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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb14/01)
17 February 2014
Third World Network  

Philippine 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 Ministerial Conference."
 
"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 (see below).
 
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 into force."
 
"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 effect."
 
[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 Conference.]
 
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 the two.
 
Several members said that this should be clarified, trade officials added.
 
According to trade officials, the Chair said that he will consult with members before the next meeting in March.

 


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