Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (July09/16)
submits proposals on strengthening the WTO
Geneva, 10 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- India has proposed that the forthcoming seventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) end November should address some systemic issues with the aim of improving the functioning and efficiency of the WTO as a rules-based system, and make the system more useful, relevant, vibrant and user-friendly.
communication is in the context of
[Trade experts and former negotiators have been noticing, and commenting, that many of the agreements have provisions requiring members to notify regularly - such as on agriculture supports/subsidies, and regulatory changes in respect of services - and the scheme of the Marrakesh agreement envisaged the various committees to exercise oversight. However, in the preoccupations of launching the Doha Round, and attempts to conclude it, via mini-ministerial meetings etc, an important aspect of routine technical work has been neglected.]
The project, India said in its communication, should be designed to be efficient and effective by inter alia limiting additional resource requirements; optimising the design and structure of present notification systems; enhancing co-operation with related multilateral agencies; and providing technical assistance to developing countries, in particular the LDCs.
While the WTO is uniquely placed as the biggest repository of certified trade information about its members' regimes through its system of notifications under various WTO agreements, at present, this information has at best archival value because of the way information is submitted and stored. "It is incomplete, not comparable amongst members or even timely."
is needed is better integration and coherence in database form and more
effective public visibility of the existing information, said
The second proposal relates to re-vitalizing WTO Committees. The proposal points to direction from Ministers to include in the agenda of formal WTO Committee meetings inter alia - monitoring of recent developments in members on the trade disciplines covered by the committee, based on a compilation by the Secretariat of developments between formal meetings and verified by the member concerned; regular discussions on general developments in the areas covered by the committee, including in the presence of outside experts; and through adoption of appropriate procedures, discussion on and resolution of low threshold specific trade concerns in small group settings.
the widely perceived declining utility of the committee work, it is
imperative that measures to revitalise them be adopted," said
One way is that the recent exercise in the TPRB (Trade Policy Review Body) of the WTO of monitoring developments in the trade regimes of various members has proved to be a useful tool for all members, particularly the developing countries that have an inherent disadvantage in gathering such information. This practice could be formalized and be made a regular agenda item for all formal meetings of all trade related WTO Committees.
"Along with member notified measures, the Secretariat may make factual presentation on developments in various members on the disciplines covered by a committee. The Secretariat may base its factual report on information gathered from publicly available and reliable sources and after the gathered information being verified by the member concerned."
way to improve the relevance of the WTO Committees may be to include
on the agenda, on a mandated basis, a discussion on the current practices
and developments in the trade disciplines covered by a particular Committee.
It may be considered to invite outside experts to present their views
on such developments. Such a topical discussion will keep members abreast
of the latest developments, said
According to the communication, one other measure would be to enable the Committees to discuss and offer possible solutions to the specific trade concerns of members. As a forum to discuss and resolve the specific trade concerns, it is important that members have access to at least a limited committee process right through the year and not just the periodical formal committee meetings.
"Working procedures that balance the need for confidentiality, to meaningfully discuss and resolve a specific trade concern, with that of transparency, i. e. information to the membership as a whole about the issue and its resolution, has to be devised and adopted."
The third proposal concerns the WTO's engagement with Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs).
The proposal states: "Directions from Ministers to monitor the developing trends in RTAs and develop non-binding best practice guidelines for reference while negotiating new RTAs. To ensure robust and regular monitoring, the two transparency mechanisms should be implemented on a permanent basis; the Secretariat to produce an Annual Review of RTAs based on the factual reports; and members to discuss trends and formulate non-binding best practices in the CRTA (Committee on Regional Trade Agreements)."
that the RTA Transparency Mechanism was a success,
Given the accepted benefits of the RTA Transparency Mechanism and the expectation that the transparency mechanism on preferential schemes will be as useful, Ministers could now agree to implement both on a permanent basis, albeit with in-built provisions for periodic review, said the communication.
The basic problem with examination of RTAs in the WTO has been the lack of a clear understanding amongst the members about the yardsticks on trade coverage; implementation periods; means to evaluate trade diversion, etc. While the work on the substantive issues may continue in the NGR (Negotiating Group on Rules), "it will be useful, in parallel, to put in place measures that will allow us to move further on implementing the Transparency Mechanisms and best utilise the knowledge gathered on RTAs through them."
this context, said
Based on the trends detected in the annual reviews, members in the CRTA may examine from an educative perspective ways to reduce the adverse impact of RTAs on multilateral trade. Aspects like trade coverage/substantially all trade; reasonable length of time; non-trade issues; preferential rules of origin, etc. can be examined. To the extent that there is consensus, the outcome could be a series of non-binding "best practices/guidelines" on various elements/aspects of RTAs for reference by members in negotiating future RTAs.
fourth proposal tabled by
Within the GATT/WTO, members have provided special and differential treatment for Least-Developed Country members (LDCs) on a preferential basis under a variety of legal instruments and agreements. These preferential schemes have evolved over time both from the perspective of coverage, depth of concessions and the members granting the concessions, said India.
several existing instruments that provide legal coverage for preferential
market access for LDCs, the communication said that the multiple and
sometimes overlapping instruments have different types of legal coverage
and a variety of procedural requirements. This, combined with differential
levels of market access commitments made in favour of LDCs, has created
an environment of uncertainty both for the LDC preference receivers
and the members granting or establishing such preferential market access
It noted as an example, that just on the procedural front, the developed country GSP schemes under the Enabling Clause are notified in the CTD (Committee on Trade and Development) while developing countries will have to notify their schemes through the Council for Trade in Goods under the cover of the Decision contained in WT/L/759. The implementation of the DFQF (duty-free, quota-free market access) Decision is being notified to the CTD.
the purposes of certainty, predictability and transparency on all aspects
of preferential market access for LDCs, an Omnibus Legal Instrument
is necessary, stressed
It calls for a "Statement from Ministers in the Conference outcome document, reaffirming the provisions relating to the need to adopt international standards in respect of sanitary, phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade, stressing the need for members to primarily base domestic regulations on such international standards for all trade in goods. Encourage increased participation in international standard setting activities."
A reaffirmation by Ministers will be an important signal to the membership that the increasing divergence from international standards and conformity assessment/testing practices is a matter of concern and it is time to roll back the complications brought about by the divergent national regulatory regimes, said India. +