TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul17/18)
25 July 2017
Third World Network
DG Azevedo convenes informal TNC, after two years
Published in SUNS #8509 dated 25 July 2017
Geneva, 24 Jul (D. Ravi Kanth) - The World Trade Organization director-general
Roberto Azevedo is finally convening an informal meeting of the Trade
Negotiations Committee on Tuesday (25 July).
He had almost abandoned convening the TNC for the past two years because of
fear of criticism from the United States and the European Union that refuse to
recognize the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) trade negotiations, trade envoys
During the last heads of delegation (HoD) meeting, Cameroon and several
developing countries sought to know why the director-general - who is also the
chair for the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) that was established under the
Doha work program - has not been convening an informal Trade Negotiations
Committee meeting for apprising members about the overall status of
negotiations in each area of the DDA, a trade envoy told SUNS.
The director-general was apparently visibly upset with Cameroon's demand and
has been now forced to convene the informal Trade Negotiations Committee
meeting after almost two years, the envoy said.
"What is puzzling is how the director-general could convene an informal
TNC meeting along with an informal Heads of Delegations (HoD) meeting because
the rules of business allow only the General Council chair to schedule HoD
meeting," the envoy said.
In his fax sent to "Heads of Delegation" on 14 July, Azevedo said:
"I would like to invite you to an informal TNC meeting, immediately
followed by an informal Heads of Delegation meeting on 25 July at 11 am, in
advance of the General Council meeting of 26 and 27 July.
"In the informal TNC meeting, after my introductory remarks, the
Negotiating Group Chairs will report on work in their respective areas, (and)
following these reports, Members will be invited to discuss the way forward in
the Negotiating Groups.
"For the informal Heads of Delegation meeting, which will immediately
follow, I will brief Members on my other activities and consultations. Members
will then be invited to report on their own activities."
Significantly, the DG is not going to provide his assessment at the informal
TNC meeting. He said after the chairs present their reports, "members will
be invited to discuss the way forward in the Negotiating Groups."
The fax has raised several procedural concerns, according to trade envoys who
spoke to SUNS.
To start with, the DG must explain as to why it took him so long to convene the
informal TNC meeting and why such meetings are not being regularly held?
Second, why is it that only the chairs will provide their assessment without a
comprehensive assessment from the Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee?
Third, the director-general/TNC chair must explain why only a limited number of
issues are being taken up from various Doha-mandated areas and what will happen
to the other issues.
Fourth, he must provide an account of how the DDA issues are going to progress
before the eleventh ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires and afterwards.
It remains to be seen whether the DG will provide any explanation to these
Meanwhile, on Monday the director-general issued a report on
"trade-related developments" during mid-October 2016 to mid-May 2017
in which he argued that "the latest trends in trade policymaking among WTO
Members" suggests that the "fears about protectionist measures"
The director-general said: "for example, the numerical importance of trade
remedy measures and anti-dumping in particular, in the overall number of trade
measures introduced during the review period is fully consistent with previous
"In addition, it is significant to note that the estimated trade coverage
of import-facilitating measures significantly exceeds the estimated trade
coverage of import-restrictive measures," he argued.
"This is an important finding because it suggests that despite the
persistent uncertainty facing the global economy and fears about protectionist
pressures, WTO Members collectively appear to have shown considerable restraint
in seeking recourse to trade restrictions," Azevedo maintained.
Effectively, Azevedo is suggesting that several measures issued by the Trump
administration which are tantamount to protectionist pressures according to
several countries are not "protectionist" in reality, according to
trade envoys familiar with the report.
The key findings of the report include:
* WTO Members implemented 74 new trade-restrictive measures during the review
period (mid-October 2016 and mid-May 2017), including new or increased tariffs,
customs regulations and quantitative restrictions, amounting to almost 11 new
measures per month. This represents a significant decrease over the previous
period and marks the lowest monthly average since 2008.
* WTO Members applied 80 measures aimed at facilitating trade over this review
period, including eliminated or reduced tariffs and simplified customs
procedures. This equates to an average of over 11 new measures per month which
is the second lowest monthly average since trade monitoring began in 2008.
* During the review period, the estimated trade coverage for trade-facilitating
import measures (US$183 billion) significantly exceeded the estimated trade
coverage of trade-restrictive import measures (US$49 billion).
* This Report also highlights that initiations of trade remedy investigations
represented 44% of the total number of trade measures taken during the review
period; although the amount of trade covered is relatively small (US$27 billion
for trade remedy initiations and US$6 billion for terminations).
* Transparency and predictability in trade policy remains vital for all actors
in the global economy. WTO Members must show leadership in reiterating their
commitment to open and mutually beneficial trade, as a key driver of economic
growth and a major engine for prosperity.
* Faced with continuing global economic uncertainties, WTO Members should seek
to continue improving the global trading environment, including by implementing
the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February this
year, and working together to achieve a successful outcome at the 11th WTO
Ministerial Conference in December.
Also, the director-general's report merely repeated what the G20 leaders said
in their statement in Hamburg early this month.
The G20 leaders said: "We welcome the entry into force of the WTO Trade
Facilitation Agreement and call for its full implementation including technical
assistance to developing countries. We commit to work together with all WTO
members to make the eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference a success."
The director-general did not indicate what needs to be achieved at the 11th
Ministerial Conference in December and whether there will be any deliverables
in the unresolved Doha issues.
In conclusion, trade envoys said, the director-general must come clean on what
the "success" in Buenos Aires is going to be in material terms for
the developing and poorest countries.