TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb06/06)

11 February 2006

WTO General Council meeting: New Chairs at WTO bodies and Task Force Named for "Aid for Trade"

The WTO General Council met on 8 February. It appointed new Chairpersons for the General Council and various negotiating groups as well as regular bodies of the WTO.

It also appointed members of a Task Force for the Aid for Trade programme that had been mandated by the Hong Kong Ministerial.

Below is a report of the meeting, including the speech made by Pascal Lamy.

A seperate report gtives details of a statement by Cuba and Venezuela on irregularities in the WTO's decision-making process.

This article was published in the SUNS on 9 Feb.

With best wishes
Martin Khor


General Council appoints new Chairs and members of an Aid for Trade Task Force

By Kanaga Raja (SUNS), Geneva, 8 Feb 2006

The WTO General Council on 8 February appointed Ambassador Eirik Glenne of Norway as its Chairperson for this year, replacing Ambassador Amina Mohamed of Kenya.

The General Council also named new chairpersons of the regular WTO bodies and of various negotiating bodies established under the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC).

Among the closely watched positions relating to the Doha agenda negotiations, Canadian ambassador Don Stephenson is the new chair of the negotiating group on NAMA (non agriculture market access) while the Hong Kong Ambassador Tony Miller takes over the chair of the Trade Facilitation negotiating group and Singaporean Ambassador Burhan Gafoor chairs the trade and development committee in special session. Retained as chairs are the Mexican Ambassador Fernando de Mateo (for the services negotiations) and the New Zealand Ambassador Crawford Falconer (for the agriculture negotiations).

The chairs of the regular WTO bodies have a one-year term. On the other hand, the chairs of the various negotiating bodies functioning under the TNC have terms that end only at the next session of the WTO Ministerial Conference. The Chair of the TNC, which oversees the Doha Work Programme, is Pascal Lamy of France, who is also the WTO Director-General.

The Chairpersons of the regular WTO bodies for 2006 include Ambassador Muhammad Noor Yacob of Malaysia (Dispute Settlement Body); Ambassador Claudia Uribe of Colombia (Trade Policy Review Body); Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria (Council for Trade in Goods); Ambassador Francois Roux of Belgium (Council for Trade in Services); Ambassador Trevor Clarke of Barbados (Council for TRIPS); Ambassador Shree Baboo Chekitan Servansing of Mauritius (Committee on Trade and Environment); Mr Faizel Ismail of South Africa (Committee on Trade and Development).

Other chairpersons are Mr Takehiro Kagawa of Japan (Committee on Balance-of-Payments Restrictions); Ambassador Ousmane Camara of Senegal (Committee on Regional Trade Agreements); Ambassador Juan Antonio March Pujol of Spain (Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration); Ambassador Manuel Antonio J. Teehankee of the Philippines (Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology); and Ambassador Peter Brno of Slovak Republic (Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance).

The Chairpersons of bodies established under the TNC are: Ambassador Don Stephenson of Canada (Negotiating Group on Market Access); Ambassador Guillermo Valles Galmes of Uruguay (Negotiating Group on Rules); Mr Tony Miller of Hong Kong-China (Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation); Ambassador Fernando de Mateo of Mexico (Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services); Ambassador Manzoor Ahmad of Pakistan (Special Session of the Council for TRIPS); Ambassador Ronald Saborio Soto of Costa Rica (Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body); Ambassador Crawford Falconer of New Zealand (Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture); Ambassador Toufiq Ali of Bangladesh (Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment); and Ambassador Burhan Gafoor of Singapore (Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development).

At the General Council meeting, the WTO Director General Pascal Lamy also announced the composition of the Aid for Trade Task Force that he was asked to set up by the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference.

The Task Force will comprise 13 WTO members: Barbados, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the European Union, Japan, India, Thailand, the United States and the coordinators of the ACP, the African Group and the LDC Group. Sweden's ambassador, Mia Horn Af Rantzien, will chair the Task Force.

International Organizations will be invited to act in an advisory role to the Task Force on a regular basis. The first meeting of the Task Force will be in late February.

The Task Force is asked to provide concrete recommendations and results-oriented proposals to the General Council by July 2006 on how to operationalize Aid for Trade and how Aid for Trade might contribute most effectively to the development dimensions of the Doha Development Agenda.

In his capacity as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, Lamy gave a report to the General Council. He repeated what he had told the TNC meeting the previous day, that he had received three messages from a wide range of Members since the beginning of the year: that there is widespread commitment to making good on what was agreed at Hong Kong; there is a shared intention to move ahead on all issues, and all interlocutors understand they have to move from their current positions and are willing to do so by moving "in concert".

Lamy said that from what was said at the TNC, everyone attaches the highest importance to making progress. "For everyone, the calendar of work set out by Ministers in the Hong Kong Declaration clearly governs the work ahead of us."

He added that most delegations saw the paper on time-lines as a useful working tool. But this paper should not become an item of negotiation in its own right, it does not impose any new obligations on Members and it was not proposed for adoption by the TNC. It is simply a tool to focus minds.

On process, Lamy said the work must continue to be on a bottom-up approach, with an open, transparent and inclusive process. He said much has been done in improving the functioning of the process and ensuring a good balance between efficiency and legitimacy.

He said the only way to make progress across the board is to focus on the two main elements of numbers and words, texts. He asked members to "reduce remaining differences, but not at the cost of the overall level of ambition."

However, Lamy's positive view that members were satisfied with the negotiating process seemed to be contradicted by a statement made at the end of the meeting by Cuba and Venezuela, which raised serious concerns about the decision-making process in the run up to and at the Hong Kong Ministerial (see separate story).