Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb14/01)
17 February 2014
Third World Network
envoy to chair new Trade Facilitation committee
Published in SUNS #7735 dated 4 February 2014
Geneva, 3 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- The Preparatory Committee on Trade
Facilitation, at its first meeting held on 31 January, elected Ambassador
Esteban B. Conejos Jr of the Philippines as its chairman.
According to information posted on the WTO website under its news
item on trade facilitation, the Chair of the new Preparatory Committee
stated that he will make sure to "live up to expectations to
this new assignment in line with the mandate agreed on at the Bali
"There is no time to waste," said Ambassador Conejos Jr,
and called on WTO Members to work in a collective manner.
According to the information posted on the WTO website, the Chair
of the new Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation declared that
the approach to the work of the Committee will be "member-driven,
bottom-up, inclusive and transparent."
The Chair announced that he will be holding consultations with WTO
members as of next week (the week of 3 February) to hear their views
on how to achieve the goals that would benefit the whole membership,
according to the information posted on the WTO website.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the regular WTO Committee on Agriculture last
week began following up on three Bali decisions relating to agriculture
According to the Bali Ministerial Decision of 7 December 2013 vis-a-vis
the Agreement on Trade Facilitation, the Ministerial Conference decided
to establish the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation under
the General Council, "to perform such functions as may be necessary
to ensure the expeditious entry into force of the Agreement and to
prepare for the efficient operation of the Agreement upon its entry
"In particular, the Preparatory Committee shall conduct the legal
review of the Agreement ... receive notifications of Category A commitments,
and draw up a Protocol of Amendment (the "Protocol") to
insert the Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement."
[Category A contains provisions that a developing country Member or
a least developed country Member designates for implementation upon
entry into force of this Agreement, or in the case of a least developed
country Member within one year after entry into force.]
According to the Ministerial Decision, "The General Council shall
meet no later than 31 July 2014 to annex to the Agreement notifications
of Category A commitments, to adopt the Protocol drawn up by the Preparatory
Committee, and to open the Protocol for acceptance until 31 July 2015.
The Protocol shall enter into force in accordance with Article X:
3 of the WTO Agreement."
Meanwhile, the regular Committee on Agriculture met on 29 January,
at which the Committee, amongst others, followed up on three Bali
Ministerial decisions relating to agriculture.
(Trade officials said that the question of how to deal with the Bali
decisions was first discussed at an informal meeting on 28 January,
with the Chair of the Committee reporting on the consultations at
the formal meeting on 29 January.)
According to trade officials, several members said that they want
as much of the post-Bali tasks to be undertaken as quickly as possible
so that they can focus on the other issues in the Doha Round agriculture
negotiations over the coming months.
According to trade officials, the three Bali Ministerial decisions
are on public stockholding for food security purposes, understanding
on tariff rate quota (TRQ) administration provisions of agricultural
products, and export competition.
According to trade officials, the task of the Agriculture Committee
is to oversee how these decisions are being implemented as well as
undertake other work that has been laid out in the decisions.
Trade officials said that the Committee is now developing plans for
monitoring, reviews and other responsibilities.
The work on export competition, involving essentially the preparation
of information to examine the latest developments, is commencing almost
immediately, they added.
On this issue, the Secretariat will draft a questionnaire according
to the details set out in the decision, and circulate it to members
so that the Committee can examine the latest situation at its June
meeting, the Chair of the Agriculture Committee, Mr Guilherme Marquardt
Bayer of Brazil, said.
Information will also be drawn from information on their own export
subsidies that members have to supply in notifications to the WTO.
According to trade officials, the Chair further said that the Bali
decision requires the examinations to be undertaken every year. The
one to be held a year later, in June 2015, will be suitably timed
to prepare for the review at the next Ministerial Conference later
in the year as required in the decision.
[According to the Ministerial Declaration of 7 December 2013 on export
competition, the Ministers said that with the objective on export
competition set out in the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration
in mind and with a view to maintaining the positive trend noted previously,
they shall "exercise utmost restraint with regard to any recourse
to all forms of export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent
[To this end, the Ministers undertook to ensure to "the maximum
extent possible" that: The progress towards the parallel elimination
of all forms of export subsidies and disciplines on all export measures
with equivalent effect will be maintained; the level of export subsidies
will remain significantly below the Members' export subsidy commitments;
a similar level of discipline will be maintained on the use of all
export measures with equivalent effect.
[The Ministers agreed to hold dedicated discussions on an annual basis
in the Committee on Agriculture to examine developments in the field
of export competition. This examination process shall provide an opportunity
for Members to raise any matter relevant to the export competition
pillar, in furtherance of the final objective set out in the 2005
Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, they said.
[According to the Ministerial Declaration on export competition, this
examination process shall be undertaken on the basis of timely notifications
under the relevant provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture and
related decisions, complemented by information compiled by the WTO
Secretariat, consistent with the practice followed in 2013, on the
basis of Members' responses to a questionnaire. The Ministers agreed
to review the situation regarding export competition at the 10th Ministerial
On the issue of TRQ administration, trade officials said that the
Committee does not have to review this decision until after four years.
However, it also has a role in monitoring the actual tariff quotas
(or TRQs) when one member's quotas are repeatedly under-filled (imports
fall short of the quota limit by 35% or more).
[According to the Ministerial Decision of 7 December 2013 on the understanding
on TRQ administration provisions of agricultural products, the Committee
on Agriculture shall review and monitor the implementation of Members'
obligations established under this understanding, and that a review
of the operation of the Decision shall commence no later than four
years following the adoption of the Decision, taking into account
experience gained up to that time. The objective of this review will
be to promote a continuing process of improvement in the utilization
of tariff rate quotas.]
According to trade officials, the Chair of the Agriculture Committee
said that the Committee has to monitor how members are living up to
their obligations under this decision, and that the task will only
begin when members act under the decision.
On the issue of public stockholding for food security purposes, trade
officials said that one part of the Committee's work is dealing with
information that developing countries are required to provide if they
want to use the decision, and the other concerns a work programme
aimed at making recommendations for a permanent solution by the eleventh
Ministerial Conference (in 2017).
[According to the Ministerial Decision of 7 December 2013 on public
stockholding for food security purposes, the Ministerial Conference,
on notification and transparency, decided that a developing Member
benefiting from this Decision must: a. have notified the Committee
on Agriculture that it is exceeding or is at risk of exceeding either
or both of its Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) limits (the
Member's Bound Total AMS or the de minimis level) as result of its
programmes; b. have fulfilled and continue to fulfil its domestic
support notification requirements under the AoA in accordance with
document G/AG/2 of 30 June 1995, as specified in the Annex; c. have
provided, and continue to provide on an annual basis, additional information
by completing the template contained in the Annex, for each public
stockholding programme that it maintains for food security purposes;
and d. provide any additional relevant statistical information described
in the Statistical Appendix to the Annex as soon as possible after
it becomes available, as well as any information updating or correcting
any information earlier submitted.
[According to the Ministerial Decision, the "Committee on Agriculture"
shall monitor the information submitted under this Decision, and that
Members agree to establish a work programme to be undertaken in the
"Committee on Agriculture" to pursue this issue with the
aim of making recommendations for a permanent solution. This work
programme shall take into account Members' existing and future submissions.
In the context of the broader post-Bali agenda, Members commit to
the work programme with the aim of concluding it no later than the
11th Ministerial Conference.]
According to trade officials, with respect to the work programme aimed
at finding a permanent solution and where the decision states that
this will be undertaken in the "Committee on Agriculture",
there were differences among members at the Committee meeting on whether
this means the regular Committee or the Committee meeting in "special
session" or whether some of the work could be divided between
Several members said that this should be clarified, trade officials
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he will consult
with members before the next meeting in March.