IMPORT LICENSING

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The United States expressed concern over Viet Nam's Decree No. 58 of 2016 involving the sale and provision of civil cryptographic products. The US said import licensing has been required for products where encryption is an important but not a core function. The US asked Viet Nam to clarify the rationale behind the measure and said it could stifle trade without producing clear benefits to Viet Nam.

Japan said it had a strong interest in the issue and requested Viet Nam to clarify the import licensing requirements and procedures for cryptographic products. Japan said it would closely monitor the situation. Viet Nam, in response, said it would relay these concerns to its capital-based authorities.

China's import restrictions on recoverable materials

Five delegations (United States, European Union, Canada, Korea and Australia) reiterated their request for more information about China's import restrictions covering scrap materials. The United States, which requested that the issue be included again in the meeting agenda, said recent changes in China's policies have resulted in the disposal of recyclable materials into landfills instead of being further recycled in China. The US also said that Chinese manufacturers have been forced to use "virgin" materials and that there could be a heightened threat of increased marine litter.

The European Union, which had raised the issue under a separate item on the meeting agenda, similarly asked for a detailed description of procedures for waste products and envisaged changes to import policies. Canada said it encourages China to clarify the specific list of goods subject to import licensing requirements and the applicable procedures. Korea said there was a need to reduce the uncertainty related to this issue. Australia said that while it continues to appreciate China's efforts to reduce pollution, it finds the measures to be more restrictive than necessary to achieve the desired objectives.

China, in response, said it had already notified information to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade and that it plans to notify a catalogue of solid waste products that can be used as raw materials to the Committee on Import Licensing along with their respective import restrictions.

India's measures on imported pulses

Four members (Australia, Canada, the EU and the US) reiterated concerns over India's import restrictions on certain pulses such as lentils, mung beans and peas. Australia, which requested the item be placed again on the meeting agenda, noted that quantitative restrictions on certain pulses have been extended until 31 December. Australia said such restrictions are not consistent with India's obligations to the WTO and that the measures have had a serious impact on the global market for pulses.

Canada, which identified itself as the largest supplier of pulses to India, said it was disappointed with the continued implementation of the import quotas. Canada noted that the elimination of quantitative restrictions is a fundamental principle in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and WTO rules. The EU likewise asked India to clarify the legal basis for introducing such quantitative restrictions. The EU said the sudden introduction of the measure has been harmful to both developing countries and developed countries alike due to price fluctuations. The US supported the other members' statements and reiterated its request for India to provide more information and notify the measure to the WTO.

India referred members to its previous responses made in the Committee on Market Access and Committee on Agriculture. India also requested members to submit their questions in writing so these could be relayed to its authorities.

Other trade concerns

Members also discussed other previously raised issues such as Brazil's import restrictions on nitrocellulose; Russia's requirement for Good Manufacturing Practice certificates for pharmaceuticals; Thailand's import procedures for feedwheat; Indonesia's measures on imported tyres, dairy products, and cellular phones, handheld computers and tablets; and India's  import restrictions on boric acid.

Efforts to improve transparency

The WTO Secretariat informed members of new resources for information on import licensing: a consolidated paper on written questions and replies submitted to the Committee since 1995 and a new website containing members' import licensing profiles. Delegations already have access to the website and plans are being made for its public launch, the Secretariat said. The Committee Chair, Ms Lorena Rivera Orjuela (Colombia), sought members' feedback on efforts to simplify the notification procedures concerning import licensing to encourage more transparency among members. Several members expressed their support in further discussions and initiatives on the issue.

The  Committee undertook the 12th biennial review of the operation and implementation of the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures and the Chair intends to hold informal consultations with members on improving compliance with notification obligations and transparency in their import licensing regimes.

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