REGIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS: TRANSPARENCY MECHANISM FOR RTAs
Transparency Mechanism for RTAs
On 14 December 2006, the General Council established on a provisional basis a new transparency mechanism for all RTAs. The new transparency mechanism — negotiated in the Negotiating Group on Rules — provides for early announcement of any RTA and notification to the WTO. Members will consider the notified RTAs on the basis of a factual presentation by the WTO Secretariat.
The Committee on Regional Trade Agreements will consider RTAs falling under Article XXIV of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Committee on Trade and Development will consider RTAs falling under the Enabling Clause (trade arrangements between developing countries).
The transparency mechanism is implemented on a provisional basis. Members are to review, and if necessary modify, the decision, and replace it by a permanent mechanism adopted as part of the overall results of the Doha Round.
Procedures to Implement the Transparency Mechanism on RTAs
A. Early Announcement
Members participating in new negotiations aimed at the conclusion of an RTA should inform the WTO Secretariat of such negotiations. Members which are parties to a newly signed RTA should send to the Secretariat information on the RTA, including its official name, scope, date of signature, any foreseen timetable for its entry into force or provisional application, relevant contact points and/or website addresses, and any other relevant unrestricted information. Members are encouraged to submit information on new negotiations or newly signed RTAs in electronic form, e.g. email to the RTA Section of the Secretariat, copy of a relevant press release or official website address where the information can be found. The Secretariat will post this information on the WTO website and periodically provide Members with a synopsis.
The notification of an RTA by Members should take place as early as possible, in general no later than the parties' ratification of the RTA or any party's decision on the application of the relevant parts of an agreement and before the application of preferential treatment between the parties. Parties should specify under which provision(s) of the WTO agreements the RTA is notified and provide the full text and any related schedules, annexes and protocols, in one of the WTO's official languages. Electronic format is preferable for these submissions, where possible. Members are encouraged to use the notification format for RTAs, agreed by the CRTA (document WT/REG/16). References to related official internet links should also be supplied.
The CRTA is responsible for implementing the Transparency Mechanism (TM) with regard to RTAs falling under GATT Article XXIV and GATS Article V. The Committee on Trade and Development, convening in dedicated session, will implement the decision with regard to notifications falling under the Enabling Clause.
The consideration by Members of a notified RTA shall be normally concluded within one year after the date of notification. The WTO Secretariat will draw up a precise timetable for the consideration of the RTA in consultation with the parties at the time of the notification. Parties to an RTA shall make data (described in detail in the Annex to the Transparency Decision) available to the Secretariat, if possible in electronic format, as soon as possible, but normally within a period of ten weeks (or 20 weeks in the case of RTAs involving only developing countries) after the date of notification of the agreement.
Timeline for Factual Presentations
> Consult the proposed timeline for Factual Presentations
As a rule, a single formal meeting will be devoted to the consideration of each notified RTA; any additional exchange of information should take place in written form. The WTO Secretariat's factual presentation, as well as any additional information submitted by the parties, is to be circulated in all WTO official languages not less than eight weeks in advance of the relevant CRTA meeting. Members' written questions or comments on the RTA under consideration are to be transmitted to the parties through the Secretariat at least four weeks before the CRTA meeting and will be distributed, together with the replies, to all Members at least three working days before the meeting.
D. Subsequent Notification and Reporting
Any changes affecting the implementation of an RTA, or
the operation of an already implemented RTA, should be notified to the
WTO as soon as possible after changes occur. The parties should provide
a summary of the changes made, as well as any related texts, schedules,
annexes and protocols, in one of the WTO official languages and, if
available, in electronic format.
At the end of the RTA's implementation period, the parties shall submit to the WTO a short written report on the realization of liberalization commitments in the RTA as originally notified.
E. Preparation of Factual Abstracts
Article 22(b) of the Transparency Mechanism calls for a factual abstract to be prepared by the Secretariat to present the features of RTAs for which the CRTA has concluded the “factual examination” by 31 December 2006.