LDCs encouraged members to increase awareness of the Waiver domestically. Recalling the Nairobi Waiver Decision, LDCs also advocated that members explore what recommendations the Council might make "on steps that could be taken towards enhancing the operationalisation of the Waiver".
The LDC Services waiver allows WTO members to grant preferential treatment to services and service suppliers from LDC members. WTO members are also encouraged to undertake specific technical assistance and capacity building measures to orient LDC service suppliers to preference benefits available so that such suppliers can utilize the preferences granted.
The Council has received a total of 24 notifications of preferences in favour of LDC services and service suppliers, on the part of 51 Members. As the operationalisation of the LDC Services Waiver is a standing item on its agenda, the Council will revert to the matter at its next meeting.
The Russian Federation reiterated its concerns at the 2 March Council meeting with certain measures related to the reform of the unified gas transportation system of Ukraine. Ukraine took note of the concerns and restated the WTO compliance of its regime, but also questioned the relevance of the same concern being raised in the same manner at each CTS meeting.
Chinese Taipei presented two new communications, on cyberspace trade barriers and the impact of changes in the digital era, which generated a lively debate. These submissions were welcomed as a useful step towards the reinvigoration of the Work Programme, as per the relevant MC11 Decision, although several speakers took issue with some of the papers' elements For instance, many delegations stressed that internal taxation issues did not belong in the WTO.
At the request of Japan and the United States, the Council discussed existing and proposed cybersecurity measures by China and Viet Nam, as well as measures by China on the use of virtual private networks and leased lines.
Detailed interventions, delivered by both requesting delegations, highlighted their continued concerns with the measures at issue. The United States also shared its apprehensions regarding a Chinese Circular that appears to impose new restrictions on the use of virtual private networks and leased lines. In advance of the meeting, the United States had circulated a written communication addressing China's measures.
Japan and the United States argued that, by disrupting and potentially prohibiting the cross-border transfer of information, China's cybersecurity measures would place foreign service suppliers operating in China at a competitive disadvantage compared to domestic suppliers, and would render the cross-border supply of many services unfeasible. As such, they opined that China would be in violation of its relevant commitments under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). They raised concerns of a similar nature with regard to Viet Nam's draft Cybersecurity Law as well.
The United States and Japan also expressed concerns with China's Circular on Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and leased lines, which, they said, would prohibit the use of VPNs and leased lines to connect domestic and foreign data centres or to enable business platforms to provide telecommunication services. The Circular, which is due to enter into force on 31 March 2018, could severely affect the activities of foreign service suppliers and their customers, in their view.
A number of delegations intervened to echo several of the concerns raised.
In response, China reiterated that regulating cross-border data flows was essential to guaranteeing the healthy development of e-commerce and stressed that, in finding a balance between allowing data flows and ensuring cybersecurity, members had the right to regulate in a way that met their specific situation and needs. With regard to the Circular on VPN and leased lines, China said that the measure had been incorrectly characterised in the US communication: the Circular did not create barriers for service suppliers, but was exclusively aimed at regulating illegal operations, guaranteeing an orderly market and protecting the interests of consumers. China also stressed that it was acting in compliance with its WTO obligations.
For its part, Viet Nam said that its draft Cybersecurity Law had undergone significant changes in order to take into account comments received from stakeholders and noted that the domestic legislative process was still ongoing.India reiterated its interest in the Council organising a seminar on mode 4, the cross-border movement of services professionals. Several delegations supported India's proposal and some others said that they were open to engaging constructively on it. The Chairman will hold consultations, with the aim of agreeing on a programme for the event.