1 and 3 February 2006

Concluding remarks by the Chairperson

See also:
> Press release: Shift to high-tech contributed to increases in exports and economic growth

1. This third Trade Policy Review of Israel has been both thorough and informative; it has allowed a better understanding of Israel's trade policies and practices, of their evolution over the last six years, and of their outlook. The reports by Israel and the Secretariat, and the exhaustive responses of the delegation of Israel to the questions by Members, have served as a valuable resource and have made a significant contribution to transparency. We owe the high quality of thie review to the presence of an impressive Israeli delegation, led by Vice-Director General Udi Sheintal, and to the active involvement of Members. Our thanks are also due to our discussant, Ambassador Ronald Saborio Soto, for his very insightful contribution to our meeting.

2. Members welcomed Israel's recent strong economic performance, largely driven by foreign trade and innovation, and supported by structural and macro-economic reform. Members encouraged Israel to pursue its reforms, particularly to further reduce state intervention and enhance competition.

3. Members appreciated Israel's firm commitment to and active participation in the multilateral trading system, including the Doha Development Agenda. They noted, however, that an increasing part of its trade was taking place under preferential regimes. While Members congratulated Israel for the steps taken to liberalize its trade regime, they encouraged it to bring its other duties and charges, as well as some applied MFN tariffs, in line with its WTO binding commitments. Referring to the sharp contrast between Israel's low non-agricultural and high agricultural tariffs, some Members encouraged it to undertake tariff reductions on agricultural products. They requested Israel to consider improving market access to imports from developing countries. Members also appreciated the unilateral lifting of prohibitions on imports from Members that have no diplomatic relations with Israel or do not allow imports from it.

4. On sectoral policies, Members pointed to the high level of support to and protection for Israel's agriculture sector. Noting that almost all segments of the energy sector were still under state monopoly, Members encouraged Israel to take further steps to liberalize this sector. They also observed the growing importance of the services sector for the Israeli economy and expressed appreciation for its liberalization through, inter alia, the privatization programme. They were also interested in further reform plans that could improve the efficiency of Israel's economy.

5. Members sought clarification on a number of issues, notably: import licensing and prohibitions; contingency trade remedies; standards and technical regulations; investment and export incentives; government procurement; and protection of intellectual property rights.

6. Members expressed their appreciation for the responses to their questions as provided by the Israeli delegation.

7. In conclusion, Members value Israel's efforts to improve its economic environment. As a small economy based on innovation and strongly dependent on foreign trade, Israel has a lot to gain from a free and open trade environment. I encourage Israel to continue liberalizing its trade regime, both on goods and services, with a view to further improving its transparency and predictability. I urge Members to support Israel's reforms by providing greater market access to its goods and services.