Dr. Supachai: Ministerial support must be translated into Geneva progress

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, in his opening remarks to the Trade Negotiations Committee meeting on 30 June, said that the many Ministers he had met since the last meeting have given strong political commitment to the success of the negotiations. “The onus is now fairly and squarely on negotiators in Geneva to do the deals that our political leaders clearly want us to achieve,” he said.

He said: “Since our last meeting, I have attended the Third LDC Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, the OECD Ministerial meeting in Paris, the Conference of the African Union Ministers of Trade in Kigali, Rwanda, the meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in Pucón, Chile and UNCTAD XI in São Paulo, Brazil. I have just recently returned from an official visit to India where I met the Prime Minister and key Ministers of the new government. From this intensive ministerial-level activity, we have a strong political commitment. However, we still face the problem that it is not being translated into progress here in the negotiations.”

Dr. Supachai told the negotiators that “to facilitate your efforts to reach agreement, the General Council Chairman and I will hold an intensive process of consultation leading up to the meetings of the TNC and of the General Council towards the end of the month”.

At the UNCTAD XI in São Paulo, Brazil on 14 June, the Director-General in his speech stressed that “if we want trade to work as an engine for growth and development, it is indispensable that we succeed in the Doha Round”. He added that the negotiations are at “a crossroads, and common ground must be found quickly”.

On 4 June, he commended negotiators for their success in narrowing differences in critical agriculture negotiations during the week, but urged them to make every effort to build on this progress and cautioned that time is rapidly running out to achieve a framework agreement in farm trade by the end of July.
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ACCESSIONS back to top

Members praise Viet Nam’s new offers, but seek improvements and more clarification

The 63 WTO members negotiating a membership package with Viet Nam praised the Southeast Asian country on 15 June for considerably improving its market access offers for goods and services, and its programme for applying WTO agreements.
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The seventh meeting of the Working Party on the accession of Algeria to the WTO was held on 25 June. The Working Party reviewed the state of play in the bilateral market access negotiations on goods and services, and examined an Elements of a Draft Report document prepared by the Secretariat. Some Members indicated that they will be providing additional comments and questions for the revision of the Secretariat document. Algeria was requested to keep members updated on developments on the legislative front, as well as to table revised offers on goods and services prior to the next meeting.

The Working Party on the Accession of the Republic of Uzbekistan held its second meeting on 29 June under the Chairmanship of H.E. Hyuck Choi (Korea).The Working Party continued its examination of Uzbekistan's foreign trade regime on the basis of additional replies to questions and checklists or information provided on SPS, TBT and TRIPS. A plurilateral meeting will be held on 30 June 2004, to discuss domestic support and export subsidies in agriculture. Uzbekistan will be submitting a Legislative Action Plan which will be regularly updated and considered at the next meeting of the Working Party. The delegation of Uzbekistan met with interested Members bilaterally on the fringes of the meeting of the Working Party and is expected to table initial offers for the market access negotiations on goods and services.







Members encourage Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali to move ahead with reforms

WTO members, at the conclusion of the trade policy reviews of Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali on 30 June 2004, emphasized trade as a tool for development and encouraged the three African countries to pursue the implementation of their reform programmes.
> Trade Policy Review of Benin
> Trade Policy Review of Burkina Faso
> Trade Policy Review of Mali

Singapore commended as “exemplary” member

WTO members, in concluding their trade policy review of Singapore on 16 June 2004, said the openness of its economy has helped it weather recent economic shocks. They commended Singapore's continuing reforms aimed at promoting an economy that is “globalized, entrepreneurial and diversified”.
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DSB considers panel requests by the United States and Canada

The DSB, on 22 June, considered for the first time two requests for panels: by the United States to examine Mexican tax measures on soft drinks and other beverages, and by Canada on US injury determination concerning hard red spring wheat from Canada. The two requests were blocked by the respondents.
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On 1 June, the DSB adopted the panel report on “Mexico—Measures Affecting Telecommunications Services” (DS204).
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DEVELOPMENT back to top

Ten Years After Marrakesh: the WTO and Developing Countries

Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, in a speech to a conference hosted by the Moroccan authorities to mark the 10th anniversary of the signing of Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO said “we should be immensely proud of the achievements of the last decade. The trading system has shown its resilience in the face of financial turbulence and it has contained and resolved over 300 trade disputes between its Members, providing for greater stability and predictability in global commercial exchanges”.

Technical assistance for acceding LDCs discussed

At the meeting of the Sub-Committee on Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) on 7 June, members welcomed a Secretariat note “Technical Assistance for Acceding LDCs”, which provided an overview of the type of technical assistance required to assist LDCs in their accession process as well as the type of assistance offered by the WTO and by other organizations. The need to continue providing assistance to newly acceded LDCs was underscored.

On market access for LDCs, Australia informed the meeting that they would shortly circulate responses to questions raised at the previous Sub-Committee meeting where the notification by Australia was discussed. Canada informed Members that it had extended its General Preferential Tariff and Least-Developed Country Tariff for a further ten years and that the list of beneficiaries had been changed.

On trade-related technical assistance, discussions were based on the note prepared by the Secretariat on “Assistance to Address Supply-Side Constraints”. The document notes that whilst the issue of supply-side constraints goes beyond the mandate of the WTO, the WTO has tried to respond through co-operation arrangements with other institutions including through initiatives such as JITAP and the Integrated Framework. Members welcomed the note as a good basis for further discussions on supply-side constraints. Representatives of UNIDO, the World Bank and ITC briefed Members on how their organisations were addressing supply-side constraints.


Fifth introduction course on WTO for LDCs concludes in Geneva

The Fifth introduction course on WTO for the least-developed countries, organized by the Institute for Training and Technical Co-operation of the WTO, concluded on 11 June in Geneva.
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WTO launches first Asia-Pacific trade course in Hong Kong, China

The WTO, in partnership with the University of Hong Kong, officially launched its first Regional Trade Policy Course for Asia-Pacific on 9 June in Hong Kong, China.
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WTO ACTIVITIES back to top

Among the meetings held in June were the following:

  • The Information Technology Agreement Committee, on 28 June 2004, agreed to hold the WTO Information Technology Symposium on 18-19 October 2004 in Geneva.
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    The European Communities announced, at the ITA Committee meeting on 4 June, that its commitment on zero tariffs for ITA products extends to the enlarged EC membership, including Hungary and Malta, which were not previously participants to the ITA.
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  • The Committee on Trade in Financial Services met on 25 June. Three WTO Members have yet to accept the Fifth Protocol to the GATS, namely Brazil, Jamaica and the Philippines. Norway and Turkey submitted two informal documents for discussion under the item on “Recent Developments in Financial Services Trade”. The Norwegian submission focused on the liberalization and regulation of marine and energy insurance; while the room document from Turkey highlighted e-insurance initiatives by Turkish insurance companies. Finally, Members continued their consideration of a proposal on international regulations and financial services submitted by Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of a group of Members (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Fiji Islands, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, the Maldives, Solomon Islands, and St. Kitts and Nevis).

  • The Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), on 22-23 June, discussed a number of specific trade concerns raised by various members. These included trade restrictions relating to avian influenza and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), recognition of animal disease free and plant pest free status, and various other plant health concerns. The Committee agreed to procedures for the Second Review of the operation of the SPS Agreement, and also adopted the sixth annual report on the monitoring of the use of international standards. The Committee further considered a number of documents regarding the implementation of Article 6 on pest- or disease-free areas and agreed to continue discussions at its next meeting. Other matters taken up by the Committee included procedures to enhance transparency in special and differential treatment; technical assistance and co-operation; and relevant matters arising from the work of observer organizations. In-depth discussions on issues related to transparency and regionalization were held during informal meetings on 21 June. The next regular meeting of the Committee is scheduled for 29-30 October 2004 and will be preceded by informal meetings on special and differential treatment, regionalization and on the review of the operation of the SPS Agreement.

  • The TRIPS Council, on 16 June, took note of the status of notifications of national laws and regulations by members whose transitional period had expired in 2000 or who had acceded to the WTO after that date, as well as of new notifications made under various provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. The Council took note of the outstanding material required to complete the pending reviews of the legislation of 15 Members and of the new responses to certain follow-up questions. The Council took up the review of the legislation of Armenia. It continued its discussion of the agenda items on the review of the provisions of Article 27.3(b), the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and protection of traditional knowledge and folklore. > More (Word document, 2 pages, 41KB).






WTO Secretariat publishes its first dispute-settlement guide

The WTO Secretariat, on 29 June, published A Handbook on the WTO Dispute Settlement System. “The primary purpose of this training guide is to explain the WTO dispute settlement system to an interested person with little or no knowledge of how this system functions,” according to WTO Legal Affairs Director, Mr. Bruce Wilson, in his preface.

Report detects shifts in services and agricultural trade patterns

International trade patterns have changed in two significant areas over the past two decades with growth in services trade no longer clearly outstripping growth in goods, while agricultural trade has shifted away from commodities towards processed products, according Recent Trends in International Trade Policy Developments released on 11 June. The WTO Secretariat report challenges a “general perception that world commercial services trade is growing faster than trade in goods. Indeed trade in commercial services expanded faster than goods trade in the second half of the 1980s, but thereafter the record is mixed,” it says. Broadly, services and merchandise trade growth have evolved in a roughly similar way since 1990. For 1990–2003, trade in commercial services and goods both grew by about 6% per year on average, and therefore services’ share of international trade remained at about 20% over the period. “Overall, there is no indication that services categories in general have increased their share in international trade,” the report says.
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