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Israel: September 1999

Since its previous review in 1994, Israel has taken important legislative, regulatory and practical steps towards a more open, transparent and liberal trading regime.

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Summary of Secretariat report
  > Summary of Government report

16 September 1999

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The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its second review of Israel's trade policies on 14 and 16 September 1999. The text of the Chairperson's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion. The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member countries at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country's trade policies, including its domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairperson's summing-up together with these two reports will be published in due course as the complete trade policy review of Israel and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 & 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 & 1998), Austria (1992), Bangladesh (1992), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 & 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992 & 1996), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996 & 1998), Chile (1991 & 1997), Colombia (1990 & 1996), Costa Rica (1995), C˘te d'Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 & 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995 & 1997), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 & 1998), Hungary (1991 & 1998), Iceland (1994), India (1993 & 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 & 1998), Israel (1994 & 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995 & 1998), Kenya (1993), Korea, Rep. of (1992 & 1996), Lesotho (1998), Macau (1994), Malaysia (1993 & 1997), Mali (1998), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993 & 1997), Morocco (1989 & 1996), New Zealand (1990 & 1996), Namibia (1998), Nigeria (1991 & 1998), Norway (1991 & 1996), Pakistan (1995), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994), the Philippines (1993), Poland (1993), Romania (1992), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992 & 1996), Slovak Republic (1995), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 & 1998), Sri Lanka(1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 & 1994), Switzerland (1991 & 1996), Thailand (1991 & 1995), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 & 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996 & 1999), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992 & 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).


We have had constructive discussions on Israel's trade and trade-related policies, putting them appropriately into the context of the wider environment of which they form an integral part.

Since its previous review in 1994, Israel has taken important legislative, regulatory and practical steps towards a more open, transparent and liberal trading regime. Through its trade liberalization programme, as well as the timely implementation of its multilateral commitments in the WTO, Israel actively contributes to the stability of the multilateral trading system. Israel's efforts in the areas of structural reform and further liberalization of its economy, including through the pursuance of increasingly open trade and investment policies, are commended. Output growth slowed in 1998 after several years of high GDP growth, during which a wave of immigration was successfully absorbed. Israel is therefore encouraged to continue on its liberalization path and, where appropriate, to intensify privatization. It is also noted that traditional, labour intensive manufacturing industries received high tariff protection, while high technology industries, with relative low levels of protection, are becoming increasingly competitive. Israel's commitments under the GATS (basic telecommunications - already producing tangible benefits to Israeli consumers - and financial services) and its meaningful contribution to ITA are welcomed.

Israel's trade and investment regimes are seen to be generally transparent. The foreign investment regime is considered as being liberal: considerable incentives are provided, discriminating at times against domestic investors. Recent trade reforms, in particular on customs valuation and trade facilitation, are welcome.

Against this broadly positive appreciation, concerns were however raised on some specific subjects, inter alia:

- the complexity of the tariff structure, with the existence of specific, compound, alternate rates, and of seasonal tariffs, and with a low level of tariff bindings as well as a gap between applied and bound rates. Further efforts at simplification, transparency and predictability are suggested;

- a number of other import charges, notably safeguard levies, and a wharfage fee discriminating against importers;

- prohibition or restriction measures on imports of certain meat (in particular non-Kosher) and dairy products, animals, flowers and fruit, beer, pharmaceutical, chemical and textiles;

- international consistency of domestic mandatory standards and some SPS measures;

- competition policy, offset requirements in government procurement, state aid, and the protection of intellectual property rights, in particular for copyrights, piracy enforcement, pharmaceutical patents and geographic indications;

- the still significantly protected agricultural sector, in particular high tariffs, import controls, state trading and subsidies;

- remaining restrictions in the services sector: banking, insurance, maritime transport, tourism and professional services.

Israel is party to an increasing number of preferential trade agreements covering the bulk of its trade. While the complementarity of these agreements with the multilateral system was highlighted, it was noted that due regard should continue to be paid to the risk of trade distortion and to potential disadvantages for other trading partners.

All the clarifications given by Israel to the Members are fully appreciated, in particular the commendable effort made by the delegation of Israel to provide comprehensive answers in writing for the benefit of all Members during the course of the review.

In conclusion, Israel is encouraged to continue on its trade liberalization path and to take an active role in the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations. Back to top