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).
WORK PROGRAMME ON E-COMMERCE
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
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,
Korea said that all issues that have been outlined should be addressed
and it is important to continue to have inputs from stakeholders and
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
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
The Russian Federation said that the list of products that would be
affected has been clearly identified and the list has been given to
The Russian Federation maintained that its measures are in full conformity
with the WTO rules.