n  Previous issues

n  Contact us





Dr. Supachai says US must lead in Doha talks
back to top

WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington on 26 February, warned that the alternative to the Doha Round is “a fragmented world, with greater conflict and uncertainty”. He stressed that US leadership is “indispensable” to the world trading system and the success of the negotiations.

The Director-General said that while “bilateral and regional deals can sometimes be a complement to the multilateral system, but they can never be a substitute.” He said that “by treating some countries preferentially, bilateral and regional deals exclude others — fragmenting global trade and distorting the world economy.”

“It would be a tragic mistake if the Doha Round, which offers the world a once-in-a-generation opportunity to eliminate trade distortions, to strengthen trade rules, and open markets across the world, were allowed to founder”, he said.

On 17 January, in an address in Dhaka, Bangladesh to the International Chamber of Commerce at the International Business Conference on Global Economic Governance and Challenges of Multilateralism, he urged the business community to give active support to the Doha Development Agenda.

He emphasized that “the support of the business community has been central to the huge successes of the multilateral trading system over the past half century.”

The Director-General reminded businessmen that “it is you who benefit from the predictability and stability of the rules-based multilateral trading system, backed up by a dispute settlement system with teeth, and add to that the benefits of new markets, sales of new products, intellectual property protection and lower costs for user industries.”





General Council agrees on slate of 2004 chairs of WTO bodies
back to top

The General Council, on 11 February 2004, noted the consensus on the slate of names of chairpersons for WTO bodies and elected by acclamation Amb. Shotaro Oshima of Japan as its new Chairman.

Director-General Supachai and many delegations paid tribute to the outgoing Chairman, Amb. Carlos Pérez del Castillo of Uruguay for his leadership, especially during the preparations for the Cancun Ministerial Conference.

The General Council agreed to give Cambodia another six months to ratify its membership agreement and join the WTO. The decision extends the deadline from 31 March to 30 September 2004.

It granted Iraq's request for observer status in the WTO. The head of the Iraqi delegation, Mr. Ahmad Al-Mukhar, said “after decades of isolation, Iraq is beginning to rejoin the international community and your decision today sends a positive signal to the people of Iraq that they are welcomed back and that the world really cares about their welfare”.

The General Council agreed to revert to Iran's request for accession at its next meeting. The United States said it continued to have this matter under review. Tanzania, on behalf of the informal group of developing countries, expressed the hope that the US would complete its review soon and be able to provide a positive response at the next meeting.

At the request of the United States, the General Council considered the matter of the date of the Sixth Session of the Ministerial Conference. The US said that scheduling this meeting at the end of 2004 would give further impulse to members' effort6s to move the trade negotiations forward. Following statements by a number of delegations, the Chairman said that he was certain his successor would hold consultations on this matter. The General Council agreed to revert to this issue at a future meeting.

The General Council adopted a draft decision submitted by the Council for Trade in Goods on the “Introduction of Harmonized System 2002 Changes into WTO Schedules of Tariff Concessions”.
The following matters were raised under “Other Business“:
  • Maldives called on the WTO and its trading partners to ease its upcoming transition from a least-developed to a developing country. Many members, including LDCs, congratulated Maldives' economic achievement.
  • The Director-General said that the Secretariat was preparing a report on the subject of availability of adequate and affordable trade financing for developing countries during periods of financial crises.
  • The Chairman informed delegations that the Working Party of the Accession of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would be renamed the “Working Party on the Accession of Serbia and Montenegro”.




DSB adopts reports on softwood lumber dispute
back to top

The Dispute Settlement Body, on 17 February, adopted the Appellate Body and panel reports on Canada's complaint concerning the United States' final countervailing duty determination on certain softwood lumber from Canada.

On 26 January following the US' objection to the level of sanctions, the DSB referred to arbitration requests for suspension of concessions to the United States from eight countries in the case “United States — Continued dumping and subsidy offset act of 2000” — also known as the “Byrd Amendment” case.

The DSB, on 23 January, established two panels to examine Korea's separate complaints against the United States and the European Communities concerning, respectively, countervailing duty investigation and countervailing measures on Korean semiconductors.

On 9 January, it established a panel to examine the Dominican Republic's cigarette importation and internal sale measures. It also adopted the panel and Appellate Body reports on the United States' sunset review of anti-dumping duties on carbon steel products from Japan.
The following reports and decisions were issued by the WTO:

  • An arbitrator, in a decision issued by the WTO on 24 February, concluded that the European Communities may suspend trade obligations against the United States, subject to certain specified limits, after the failure of the latter to bring its Anti-Dumping Act of 1916 into conformity with the WTO.

  • The WTO Appellate Body, on 19 January, issued its report on the case “United States — Final Countervailing Duty Determination with Respect to Certain Softwood Lumber from Canada”. It upheld the panel's finding that the US did not violate trade rules in determining that a financial contribution was being provided to Canadian softwood lumber producers but did not agree with the panel's interpretation of “benefit” under the Subsidies Agreement.





Trade policy reviews
back to top
WTO members reviewed trade policies and practices of The Gambia and the United States.

WTO members, in concluding their trade policy review of The Gambia on 6 February , noted that economic liberalization has contributed to The Gambia's high growth rate since the late 1990s. They encouraged the country to consolidate reforms aimed at promoting investment and diversifying exports.

Members have praised the open US economy’s role as an engine of world growth and the US leadership in WTO work. But in the latest review of US trade policy on 14 and 16 January, they also expressed concern about the country’s twin deficits, its uneven record of compliance with WTO rulings, and some aspects of its involvement in regional trade agreements.




Trade and development
Dr. Supachai says Saudi accession an “imminent reality”
back to top

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, in a speech “The Future of the WTO and its Role in Global Economic Growth” at the Jeddah Economic Forum on 19 January, said that there is a “realistic chance” that Saudi Arabia will accede to the WTO before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, on 18 February, the Committee on Trade and Development elected Amb. C. Trevor Clarke of Barbados as its new Chairperson for meetings in regular and Dedicated Sessions (on small economies) and Amb. Ian M. de Jong of the Netherlands as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Least-Developed Countries.

The Committee adopted the regional trade policy courses of the 2004 Technical Assistance Plan. It considered notifications by Iceland and Australia on improved market access for LDC exports.

It discussed the issue of declining commodity prices and Kenya said it would make a new submission on this matter at the next meeting.
The EC informed the Committee of a database service called “Expanding Exports Helpdesk” that it had created to advice developing countries exporting to the EC.

On 12 January, government officials from 56 countries attended on the joint opening session of the 27th and 28th WTO Trade Policy Courses. Dr. Kipkorir Aly Rana, Deputy Director-General of the WTO chaired the brief opening ceremony.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, on 19 January, made a contribution of 75,000 euros (CHF 115,000) to the Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund.





WTO hosts its annual public symposium: “Multilateralism at a crossroads”
 back to top

The WTO will host its annual public symposium from 25 to 27 May. Participants from governments, parliaments, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media are invited to debate the stakes and challenges ahead in the most crucial and final phase of the Doha Round of negotiations.





Next month's meetings (April 2004) back to top

Council for Trade in Services — Special Session 2
Council for TRIPS — Special Session 7
Committee on Trade and Environment — Special Session 14-15
Committee on Trade and Environment 16
Committee on Safeguards 19
Textiles Monitoring Body 19-21
Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices 20-23
Dispute Settlement Body 20
Dispute Settlement Body- Special Session 22-23
Committee on Government Procurement 23
Committee on ITA 26
Council for Trade in Goods 27
Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures 29-30