TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr09/06)
2 April 2009
Third World Network

Goods Council approves waivers for US trade-preference programmes
Published in SUNS #6668 dated 26 March 2009

Geneva, 25 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Council for Trade in Goods on Tuesday approved long-standing waiver requests from the United States on three trade-preference programmes, namely, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA).

The Goods Council agreed to forward the draft waiver decisions to the General Council for its adoption.

(According to trade officials, the three waiver requests have been awaiting approval for about four years on account of two members -- Paraguay and Argentina -- voicing concerns over some aspects of the US programmes.)

In other actions, the Goods Council also agreed on a slate of chairpersons of its subsidiary bodies for this year.

At the regular meeting of the Council on Tuesday, the US said that these trade-preference programmes serve an important development purpose, and that it was committed to get WTO approval for them.

According to trade officials, Mauritius, on behalf of the AGOA beneficiaries, thanked the US, while Kenya said that AGOA is an important contribution to the development of sub-Saharan Africa.

Barbados said that CBERA is essential to the economic progress of the region in the light of the current crisis and rising protectionism. Haiti said that the programme has the potential to create millions of jobs.

Jamaica said that the programmes now have legal certainty, which is important for investors and traders.

According to trade officials, Colombia, Peru, Rwanda and Dominica also underlined the economic importance of the programmes.

Bolivia said that ATPA has helped create 25,000 jobs in sectors like textiles and jewellery. It however expressed concern that the US has not been giving sufficient support and recognition to its campaign against illegal drugs.

The US assured Bolivia that the review of that country's eligibility under ATPA in June would be fair and thorough.

According to trade officials, Paraguay said that its opposition to the waivers was based on the complaints of local producers about unfair competition. In view of the start of a new dialogue with the US, it has decided to withdraw its objection.

Turkey introduced a new paper at the Council meeting on recent research on main trends in the textiles and clothing sector after the phase-out of quotas (G/C/W/614).

According to trade officials, Turkey said that the studies point out that although some members have increased market share, "many developing countries have the risk of losing unbearable number of jobs as well as export revenues in the short run". It proposed that the WTO take a coordinating role in overcoming these difficulties.

According to the paper, textiles and clothing sector is quite essential for setting the ground for development of many countries. The initial economic development of all leading economies like China, Japan, Germany, the UK and the USA was based on this sector.

According to the statistics, today textiles and clothing takes an important slice of the world merchandise trade, covering $583.4 billion, while developing economies handle more than two-thirds of world clothing and more than one-half of world textiles exports, said Turkey.

The Dominican Republic, Jordan, Mauritius, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco welcomed the paper as well as further discussion at the next meeting of the Council.

According to trade officials, China described the proposal as selective, biased and misleading, and proposed that the whole subject be dropped from the Council's agenda.

China said that Turkey's initiative in this area had not progressed since 2005 because it ran counter to the principle of trade liberalization and the spirit of competition. India also reiterated its objection to a WTO work programme on the textiles sector.

The Goods Council Chair, Ambassador Karen Tan of Singapore, said that it was clear that there are divergent views on this subject. She said that the Council will revert to this item at its next meeting, and encouraged members to meet to help the Council move forward on this issue.

The Chair also noted the recent notification of free trade agreements between Japan and the Philippines, the EC and Cote d'Ivoire, the US and Oman, the US and Peru, Turkey and Georgia, China and Singapore, and Australia and Chile.

The Council approved the 2009 slate of chairs of its subsidiary bodies, and elected by acclamation its new Chair, Ambassador Elin Ostebo Johansen (Norway).

The 2009 chairpersons are as follows: Committee on Market Access -- Mr. Barney Riley (New Zealand); Committee on Agriculture -- Ms. Valeria Csukasi (Uruguay); Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures -- Ms. Miriam Chaves (Argentina); Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices -- Mr. Pasquale de Micco (Italy); Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures -- Mr. Raimundas Liskauskas (Lithuania); Committee on Safeguards -- Ms. Dineswaree Mohun (Mauritius); Committee on Import Licensing -- Mr. Marco J. Kassaja (Tanzania); Committee on Rules of Origin -- Ms. Vera Thorstensen (Brazil); Committee on Customs Valuation -- Dr. Mohammad Saeed (Pakistan); Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade -- Mr. Ami Levin (Israel); Committee on TRIMs -- Mr. Vasile Radu (Romania); Working Party on State Trading Enterprises -- Mr. Haitao Zhu (China); and ITA Committee -- Mr. Khalid Emara (Egypt). +