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PERU TO HEAD AGRICULTURE NEGOTIATIONS

by Chakravarthi Raghavan


Geneva, 8 May 2000 -- Peru's Ambassador Jorge Voto-Barnales is to chair the Committee on Agriculture, and thus its special sessions dealing with the negotiations on agriculture.

The General Council of the World Trade Organization which was advised of this compromise and adopted it, also elected the Singapore ambassador, Chuk Mun See to head the TRIPS Council.

The European Union had vetoed the choice of Amb. Celso Amorim of Brazil to lead the agriculture negotiations. In turn this led to the blocking of the Finnish nominee to head the TRIPS Council, and the election of chairs of various subsidiary bodies under the Council for Goods.

Under the compromise to name Peru to head the Agriculture negotiations, Japan's Minister to the WTO, Yoichi Suzuki is to be the vice-chair of the Committee to conduct the normal work of the Committee.

The General Council which resumed its work Monday also agreed on a compromise on the transition period issues under the Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) agreement.

The expiry of the transition period issue in respect of a number of agreements had arisen in a prominent way in the aftermath of the collapse of the Seattle Ministerial meeting. At the 17 December 1999 meeting on the post-Seattle process, a statement by the General Council chair urged countries to exercise restraint (in raising disputes) on deadline issues.

Since then, the transition period issues, and in particular those under the TRIMS, had become one of the important areas for priority action for 'confidence-building' measures.

The industrialized countries took the line that they would consider requests for extension of transition periods on a case-by-case basis, while developing countries had pushed for a multilateral solution.

The search for compromise was complicated by questions on how to deal with the cases of countries which had notified TRIMS, but had not sought specific extensions while awaiting a multilateral decision on the post-Seattle situation, and the case of those that had not notified TRIMS within the 90-day period of entry into force of the WTO.

Under the compromise now agreed to, the Council for Trade in Goods was directed to give positive consideration to individual requests presented in accordance with Art. 5.3 of the TRIMS by developing countries for extension of transition periods for implementation of TRIMS. At the same time, consultations are to be pursued as a matter of priority, under the aegis of the General Council by the Chairman of the Council for Trade in Goods (CTG) in respect of those who have not notified TRIMS or had not yet requested extensions.

Under Art.5.1 of the TRIMS agreement, within 90 days of entry into force of the WTO (i.e. by end March 1995) countries who were maintaining, were to have notified the Council for Trade in Goods of all TRIMS applied by them which were not in conformity with the obligations of the agreement. The general or specific TRIMS along with their principal features were to have been notified.

Developed countries, under Art 5.2, had two years transition period to eliminate such TRIMS. Developing countries had a five-year period, and the least developed countries have a 7-year period. The transition period for developing countries ended on 31 December 1999.

Under Art.5.3 the Council for Trade in Goods (CTG) may extend the transition period, for developing countries who had notified TRIMS and demonstrate particular difficulties in implementing the provisions. In doing so, the CTG shall take into account individual development, financial and trade needs of Members.

Some 8 countries had sought extensions.

According to the compromise worked out and adopted by the General Council:

* Members have noted the efforts made by many developing country Members to implement their commitments under TRIMs within the time period provided to them under Art. 5.2 and that some Members have decided to exercise their rights under Article 5.3 to request an extension of the transition period for their measures notified under Art. 5.1;

* Members have also indicated there is a need to preserve the multilateral character of this process and that the requested extensions shall be examined in accordance with the rights and obligations of Members under Art. 5.3 of the TRIMs Agreement, taking into account the particular difficulties of any kind, including internal and external, encountered by developing countries in implementing the provisions of the Agreement and the development, financial and trade needs of the country in question;

* Taking into account such elements, Members agreed to direct the Council for Trade in Goods (CTG) to give positive consideration to individual requests presented in accordance with Art. 5.3 by developing countries for extension of transition periods for implementation of the TRIMS Agreement;

* Members have noted the concerns of those Members who have not notified TRIMs or have not yet requested an extension. Consultations on the means to address these cases should also be pursued as a matter of priority, under the aegis of the General Council, by the Chairman of the CTG;

* Members affirm that the above decisions are without prejudice to the mandated review provided for in Article 9 of the TRIMs Agreement;

* The Chairman of the CTG should be invited to pursue informal consultations in order to facilitate the process and to reinforce the multilateral character of the exercise and its rapid conclusion. The Chairman of the CTG should also be invited to keep the General Council informed of progress including information provided by the parties concerned. (SUNS4663)

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

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