WTO: 2013 NEWS ITEMS

COUNCIL FOR TRADE IN GOODS


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The EU expressed concern about Russia's ban on milk and dairy products from Lithuania. It welcomed a recent decision by Russia to stop overly strict Russian customs checks on Lithuanian goods, but pointed to the losses that had already been suffered by Lithuanian exporters. Russia said its customs checks on Lithuanian goods was a law-enforcement action against international smuggling. On dairy products, Russia said it acted as there was a danger to human health.

Indonesia said it is concerned that the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which establishes sustainability standards on biofuels, discriminates against Indonesia's exports of palm oil. It said its palm oil production system is “green”, and that 40 per cent of the producers are small farmers. Argentina and Malaysia shared Indonesia's concerns. The EU said its certification schemes are objective, and that non-certified biofuel can be marketed freely in the EU.

The EU expressed concern about Ukraine's imposition of recycling fees on cars which exempted domestic producers, and urged consultations on this matter. Japan shared the EU concern, although it said the President of Ukraine had issued amendments that would remove WTO-inconsistent elements from the measure. The United States also expressed concern. Ukraine said that draft amendments to ensure that the measure is in compliance with the WTO are expected to be passed by its Parliament in the near future.

Norway, Iceland, Uruguay and Chile expressed concern about reports that Nigeria will soon impose quotas or increased duties on imports of seafood, or restrict access to foreign currency to import sea products. Iceland said it exported US$ 130 million worth of sea products to Nigeria last year. Uruguay said Nigeria represents 34 per cent of its seafood exports. Chile said 98 per cent of its exports to Nigeria are sea products. The Nigerian representative said she will forward the concerns to Abuja.

At the meeting, concerns were again expressed over the following measures that have been discussed at previous meetings:

  • Brazil: indirect taxation conditions to obtain tax benefits in various sectors (concerns expressed by the EU, Japan, Australia and the United States).
  • Ukraine's notification of GATT Article XXVIII renegotiation of tariff schedule (concerns by the EU, Japan, US, Korea, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia on behalf of the ASEAN, El Salvador, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Chile, Israel, Turkey, New Zealand and China). The main call for Ukraine was to withdraw its notification to renegotiate its tariff schedule. 
  • Russia's implementation of WTO accession commitments (concerns by US, Japan, EU, Ukraine and New Zealand). Russia said the Duma has recently approved a law that would apply the automobile recycling fee to all companies, including the local ones. It said it has joined the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA), and in line with WTO accession commitments, it is undertaking a second round of tariff cuts affecting some 5,000 items.
  • Indonesia's import restricting policies and practices (concerns by the US, EU, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Japan, Uruguay and New Zealand).
  • Japan's wood use points programme (concerns by Canada, EU, US, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand). Japan said it had recently provided detailed answers to questions posed by Canada on this programme.
  • Nigeria: local content measures in oil and gas (concerns by US, EU and Australia).
  • Ukraine: coking-coal import quota (concerns by EU, US, Australia and Russia).
  • Ukraine: import tariffs on automobiles (concerns by Japan, EU, Australia, Korea and Russia). Japan again urged Ukraine to terminate this safeguard measure, and warned it might go to the Dispute Settlement Body to resolve this matter.

The Philippines reiterated its request for a waiver relating to special treatment for rice, noting it had just recently submitted a draft waiver decision representing the results of its consultations with interested members. Indonesia, India and China said the Philippine request was made in connection with its objective of food security, and supported the granting of a waiver. The US, Australia, Thailand and Canada said they still have not concluded consultations with the Philippines on this issue.

The Council approved the EU's request for a two-year extension of a WTO waiver on its duty-free or preferential trade treatment for Moldova, and forwarded it to the General Council for adoption.  The EU said it would soon be submitting two requests for the extension of the time-period for withdrawal of concessions until 1 July 2014 regarding its 2007 and 2013 enlargements, respectively.

The Council authorized Gabon to begin renegotiation of its tariff schedule (under GATT Article XXVIII:4), to be completed within 180 days. Gabon said it wants to respect its WTO commitments without compromising its membership to the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). It said that its average applied non-agricultural tariff rate is 17.37 per cent while its bound tariffs are at 15.38 per cent.

The new chair, Ambassador Dacio Castillo (Honduras), noted the recent notification of the following regional trade agreements: Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and Uruguay, and Free Trade Agreement between Costa Rica and Singapore.

Regarding the Council's work programme on electronic commerce, the chair said that a report on the discussions held so far was submitted to the General Council last July. Ecuador highlighted the discussions and the workshops that had taken place in relation to the developmental aspects of the programme. The EU supported a report to the 9th Ministerial Conference on the progress that had been made, and urged that the current tariff moratorium on e-commerce be renewed in Bali.

 

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