Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb15/05)
27 February 2015
Third World Network
De Mateo of Mexico to chair WTO General Council this year
Published in SUNS #7968 dated 24 February 2015
Geneva, 23 Feb (Kanaga Raja) -- The General Council of the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) on 20 February took note of the consensus on the
slate of chairpersons for its various bodies for this year, and elected
Ambassador Fernando De Mateo of Mexico as its new Chair.
Ambassador De Mateo replaces Ambassador Jonathan Fried of Canada.
The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) will be chaired by Ambassador Harald
Neple of Norway, while the Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB) will be
chaired by Ambassador Atanas Atanassov Paparizov of Bulgaria.
Ambassador Hector Casanueva of Chile will chair the Council for Trade
in Goods, while the Council for Trade in Services will be chaired
by Ambassador Martin Eyjolfsson of Iceland.
The TRIPS Council will be chaired by Ambassador Abdolazeez Al-Otaibi
of Saudi Arabia, and the Committee on Trade and Development will be
chaired by Ambassador Bassirou Sene of Senegal.
The Committee on Balance-of-Payments Restrictions will be chaired
by Ambassador Bertrand de Crombrugghe de Picquendaele of Belgium,
while the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration will be
chaired by Ambassador Daniel Blockert of Sweden.
Ms Irene B. K. Young of Hong Kong-China will chair the Committee on
Trade and Environment, while the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements
will be chaired by Ambassador Francisco Pirez of Uruguay (ad interim).
The Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance will be chaired by Ambassador
Xavier Carim of South Africa, and the Working Group on Trade and Transfer
of Technology will be chaired by Ambassador Luc-Joseph Okio of Congo.
With respect to the bodies under the Trade Negotiations Committee,
the General Council also agreed to appoint Ambassador Tan Yee Woan
of Singapore to chair the Committee on Trade and Development in Special
Ambassador Esteban Conejos of the Philippines will continue to chair
the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation.
REPORT BY THE CHAIR OF THE TNC
Meanwhile, under a separate agenda item, Director-General Roberto
Azevedo, in his capacity as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee
(TNC), provided an overview 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,
trade and development, and the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU)
On agriculture, he reported that the focus in the consultations so
far has been mostly on the domestic support and market access pillars.
He said that it is clear that all elements within the agriculture
framework are inter-related and there seems to be a general acceptance
that they will need to be dealt with as an overall package.
Azevedo said there has been a good level of attendance and engagement
at these consultations and the Chair of the agriculture negotiations
will be continuing his consultations and will convene an informal
meeting of the Special Session in the near future.
In the Negotiating Group on Market Access, the main focus of the Chair's
consultations has been on tariffs, and these consultations have shown
that work should mainly focus on the so-called "formula-applying
members", in a first stage.
Certain ideas have been orally presented in terms of an alternative
approach to the Swiss Formula in the Rev. 3 draft NAMA modalities
text, said Azevedo, adding that at this stage these are only ideas
which would need, at some point in time, to be translated into more
An open-ended meeting of the Negotiating Group has been convened for
2 March to discuss the observations from these consultations and for
information-sharing on activities amongst members in respect of Non-Tariff
Barriers, said the D-G.
On services, Azevedo reported that over the past few weeks the Chair
of the Services Special Session has consulted over 40 delegations,
in a variety of configurations, on the next step toward the services
component of the work programme.
On the issue of trade and development, Azevedo said that proponents
have tabled two lists of S&D (special and differential treatment)
provisions that they would like to be taken up as part of the work
Although the Special Session awaits concrete textual proposals by
the proponents soon, the D-G said that this is indeed a forward step
in this important area of work.
On the DSU negotiations, the D-G said that the work has led to the
presentation of "conceptual elements" of possible solutions
in all 12 issues under discussion.
These elements do not, at this stage, reflect full convergence. Nor
do all participants perceive these elements, taken together, as necessarily
reflecting an adequate overall balance of interests, said Azevedo.
Azevedo was of the view that members have had a productive start to
the intensive process that was launched last month, and in the past
few weeks, they have started to engage more substantively - particularly
in the three core areas.
"Progress is slow, but we are moving forward," said the
D-G. Substantive positions have not changed a great deal since the
last time these issues were discussed, but the tone of the discussions
has been more positive.
To find solutions members need to move away from general statements
of what they hope is desirable, and also away from finger pointing,
to a situation where they identify more clearly the problems and challenges
ahead of them, and explore potential solutions for each of those problems
He said that he is not suggesting that members move away from the
existing mandates or guiding principles.
"I am simply suggesting that we have to explore alternative approaches
and alternative paths which fit within them."
Noting that the conversation will be deepened over the next two or
three weeks under the Chairs' process, Azevedo said the key word is
‘doability', meaning what is doable for all members - not just for
Azevedo urged members to talk directly to each other, and stressed
the need to get into a solution-finding mode.
A number of delegations spoke following the D-G's report, with developing
countries including the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) mainly reiterating
the importance of the development dimension, and for high priority
to be accorded to the LDC issues as well as on the issue of cotton.
They also stressed that the Rev. 4 draft agriculture modalities text
and the Rev. 3 draft NAMA modalities text be the basis for the negotiations.
(The views of various delegations on the post-Bali work programme
will be highlighted in a future issue of SUNS.)
PROTOCOL ON AMENDING THE TRIPS AGREEMENT
The Director-General also made a statement under the agenda item of
Protocol Amending the TRIPS Agreement.
At the General Council meeting in December 2005, Members had agreed
to amend the TRIPS Agreement to secure a permanent solution for the
problem identified by ministers in paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration
on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.
This problem was the difficulties that WTO members with insufficient
or no manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector could
face in making effective use of compulsory licensing under the TRIPS
Members took a decision to solve this problem by giving permanent
legal effect, and not just a waiver, to a new kind of compulsory license
- a special compulsory license for export, Azevedo said.
It has been ten years since that agreement was reached. And "we
are still to bring that agreement into force", said the D-G,
adding that it is high time to finalize this process.
"The 2005 decision was a clear recognition by all WTO members
of the importance of providing a permanent legal certainty to this
new compulsory licensing system under the TRIPS Agreement," and
currently access to medicines through compulsory licensing can take
place on the basis of a waiver.
Noting that two-thirds of the membership have to confirm acceptance
before the amendment comes into force, the D-G said that 27 more acceptances
He had written to ministers of all relevant countries who have not
yet taken this step to urge them to formally accept the TRIPS amendment.
"Its time that we completed this process and that the amendment
is brought into force," he said.
US JONES ACT
The General Council also took up the agenda item of review of the
exemption provided under paragraph 3 of the GATT 1994.
(This was a waiver that has been in place since 1994 and relates to
the US Jones Act - Merchant Marine Act of 1920 - which requires all
transport of goods by water between US ports to be carried out in
vessels that have been constructed in the US itself.)
According to trade officials, several delegations including Japan,
Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong- China, Canada, Norway, the
EU and Australia voiced criticism of this particular provision, insisting
that the US explain very clearly why there is need for continuing
with this exemption from GATT/WTO principles.
According to trade officials, the US said that it has provided statistical
information on the number of vessels that have been built.
This was a critical part of the Uruguay Round Agreements, said the
US, adding that the shipbuilding capacity of its shipyards is essential
for the US to maintain its navy for defense purposes. +