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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct13/12)
25 October 2013
Third World Network  

South stresses technical assistance to implement TF accord
Published in SUNS #7678 dated 21 October 2013
 
Geneva, 18 Oct (Kanaga Raja) -- A number of developing countries have stressed that they can only implement an agreement on Trade Facilitation (TF) if effective technical assistance is provided by the developed countries.
 
This position of the developing countries came out during two days (16-17 October) of intensive negotiations in the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation, which is chaired by Ambassador Eduardo Sperisen-Yurt of Guatemala.
 
According to trade officials, in his concluding remarks, the Chair was of the view that "a good result" is still possible in time for the Bali Ministerial Conference (3-6 December), but that there is a need for greater flexibility among Members to achieve it.
 
He further said that Members are still "very far" from reaching a common ground. In this context, he called for more participation at a higher political level and an intensification of the work of small groups.
 
Ambassador Sperisen-Yurt reiterated that the Negotiating Group is still "debating rather than negotiating".
 
He stressed the need for an acceleration of work in order to achieve a result in time for the Ministerial Conference.
 
According to trade officials, the ‘Friends of the Chair' - Ambassador Mario Matus of Chile, Ambassador Remigi Winzap of Switzerland and Mr Michael Stone of Hong Kong-China - reported on recent negotiations held in various configurations.
 
With respect to Section I (of the draft consolidated negotiating text covering commitments), progress was very small - rather cosmetic - with only a few brackets removed on the issues of Publication and Availability of Information, Formalities and Documentation Requirements, Acceptance of Copies, Single Window, Rejected Goods, Fees and Charges, Goods in Transit, Expedited Shipments and others.
 
According to trade officials, the main problem remains the variety of legal systems, the level of commitment in the implementation of the different articles of the Agreement (a binding commitment versus a ‘best endeavour' or a loose commitment) and the lack of common ground in the language to be used.
 
Ambassador Winzap asked delegations to give up their ideal language in favour of compromise language for the text, trade officials added.
 
On Section II (which covers S&D provisions, and technical assistance and capacity-building), trade officials said that the progress here was even smaller, with many developing countries expressing regret over the lack of a firm commitment by developed countries on the provision of technical assistance for the implementation of the Agreement.
 
According to trade officials, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela circulated a draft proposal on Section II, stressing the strong linkage in the mandate between provision of financial, technical assistance and capacity-building on one side, and implementation of commitments on the other side.
 
Trade officials added that the proposal would open the door for developing country members and LDCs to "opt out" of the Agreement if this support was not provided.
 
In response, the European Union said that it wants a binding commitment by everyone, without second thoughts or opt-outs.
 
It added that it was not prepared to give a "blank cheque" if there is no clear commitment on implementation.
 
According to trade officials, Switzerland said that it could not give a binding commitment on providing technical assistance.
 
New Zealand was also against a possible "opt-out" or a conditional acceptance of the Agreement.
 
Egypt noted the wide gap still existing on Section II. It said that developed country members want a binding commitment by everyone (on Section I) but for themselves they reject a binding commitment to provide technical assistance (on Section II).
 
According to trade officials, many developing countries, in particular, the African Group, the ACP Group and several Latin American countries, said that they can only implement the Agreement if there is effective technical assistance.
 
Mr Michael Stone of Hong Kong-China, a ‘Friend of the Chair' who is in charge of coordinating the negotiations on Section II, acknowledged that the Group is in "a difficult position" and "very close to the last minute" to find a landing zone unless both sides leave ground and show flexibility.
 
According to trade officials, meetings will continue over the next days in different formats, with no date being fixed yet for the next meeting of the whole Negotiating Group.

 


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