TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Aug16/01)
1 August 2016
Third World Network

General Council Chair to consult on date, venue of MC11
Published in SUNS #8293 dated 29 July 2016

Geneva, 28 Jul (Kanaga Raja) - A General Council meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Wednesday (27 July) was apprised of invitations from Argentina and Uruguay (proposed site of Punta del Este) to host the eleventh session of the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) in 2017.

According to trade officials, the Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway, will be holding consultations with a view to try and get a decision on the date and venue of MC11 by the General Council meeting this coming October.

The Chair asked that any other member who wishes to come forward to host the conference to do so by the end of August at the latest.

Meanwhile, under the agenda item 1, report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), trade officials said that the statement made by Director-General Roberto Azevedo at an informal Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting on Monday (25 July) as well as the statements of various delegations at that same meeting were entered into the record of the General Council.

(See SUNS #8291 dated 27 July 2016 and #8292 dated 28 July 2016 for the DG's report as well as the reports of the chairs of the Doha Work Programme negotiating bodies and statements of delegations.)

According to trade officials, a few delegations that did not speak at the HOD meeting on Monday, spoke at the General Council meeting.

These included Turkey, Ukraine, Mexico, Malaysia (for ASEAN), Venezuela, Uganda, Nepal, Colombia, Chile, Barbados, and Liberia.

China, which had spoken at the HOD meeting, took the floor again to report on the G-20 trade ministers' meeting held recently in Shanghai.

Brazil, which also spoke at the HOD meeting, spoke again with its outgoing ambassador Marcos Galvao using the opportunity to thank delegates.

Brazil also spoke on its commitment to the DG (who announced to media later on Wednesday of his availability for a second term), and said that he had Brazil's full support at the very highest level.

The DG responded by thanking Brazil and saying that he will make himself available for a second term (see SUNS #8292 dated 28 July 2016).


Under agenda item 4 on review of progress on the work programme on electronic commerce, Ambassador Alfredo Suescum of Panama (Friend of the General Council Chair on the Work Programme on E-Commerce) reported that he had 20 confessionals with delegates.

According to trade officials, he said this was to gauge the ambitions of members and their views towards the future. There has been much greater interest in this topic since Nairobi, he noted.

While several delegations expressed an interest in pursuing rule-making, others are not ready to do so, or are not keen to do so outside of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration guidelines.

All members had an open-mind on holding discussions. Some expressed concern that there was no adequate coordination with other organisations, specifically the ITU, the ITC and UNCTAD.

According to Ambassador Suescum, some delegations would like to see the moratorium on e-commerce duties be made permanent.

A number of issues were also raised including consumer protection, data flows, server localisation, privacy, access to the internet, and development and LDC issues.

Ambassador Suescum said that an informal meeting was held on 6 June at which more than 20 delegations took the floor.

Many delegations said that electronic commerce was important to their economies. Nonetheless, there were challenges ahead.

He said that some delegations expressed concern that the WTO was lagging behind others and needed to get to work to help unleash electronic commerce as an engine for growth.

Concerns were expressed by some countries about shortcomings in infrastructure and access to the internet and connectivity issues.

Two papers were requested from the Secretariat, the chair noted, adding that seven separate submissions have been made on e-commerce.

According to trade officials, the United States welcomed the contributions that have been made by other delegations on e-commerce.

It maintained that the US 'non-paper' is not a negotiating paper but is a discussion document.

The US said that it has had success in regional negotiations on e-commerce and what it has put forward includes many of its policies and principles.

It believes that freedom of the internet is essential as a dynamic force for growth. It remains hopeful that e-commerce will be an area where meaningful outcomes can be achieved in a multilateral configuration.

Zimbabwe said it is supportive of the work programme on e-commerce in the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration.

E-commerce is very important for trade and development and it has been a success in many developing countries.

Zimbabwe however said that some of the proposals that have been tabled went beyond the mandate.

Chile said that as a starting point, the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration is something that opens the door. It would like to see the non-application of tariffs on e-commerce transactions.

It would also like to see the moratorium made permanent. It is prepared to discuss and engage on any of these areas.

Mexico said that there is a great deal of complementarity in the elements that have been discussed. These issues are being discussed in a variety of committees but it feels that it is in the Council for Trade in Services where these issues lie.

The European Union said that Nairobi was a success but there needs to be a broadening of the discussion and the papers submitted have done this.

The discussion has been enlarged by the seven proposals and there is commonality on the elements. There is considerable overlap on the issues, it said.

Japan said that the number of submissions shows the strong appetite of members for more work in this area. The proposals are complementary, it said.

Korea said that all issues that have been outlined should be addressed and it is important to continue to have inputs from stakeholders and experts.

The Russian Federation said that this issue is of great importance to it. It expressed hope that the papers that it has signed onto will be helpful in terms of the discussions. There is need to develop a framework and define those elements where we can move them forward.

Pakistan said that if the internet were a country, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world. The internet is a way of life for two billion people and next year there will be five times more connected devices on the planet than there are people.

It used to be that only large corporations could use e-commerce, but now any entrepreneur with a laptop and a good idea can use e-commerce.

Pakistan however said that four billion people in developing countries are offline, so there is need to ensure that we do not face a digital divide, as it could lead to an economic divide.

Hence, the development dimension of e-commerce is essential, said Pakistan.

Brazil said that its position on this issue has changed. For a long time, Brazil had said that it would not take up this issue without the issue of agriculture being resolved first.

Brazil will continue to push aggressively on agriculture, but it is prepared and willing to participate in discussions on e-commerce and its paper was an indication of that.

On agenda item 6 on WTO accessions, Morocco, on behalf of the African Group, highlighted the importance of trying to accelerate the accession of African countries, particularly African LDCs, to the WTO.

On agenda item 7 on the Russian Federation's trade measures affecting Ukrainian transit of products, Ukraine expressed deep concern about Russian restrictions on movement by land of goods from Ukraine to Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic. Trucks and all rail wagons have been held at the border since 1 July, it said.

The US, the EU, Japan, Canada, Georgia, Australia, Korea and Norway expressed concern.

The Russian Federation said that the list of products that would be affected has been clearly identified and the list has been given to Ukraine.

The Russian Federation maintained that its measures are in full conformity with the WTO rules.