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TRIMs extension, EC-ACP waiver requests before Goods Council

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 14 Mar 2001 - The requests for extension of time from several developing countries on Trade-related Investment Measures (TRIMs), and the request for a waiver for the new EC-ACP partnership agreement came up before the Council for Trade in Goods (CTG), but with no decisions.

The issue of extension of period for compliance under TRIMs, has come up as part of the post-Seattle issues before the WTO, and the compromises mooted at the General Council for resolving these questions as part of the confidence-building exercise.

A compromise mooted by the Good Council chair, Amb. Perez Castillo of Uruguay, for a 2+2 extension on the pending requests (an initial 2 year extension, with an additional two years later) is pending before the Goods Council, which is seized of nine requests for extensions ranging from one to seven years from Colombia, Mexico, Romania, Argentina, Pakistan, Malaysia, Chile and Thailand. Most of these cover the automotive sector and local content requirements. Pakistan’s request is for general engineering, electrical goods, agricultural equipment and automobiles, while Colombia’s is agro-industrial processors and issue of local harvests. Romania’s request covered automotives and shipbuilding.

Egypt has put in a request on reduction of duties on imported components on local content.

During the discussions, on earlier requests, the US said it could accept the 2+2 formula, provided a clear phase- out plan was put forward. On this basis, the US was willing to include the requests of Argentina and Mexico; and of Pakistan, Romania, Colombia and Chile, if they provided more information. The US was also willing to move forward on the Malaysian request, if there was a clear commitment on phase-out.  As for the Philippines, the US was showing restraint by not moving forward with the panel selection in its complaint. As for Thailand, the US advised that country to seek a waiver.

Japan and Canada also said they could support a 2+2 formula, but wanted more information from Pakistan and Chile.

The EC said the CTG should act quickly lest other processes (dispute panels and their decisions) overtake the CTG processes. A solution was important for the WTO system, the EC said.

Romania said it was hoping for a solution to its problems on shipbuilding. Mexico thought the CTG was not far from a solution in the light of the US statement. Malaysia said it was committed to end its TRIMs by the end of 2001, while Chile said its draft law was before the Upper House of Congress. Philippines and Thailand were ready for further consultations.

Egypt, explaining the delay in the submission of its request, said this was due to internal discussions on whether its measures in fact were covered by TRIMs. Canada and Japan said Egypt had missed the deadline (and hence, presumably, its request could not be considered), while the US and EC suggested that Egypt should seek a waiver. Colombia, Malaysia, Cuba and Zimbabwe supported the Egyptian request.

On the ACP-EC agreement and the request for a waiver - an issue before the WTO, but kept pending because of Latin American objections that, without the new banana regime of the EC, included in the agreement, a waiver request could not be considered - - the EC said Wednesday that it had now notified its first-come-first-serve basis of imports of bananas, and the examination of the waiver request should now start.

However, a group of Latin American countries, including Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Paraguay, insisted that the examination of the request could not begin since the detailed implementation regulations were not available.

The ACP countries, including St. Lucia, Mauritius and Jamaica, underscored the importance of the partnership agreement to the ACP economies and urged the start of the waiver examination. The US said it was hopeful the examination of the request could start at the next meeting of the CTG, in April.

The Council agreed that the new chairman, Amb. Istavan Major of Hungary should start consultations. India, Pakistan and Hong Kong China urged the CTG, as part of its oversight role on the WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, to urge members concerned (the US and Turkey) to cooperate with the TMB and provide it with the essential information needed, and to rescind the bilateral restraint agreements, violative of the ATC, concluded between Turkey and the US. Both these countries have claimed that their agreement is in accord with the ATC, but have not provided the required information to the TMB to enable it to exercise its functions under the ATC in this matter. The TMB has said that the measure is not in conformity with the ATC. The US and Turkey insisted though that their accord conformed to the ATC. India and HKC said they would keep this item on the CTG until the issue was resolved.-SUNS4856

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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