Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr14/07)
23 April 2014
Third World Network
Preparatory Committee begins legal review of TF Agreement
Published in SUNS #7784 Monday 14 April 2014
Geneva, 11 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- Members of the World Trade Organisation
(WTO) this week began a legal review of the text of the Agreement
on Trade Facilitation, during the meetings of the Preparatory Committee
on Trade Facilitation on 7, 8 and 9 April.
The Trade Facilitation (TF) Agreement was adopted by Ministers at
the ninth session of the WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali,
Indonesia, last December.
The Bali Ministerial Conference, by its Decision of 7 December 2013,
concluded the negotiation of an Agreement on Trade Facilitation "subject
to legal review for rectifications of a purely formal character that
do not affect the substance of the Agreement."
The Ministerial Conference also established the Preparatory Committee,
tasked in particular to conduct the legal review of the TF Agreement,
receive notifications of Category A commitments, and draw up a Protocol
of Amendment 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.]
The Ministerial Decision had also stated: "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 [upon acceptance by two thirds of the members]."
According to trade officials, the three days of meetings of the Preparatory
Committee resulted in about a fifth of the TF text being cleaned.
This included the preamble and the first six of the 13 articles in
Section I of the Agreement, trade officials added.
An entire week of meetings has been scheduled at the end of this month
to try and complete the review.
Trade officials said that during the meetings this week, some members
said that they were introduced to the concept of "serial"
or "Oxford" commas, while others complained about spending
too much time arguing about the use of commas instead of focusing
on more important issues.
Trade officials explained that the aim of the legal review is to try
to make the text consistent, uniform, more accurate and less ambiguous,
and that this would be achieved with rectifications that must be of
a "purely formal character", without altering the core of
Several members proposed changes and explained the rationale behind
these requested changes.
According to trade officials, the Committee assessed if the rectifications
meant a substantial change, or not, of the original text.
The golden rule is that when there is no consensus, the Bali text
stands, and in the majority of cases so far, the Bali text was adopted
as final, trade officials said.
Trade officials cited some examples of changes that members had suggested:
the use, or not, of capital letters; the numbering of the different
articles and sections or subsections; the use of hyphenation, or not;
and the use of the words affirming or reaffirming, import or importation,
products or goods, governments or members, plural or singular, etc.
Trade officials recalled the Chair of the Preparatory Committee, Ambassador
Esteban B. Conejos Jr of the Philippines, as saying back in February
that the Preparatory Committee should finish its work on the legal
review by the end of April. (See SUNS #7751 dated 26 February 2014.)