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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar14/04)
21 March 2014
Third World Network

Fried of Canada to chair WTO General Council this year
Published in SUNS #7764 dated 17 March 2014
 
Geneva, 14 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- The General Council of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Friday took note of the consensus on the slate of chairpersons for its various bodies for this year, and elected Ambassador Jonathan Fried of Canada as its new Chair.
 
Ambassador Fried, who was elected by acclamation, replaces Ambassador Shahid Bashir of Pakistan.
 
In the now-approved slate, the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) will be chaired by Ambassador Fernando De Mateo of Mexico, while the Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB) will be chaired by Ambassador Mariam Md Salleh of Malaysia.
 
Ambassador Joaquim Reiter of Sweden will chair the Council for Trade in Goods, while the Council for Trade in Services will be chaired by Ambassador Mr Choi Seokyoung of the Republic of Korea.
 
The TRIPS Council will be chaired by Ambassador Mothusi Palai of Botswana, and the Committee on Trade and Development will be chaired by Ambassador Pierre Claver Ndayiragije of Burundi.
 
The Committee on Balance-of-Payments Restrictions will be chaired by Ambassador Martin Eyjolfsson of Iceland, while the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration will be chaired by Ambassador Francisco Lima of El Salvador.
 
Ambassador Paivi Kairamo of Finland will chair the Committee on Trade and Environment, while the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements will be chaired by Ambassador Francisco Pirez of Uruguay.
 
The Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance will be chaired by Ambassador Bertrand de Crombrugghe de Picquendaele of Belgium, and the Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology will be chaired by Ambassador Abdolazeez Al-Otaibi of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
 
With respect to the bodies under the Trade Negotiations Committee, the General Council also appointed the following chairs:
 

  • Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development - Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway;
  • Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment - Ambassador Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa of Thailand;
  • Special Session of the TRIPS Council - Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras; and
  • Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services - Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia.

Meanwhile, under an earlier agenda item, Director-General Roberto Azevedo, in his capacity as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), provided a brief summary of the progress to date on each of the Doha negotiating areas including agriculture, non-agricultural market access (NAMA), services, rules, TRIPS issues, trade and environment, and trade and development.
 
(The Chair of the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation gave his report under a separate agenda item.)
 
In his summary, the D-G said: "It seems that some factors were common among some of the Groups. For example, in Agriculture, [Non-Agricultural] Market Access and Services, it came across strongly that our approach should be balanced across all three issues - and that all three should [be] tackled together, simultaneously."
 
"There was also a clear emphasis on the parameters during the discussions - particularly on the importance of development, and on ensuring that we focus on outcomes that are doable," he added.
 
Starting with the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, Mr Azevedo said that the Chair's consultations so far have highlighted a range of views: 

  • Most members acknowledged the need for a balanced approach among the three key pillars of agriculture in the areas of market access, domestic support and export competition. Among the three pillars, Export Competition is recognised as an important priority for a large group of Members.
  • Many Members highlighted the importance they attached to the draft modalities, while other Members have placed less emphasis on this.
  • Ensuring that further discussions are assisted by appropriate updated data and information on Member policies was highlighted by some Members.
  • The need to ensure a coherent approach to the work within the Regular Committee on Agriculture to implement Bali outcomes and the ongoing work in the Special Session was also mentioned.

On the Negotiating Group on Market Access, the D-G said that in relation to "what went wrong?", several factors were cited. These include negotiating approaches, the different expectations among Members regarding the NAMA outcome and the different perceptions about the balance in the current modalities text.
 
As to "what should be done?", he said that several questions were discussed including whether or not to continue where Members left off, the possibility of updating the technical negotiating base and whether to discuss in a more generic manner the question of what is doable in this area.
 
Some delegations expressed their views on the latest draft modalities, but as he understands it, no common position was reached.
 
According to the D-G, the Group's discussion will need to continue in order to establish how Members can contribute to a meaningful result on market access.
 
As to the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services, Mr Azevedo said that there was broad convergence that, in addition to balance across the three market access pillars, there would also need to be a balance within the services agenda itself. And such an outcome would require the exploration of new approaches.
 
"Many said that, with any outcome in services, the development dimension of the round will need to be fully reflected," said Mr Azevedo.
 
He added that the need to avoid previous mistakes was also seen as crucial. Some wished to avoid the sequencing of Doha Development Agenda (DDA) negotiations, which in their view had placed services at a disadvantage, while others stressed that progress in services must be contingent on progress elsewhere.
 
"While further deliberations are needed, it was widely accepted that an appropriate level of ambition in services would have to be commensurate with those in agriculture and NAMA," said the D-G.
 
On the plurilateral negotiations on services, taking place outside the WTO, some saw these as complementary to the WTO negotiations and emphasised the potential for cross-fertilization between the two tracks. Others took the view that such initiatives could undermine the multilateral process, he said.
 
On the Negotiating Group on Rules, the D-G said that most Members agree that there needs to be serious horizontal reflection as to the overall scope and level of ambition of post-Bali activity, and that this should be the basis for determining whether any or all of the Rules issues will be included in the next phase of the work.
 
According to Mr Azevedo, a substantial number of delegations were open to including Rules in the work program, but considered that this could only be addressed once clarity has been achieved on the level of ambition for the three "core issues."
 
In contrast, he added, a few delegations considered that Rules itself constitutes a "core issue", and that outcomes on at least certain Rules will be essential.
 
On the Special Session of the TRIPS Council, the D-G reported that based on the interim Chair's consultations earlier this week, "it seems that negotiations on a register for wine and spirit geographical indications would depend on the relationship of this work to other TRIPS issues and the wider Doha Round."
 
In addition, some Members have expressed interest in recommencing the consultations process on TRIPS implementation issues. "We need to look into this further," said the D-G.
 
On the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment, he said that in these discussions, Members have reiterated the view that environmental negotiations remain an important element of the overall Doha mandate and continue to be high on delegations' political agendas.
 
With respect to the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development, the D-G said that its chair has encouraged Members to review the three areas of outstanding work, specifically the remaining Agreement-specific proposals, including the 28 Cancun proposals.
 
"The indications are that delegations recognise the centrality of development in our post-Bali work and have an open mind on the possible elements in the development pillar of the post-Bali work program. Some Members observed that this work program will inevitably influence the contours of the work program on S&D [Special and Differential treatment]."
 
According to the D-G, the Chair (of the Committee) reports that there is a sense of preparedness for serious engagement among the Members, and an acceptance of the need for creative approaches.
 
"However, for this to happen, Members will need a clear road map with tangible substance. A clear articulation of concerns and interests will help us to move towards a successful outcome in the work of the Special Session."
 
On the Special Session of the DSB, the D-G reported that work has continued on the basis of the "horizontal process" launched in June last year, which is geared towards identifying achievable outcomes across the board.
 
In three areas, namely, remand, post-retaliation and third party rights, some elements were presented as possible bases for solutions.
 
According to the D-G, this effort was very well received and will set the tone for further work. "Further progress now requires willingness to be flexible across-the-board to develop achievable outcomes that reflect the interests of all participants."
 
The D-G also reported that following consultation with the LDC Group, he has asked Ambassador Steffen Smidt (of Denmark) to continue as the Facilitator for the LDC issues this year.
 
In his statement, the D-G highlighted that the Chairs of the various negotiating groups have held an initial round of consultations with the Members, and that they will be issuing the full written reports of their consultations at the end of the General Council meeting.
 
He said that he will instruct the Chairs to continue their work, as well as the process of consultations.
 
Noting that the first quarter of 2014 "is almost behind us" and that in "the space of just nine months, we must complete this work", the D-G said that it is essential that all Members are fully engaged in these consultations.
 
Urging Members to redouble their efforts, Mr Azevedo said that he will convene a meeting of the TNC on 7 April to report on further progress.
 
In closing, he said that "I think we have made an excellent start. I have heard a lot of good feedback - and I think there is much which we can build on constructively. But, nevertheless, there remains a lot to do."
 
A number of delegations spoke following the report by the TNC Chair.
 
Developing countries, amongst others, stressed that the issue of agriculture has to be at the centre of the post-Bali work programme, and that the Single Undertaking should be the guiding principle.
 
(A report on the statements of delegations will appear in a forthcoming issue of SUNS.)

 


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