In the formal meeting of the Committee on 21 April, WTO members reviewed 33 new notifications from members on measures related to import licensing and welcomed the first notifications from Montenegro and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Fourteen members are yet to notify the committee regarding their laws regulating import licences and their administrative practices.
The WTO Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures stipulates that administrative procedures for obtaining licences should be "simple, neutral, equitable and transparent" and import licensing should not obstruct trade unnecessarily. The Agreement obliges members to provide information via three types of notifications covering:
- domestic laws and regulations on import licensing
- new licensing procedures or changes in these procedures
- all information regarding the administration of import licensing regimes
- replies to an annual questionnaire on import licensing procedures.
WTO members welcomed a report by Chairperson Juha Niemi (Finland) on his informal consultations with members and agreed to explore the idea of organizing a workshop at the WTO for new delegates. The objective of this workshop would be to familiarize members with their notification obligations under the Agreement. Other proposals by the Chair included prioritizing technical assistance activities related to import licensing through national and/or regional workshops, and establishing focal points in members' capitals.
Specific trade concerns
Some members reiterated their concerns about India's import regime on marble and marble products and boric acid, Brazil's import licensing requirements on nitrocellulose and Indonesia's import regulations on cell phones, handheld computers and tablets. In addition, members raised questions on:
- Angola's non-automatic licensing regime under Joint Executive Decree 2215 of 23 January 2015 regulating the importation, distribution and sale of food/non-food products where domestic supply covered 60% of national consumption. The European Union (EU) raised questions on the entry into force of the decree and on the procedures (whether they have been adopted and/or published, what they contain and how Angola intends to implement them in a neutral manner.) The EU's questions are available here.
- Turkey's surveillance licensing regime, import authorization on old and renovated goods and the import regime for non-fuel petroleum products. On Turkey's surveillance licensing regime, the EU asked Turkey to explain how the import transactions subject to surveillance are selected, the procedure for submitting applications and the period for processing. On import authorization of old and renovated goods, the EU asked where governments and traders can find information on the measure's application and if any similar measure has been adopted for the domestic production of vehicles to respond to the health and safety concerns evoked in Turkey's reply. The EU's questions are available here. Turkey said they will send their replies to the EU's questions shortly.
- Mexico's automatic licensing procedures on certain steel products. The United States (US) reported that shipments of steel have been subject to delays and additional costs because licences were not approved by the time the steel goods reached Mexico. The US asked whether receipt of an import licence is a condition of entry for the steel products and what the duration of this licensing requirement is. The US questions are available here. Canada encouraged Mexico to automate its system. Mexico said it is working on the US questions and will continue to cooperate with the US.
- Indonesia's import licensing regulation for the importation of carcasses/processed meat products. Australia asked Indonesia to explain the measures' consistency with the Agreement given the burden they cause on traders. The EU shared Australia's concern that certain measures are affecting their exports. Indonesia said the objective of the regulation is to guarantee food safety and animal and plant health and to comply with the country's halal requirements.
New Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson
WTO members elected Ms Carrie I-Jen Wu (Chinese Taipei) as 2015 Chairperson, and Mr Tapio Pyysalo (Finland) as Vice-Chairperson.
The next formal meeting of the Committee on Import Licensing is scheduled to take place on 20 October 2015.
Learn more about import licensing here.