TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Oct18/16)
23 October 2018
Third World Network

Dates set for MC12 in Astana
Published in SUNS #8778 dated 22 October 2018

Geneva, 19 Oct (Kanaga Raja) - The General Council of the World Trade Organisation on Thursday agreed that the twelfth WTO ministerial conference (MC12) will now take place in Astana, Kazakhstan from 8 to 11 June 2020.

At its meeting earlier this July, the General Council had decided to accept Kazakhstan's invitation to host MC12 in Astana in June 2020. The exact dates had not yet been determined at that time (see SUNS #8732 dated 30 July 2018).

At the General Council meeting on Thursday, under the agenda item of the date of the twelfth session of the Ministerial Conference, the Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Junichi Ihara of Japan, noted that at its meeting in July the General Council formally agreed that MC12 would take place in Astana, and that at that meeting he had said that the exact dates would be indicated later to avoid scheduling conflicts with other major events.

Further to this understanding he said that he had circulated to members the proposed dates, and put forward to the General Council that they agree that MC12 take place in Astana from 8-11 June 2020.

According to trade officials, no objections were expressed to the proposed dates for MC12.

Kazakstan thanked members for their flexibility with regards to the propose d dates.

Under the agenda item of report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and report by the Director-General, the General Council Chair recalled that an informal meeting of the TNC/Heads of Delegation was held on Tuesday (16 October).

The Chairs of the negotiating bodies also provided their reports, and 55 delegations took the floor at the meeting.

Ambassador Ihara noted that as announced at that meeting, and per the WTO practice, the DG's report and the reports of the Chairs of the negotiating bodies were put in the minutes of the General Council meeting, together with the statements of the delegations.

Director-General Roberto Azevedo said that he did not intend to take the floor under this agenda item.

According to trade officials, no delegation took the floor under this agenda item.

Under the agenda item of implementation of the Bali, Nairobi and Buenos Aires outcomes, the General Council Chair said on 12 October, he had held a meeting with the Chairs of the regular bodies where he heard updates on the work that is taking place in the Councils and Committees, including with respect to implementation of the ministerial mandates.

According to trade officials, Ambassador Ihara reported that with regards t o the ministerial decision on the work programme on electronic commerce, at the July meeting of the General Council, the chairs of the four subsidiary bodies (C ouncil for Trade in Services, Council for Trade in Goods, TRIPS Council, and Committee on Trade and Development) reported on developments in their respective areas.

In addition, South Africa and India had introduced a paper on the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions.

Ambassador Ihara said that he had mentioned that he would consult with members further on the way forward with regards to the moratorium.

The Chair said that since then he held bilateral consultations with some 20 delegations, and on the basis of the views expressed by delegations during his consultations, he intends to convene an open-ended informal meeting in late November, before the General Council meeting in December.

Regarding the ministerial decisions on agriculture, the General Council Chair noted that in September, the Committee on Agriculture adopted its first triennial review of the Nairobi decision on export competition.

On implementation of the Nairobi decision by members with scheduled export subsidy reduction commitments, Ambassador Ihara reported that Australia, Colombia, Israel, Norway, Switzerland, and Uruguay have had their revised schedules certified.

Canada, the European Union, South Africa and the United States have circulated draft revised schedules.

The Chair said that other members with scheduled export subsidy commitments also had an opportunity to update the Committee on the steps taken to implement the decision.

Ambassador Ihara noted that the Committee also continued its review of the Bali decision on tariff rate quota (TRQ) administration.

Contributions from several members together with background documentation on TRQ administration and fill rates prepared by the Secretariat assisted in the discussions, he said, adding that the review of the Bali decision is expected to conclude in 2019.

As regards the LDC services waiver, the Chair noted that at the meeting of the Council for Trade in Services last week, the LDC group introduced a communication titled "Possible elements for review of the operation of notified preferences" which suggested a number of elements that can be part of the review mandated by the Nairobi decision.

According to the Chair, delegations offered their initial reactions and the LDC group stated its readiness to engage productively.

The chair of that process will be consulting with delegations on how to advance the process so as to fulfil the Council's mandate, said Ambassador Ihara.

On the Bali decision on duty-free, quota-free market access for LDC product s (DFQF), Ambassador Ihara said it was not possible for the Secretariat last year to prepare a report on DFQF due to divergent views expressed by some members on its scope and coverage.

The Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development had recently held informal consultations with key delegations involved to see if positions had changed.

Since this is not the case, it does not seem possible for the Secretariat to prepare this report.

Nonetheless, the mandated annual review for 2018 will still be carried out in the next meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development on 21 November, albeit without the Secretariat report, said Ambassador Ihara.

The Chair also reported on the Bali decision on the monitoring mechanism on special and differential treatment (S&DT), noting that there is still no common understanding on how to proceed with the review of the mechanism.

He intends to hold consultations with members to see whether a common understanding can be reached on the way forward.

On the issue of Aid for Trade, the General Council Chair noted that the Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development recently held informal consultations so that members could provide their inputs on the draft Aid for Trade monitoring and evaluation formats, which will form the basis of the next global review of Aid for Trade.

The General Council Chair also reported that 139 members have now ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) covering nearly 85% of the total membership.

There has also been progress in the submission of Category A, Category B an d Category C notifications. At the moment, there are 114 notifications on Category A, 71 on Category B, and 60 on Category C.

These figures showed a continued upward trend in terms of implementation of the TFA, said the Chair.

According to trade officials, the Central African Republic (CAR), on behalf of the LDCs, underlined the importance of implementing the decisions.

The LDC group needs decisions taken in favour of DFQF, the services waiver and rules of origin, it said, adding that these need to be fully implemented.

It is a fundamental part of integrating these members into the global trading system. However, much remains to be done on implementation, it said.

The CAR said work needs to be done through the committees and through WTO technical assistance in order to raise awareness amongst our populations.

Malawi, on behalf of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries, stressed the imperative that all ministerial decisions and declarations be respected.

Implementation of the outcomes of these three ministerial meetings will be impacted as well by the question of WTO reform, it said.

It urged members with proposals in this area to make them clear to members what they are, so that these could be looked at in an open and transparent manner, and that members can also interrogate its proponents and assess the proposals.

Chad underlined the need for good negotiating practices in the WTO. It highlighted public-private partnerships in areas such as trade facilitation and Aid for Trade.

Implementing the Bali, Nairobi and Buenos Aires outcomes are appropriate in this regard, it said.

Under the agenda item of the work programme on small economies, the General Council Chair said in Buenos Aires, ministers adopted a decision reaffirming their commitment to the work programme on small economies, instructing the Committee on Trade and Development to continue its work in dedicated sessions under the overall responsibility of the General Council.

The Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD), Ambassador Diego Aulestia from Ecuador, reported that members were continuing the work on a background document prepared by the Secretariat regarding the challenges and opportunities experienced by small economies in their effort to reduce trade costs, particularly in the area of trade facilitation.

Discussions focused on specific challenges derived from trade costs that small and vulnerable economies face.

Another dedicated session will be held on 1 November, where members will focus on best practices and policy approaches for addressing the challenges identified in the previous meeting, said the chair of the CTD.

According to trade officials, Guatemala, on behalf of the small and vulnerable economies, noted the challenges facing these economies in global trade, due to their small market size and poor infrastructure.