MC12 implementation matters
The Chair, Ambassador Adamu Mohammed Abdulhamid of Nigeria, reported to members on the status of the work he has undertaken on a series of actions to increase transparency and efficiency of the Council and its subsidiary bodies and to improve its functioning as a follow-up to the MC12 reform mandate. Almost 30 concrete proposals have been put forward by members for improvements, with agreement on an additional three issues reached at the last Council meeting in early April.
The Chair noted that discussions have continued under two general headings: the better functioning of the Council, and the WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the former, the Chair noted that the chairs of the Council’s 14 subsidiary bodies have been asked to submit reports describing the outcome of their discussions on this issue by the first week of November so that they can be considered by the Council at its 30 November meeting.
On the latter, the Chair said the WTO Secretariat has been asked to draft a report, based on reports prepared by the chairs of the subsidiary bodies last year, to be submitted to the General Council in line with paragraph 24 of the “Ministerial Declaration on the WTO Response to the COVID‑19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics.” Paragraph 24 calls on relevant WTO bodies to undertake a stocktaking exercise, and to analyse lessons learned and challenges experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Secretariat draft report will be discussed at an informal Council meeting on 19 September.
Proposal on graduated LDCs
Members once again discussed document G/C/W/752, submitted in April 2018 by the LDC Group. The main purpose of this proposal is to enable graduated LDCs with a gross national product (GNP) below USD 1,000 to benefit from treatment similar to that accorded to certain developing countries listed in Annex VII(b) of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM), i.e. exemption from the provision on export subsidies.
On behalf of the LDC Group, Bangladesh said it is not clear from the ASCM whether those that have graduated from LDC status should also benefit in the same way as do developing countries listed in Annex VII(b) and that the LDC Group’s proposal is required for clarity and predictability. Bangladesh said the LDG Group is grateful to all those members that have been supporting this proposal since 2018 and that it will continue working with other members on achieving a positive result in this regard.
The Council heard 37 trade concerns on maintained or newly introduced measures by 23 WTO members, all of which were raised at previous meetings. A wide range of measures was raised, including tariffs and tariff rate quotas (TRQs), import/export bans and restrictions, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, subsidies, local content requirements, alleged discriminatory domestic taxation, domestic certification and administrative procedures, and anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
These concerns encompass a wide range of issues (agricultural, information technology, fisheries, forestry and food products, carbon taxes), as well as specific products, such as air conditioners, apples and pears, onions and potatoes, cheese, pulses, cosmetics, semiconductors, metals, and tyres. The full agenda of the meeting is available here.
The Council took note of three notifications regarding regional trade agreements: Chinese Taipei’s suspension of its free trade agreement with El Salvador; the free trade agreement between Colombia and Israel on goods; and changes to an existing free trade agreement between Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the United Kingdom.
Members also took note of the additional extension by the European Union and the United Kingdom of the six-month period ending 1 July 2023 for members to withdraw equivalent concessions provided in Article XXVIII:3, Modification of Schedules , of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in order to allow additional time to conclude negotiations of trading relationships with members following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 1 February 2020.
The next formal meeting of the Council for Trade in Goods is scheduled for 30 November – 1 December 2023.