This regional trade agreement and other trade agreements involving developing country members were taken up in a dedicated session and a regular committee meeting as part of the efforts to address development concerns and enhance transparency at the WTO.
The trade agreement, which entered into force in 2009, covers over 450 tariff lines for each party according to a factual presentation WT/COMTD/RTA/6/1 prepared by the WTO Secretariat. The deal is described as the first step towards the creation of a free trade area among the parties, consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and India. Venezuela, a MERCOSUR member, is not a party to the agreement.
Several WTO members raised questions about the MERCOSUR-India agreement at the meeting and in writing WT/COMTD/RTA/6/2 relating to, for instance, the limited coverage of the agreement, whether more members would be included in the deal, how mutual recognition of measures for food safety and animal and plant health is implemented, and when pending submissions for the parties' non-notified agreements would be ready.
The representative of India said that parties to the agreement have agreed on the need to “significantly increase” the number of tariff lines so that it covers a “sizeable portion” of bilateral trade. The latest exchange of request lists to expand the deal's coverage — undertaken in 2013 — is still under review by all sides, said India and Uruguay speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR. In line with the procedures of the committee, the parties will be providing written responses to any outstanding questions submitted by members.
The Chair, Ambassador Juan Esteban Aguirre Martínez (Paraguay), additionally urged members with other agreements due to be taken up at the committee to provide the necessary information in a timely manner. The committee, in the regular session that followed, went on to consider notifications by Japan WT/COMTD/N/2/ADD.16 and the United States WT/COMTD/N/1/ADD.9 concerning updates to their Generalized System of Preferences. It also addressed a report WT/COMTD/88 submitted by the Latin American Integration Association.
Besides regional and preferential trade arrangements, the committee also heard updates on several development-related initiatives. The Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, for instance, will be submitting a proposal on what could be covered by a study on the possible impact of full duty-free quota-free implementation. The Chair, meanwhile, invited delegations to submit written proposals on how to move forward the e-commerce work programme. The committee was also informed that SAANA Consulting had been selected to conduct an external evaluation of WTO technical assistance.
Finally, the committee formally elected Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr (Uganda) as the new Chair and re-elected Ambassador Roderick van Schreven (Netherlands) as the Chair of the sub-committee on LDCs for another year.