern and Southern Africa States, and between Japan and Peru; and Trade Integration Agreement between Peru and Mexico.
  • Chinese Taipei notified its preferential treatment to exports by Least-developed countries (LDCs). It said that in 2010, it was the sixth-largest export destination for LDCs. It imported US$ 3 billion worth of goods from LDCs, 98 per cent of which came in duty-free. The Council forwarded the notification to the Sub-Committee for LDCs.
  • The Council approved the EU's requests for extension of the time period for the withdrawal of concessions for the 2004 and 2007 enlargements until February and January 2013, respectively.
  • The Council continued discussions on the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, as mandated by the 8th Ministerial Conference. The United States said it would explore ways to reinvigorate the mandate. Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua highlighted the need to implement the developmental aspects and the full participation of developing and LDC countries in e-commerce as a means to combat poverty. The European Union and Hong Kong, China expressed their readiness to work on any proposal.
  • The Goods Council elected by acclamation Amb. Tom Mboya Okeyo (Kenya) as its new chair.  Amb. Mboya Okeyo paid tribute to the leadership of his predecessor, Amb. H.E. Mr Jüri Seilenthal (Estonia).

Next meeting: 22 June 2012.

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