Delegation of the European Union to Armenia

EU statement by Ambassador João Aguiar Machado at the WTO General Council meeting of 22-23 July 2020

Geneva, 24/07/2020 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 200724_6
Statements on behalf of the EU

2.         IMPLEMENTATION OF THE BALI, NAIROBI AND BUENOS AIRES     OUTCOMES – STATEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN

On the Bali Ministerial Decision on Public Stockholding:

•    The EU notes that a member has invoked the Bali Ministerial Decision on public stockholding for the first time. The EU is currently examining the relevant domestic support notification and accompanying data of that notification. The EU looks forward to a review of the notification in the upcoming meeting of the Committee on Agriculture.

On the Nairobi Decision on export competition:

•    This required sixteen members to submit schedule modifications. Three members have not still done so. The EU would urge the members concerned to submit the necessary schedule modifications as soon as possible. 

 

4.         TWELFTH SESSION OF THE MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE – DATE AND      VENUE – STATEMENT BY DIRECTOR-GENERAL

•    It is important take a decision as regards to when MC12 will take place, in order to allow us to plan our work accordingly and define the forthcoming milestones between now and MC12.

•    We understand that the current situation is fluid and may change but our work cannot progress without clear timelines. We can always reassess the opportunity to hold MC12 in June 2021 if that turns out to be necessary.

 

8.         COVID-19 INITIATIVE: PROTECTING GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY      THROUGH OPEN TRADE - STATEMENT BY CO-SPONSORS OF          WT/GC/218/REV.1

•    We thank those members of the Cairns Group who co-sponsored this submission. It was discussed in the June meeting of the Committee on Agriculture. The paper contains many elements from the statement on open and predictable trade (WT/GC/208 - G/AG/30) from May, which the EU joined as co-sponsor.

•    Looking at the proposed commitments in the paper, those under the heading of “restraint” do not seem to capture accurately the balance of the measures introduced so far in the wake of the Covid pandemic, notably considering the multibillion dollar agricultural packages which have been adopted by some major Members. These will require a more detailed scrutiny by all Members, including by the Cairns Group.

•    The list of proposed roll-back commitments also seems to be missing any reference to the illegal export subsidies which have been introduced during the Covid crisis by at least one of the co-sponsors of the paper. We think they should be reflected alongside other types of measures.

•    As to the commitments on food aid, we agree that this is indeed an important element. International food aid should not be a way to circumvent commitments in export competition. To the list under point 10 we would add that monetisation of food aid should be avoided.

•    We have long supported exempting WFP purchases from export restrictions. This is a well overdue issue, which should have been a development friendly outcome of MC11 in Buenos Aires.

•    The commitments on transparency are equally very important and the EU has been an advocate of transparency on Covid measures in agriculture but also more widely. It is a pity therefore that none of the co-sponsors of the paper has submitted any report on their own agricultural Covid measures. The EU walked the walk by submitting its own ad hoc report on the agricultural Covid measures in June, and intends to update it before the next Committee on Agriculture meeting at the end of this month. We encourage other Members, notably the co-sponsors of this paper, to step up efforts and provide the necessary transparency

•    We can support the request for an agenda item focused on Covid-19 as part of future Committee on Agriculture meetings. Indeed, this is likely to be an issue of interest for some months or even years to come. However, we do not see any need to create a new structure such as a Covid-19 Agricultural Working Group. With the regular agenda point in the Committee on Agriculture, we already have a forum to discuss such matters.

 

9.         PROCEDURAL GUIDELINES FOR WTO COUNCILS AND COMMITTEES      ADDRESSING TRADE CONCERNS – STATEMENT BY CO-SPONSORS OF         WT/GC/W/777/REV.5

•      On behalf of all co-sponsors of the proposal for "Procedural Guidelines for WTO Councils and Committees Addressing Trade Concerns", the EU would like to give a brief update of our ongoing efforts to advance the proposal.

•      We last heard Members’ reactions to a revised version of the proposal at the General Council meeting of March, shortly before physical meetings were suspended. We were encouraged by the positive feedback of many and the readiness to engage of all who took the floor. Despite the lockdown, we had the opportunity to continue our exchange with some Members bilaterally and we thank them for constructive conversations.

•      Overall, it has been widely acknowledged that cosponsors have genuinely endeavoured to address the substantive concerns expressed by Members. I would like today to briefly address some recurring comments and touch upon the way forward.

•      The main comments of Members who still have doubts appear to be that 1) the proposal would somehow “impose” horizontal procedures upon WTO bodies, thus disregarding their specificities; and 2) some of these procedures would jeopardise the neutrality and impartiality of the Chairs and/or the Secretariat and constrain Members’ leeway as to how they may address trade concerns.

•      First, only the part on meeting arrangements – i.e. the practicalities of convening meetings and circulating minutes, for example, is drafted to be binding. It is hard to imagine what harm could be done by having a horizontal approach to such issues, whereas it would clearly increase predictability and facilitate Members’ participation in the discussion of trade concerns. By contrast, the actual guidelines proposed for considering trade concerns in WTO bodies are written in a non-binding way, precisely to allow for flexibility. They are intended as best practices that Members are encouraged to make use of to help them make progress.

•      Second, the parts involving the Chairs and the Secretariat in the section “Informal resolution of trade concerns” have also deliberately been crafted to be voluntary and flexible. Actually, we are rather highlighting existing possibilities rather than creating new ones. We would certainly not like to put either the Chairs or the Secretariat in a difficult situation where they would risk overstepping the boundaries of neutrality and impartiality. As already mentioned, this Section would be non-binding on Members and is meant to provide them with tools to advance their discussions. The informal processes are meant as a possible complement – and not as a substitute – for debates in WTO bodies. This said, we stand ready to look at suggestions on how these concerns could be accommodated through textual adjustments if necessary.

•      Let me add a comment on the issue of political will. As said before, the guidelines would certainly, and unfortunately, not end all concerns. But we believe they could help resolve the “resolvable” trade concerns. Put differently, a framework to encourage dialogue could facilitate engagement in situations where political will may not be obvious immediately. In light of the ever-growing number of persistent trade concerns on various agendas, we certainly believe it is worth trying to do something about them.

•      Chair, during the past months that were marked by logistical and organisation challenges due to the lockdown, a number of provisions of the proposal were de facto implemented in some WTO bodies – for instance focusing statements on the latest developments. We believe the implementation of the whole proposal may have made life easier, had they been in force. I am thinking, in particular, about improved timelines for convening meetings and for circulating documents to be considered at meetings, and a database where all documents pertaining to a trade concern are easily accessible.

•      Chair, in the coming weeks, we will continue engaging with Members. We are ready to consider any suggestion that could contribute to improve the proposal further. We hope that the membership will be able to reach consensus on this proposal before the next Ministerial Conference.

 

10.       PROCEDURES TO STRENGTHEN THE NEGOTIATING FUNCTION OF          THE WTO – STATEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES (WT/GC/W/757/REV.1   AND WT/GC/W/764/REV.1)

•    For the EU development is a central pillar of this organisation.

•    The current distinction between developed and developing countries no longer reflects the reality of the rapid economic growth in some developing countries. We should therefore continue to work on special and differential treatment (SDT) with a view to ensuring that flexibilities are made available to those members who actually need them to enable them to fully benefit from their membership of this Organisation.

•    The EU firmly believes that if this organisation is to prosper, special and differential treatment must become much more granular, in function of an individual Member's demonstrated needs and capacities. Future differentiation should be designed in terms of specific individual country needs at the sectoral or activity level rather than calling for a block exemption of a large category of Members. Furthermore, the EU considers that each developing country's need for SDT should be assessed on a case-by-case and be evidence-based . The notable exception should be the LDCs who deserve particular treatment and who in any case have graduation mechanism.

•    We are open to looking into special and differential treatment (SDT) provisions in future agreements, such as the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies. We expect to have a discussion with Members as to what development concern is raised by the provisions under discussion and what flexibility is necessary in order to eventually allow the affected Members to fully implement the agreement. It is only where special and differential treatment responds to a specific need that it can be truly effective. In this context, we call on advanced WTO Members claiming developing country status to undertake full commitments in ongoing and future WTO negotiations. As mentioned previously, this should particularly be the case for members of the G20, which represent the world’s most important economies.

 

11.       STATEMENT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MARKET-ORIENTED            CONDITIONS TO THE WORLD TRADING SYSTEM – UNITED STATES

  • The EU thinks it is important that businesses operate under market-oriented conditions and has repeatedly expressed its concerns with non-market-oriented policies and practices that have resulted in damage to the world trading system and a lack of level-playing field.
  • The aim of our work, in particular in the context of the trilateral cooperation, has been to identify the negative spillovers into the trading system that can result from non-market based economic practices.
  • This kind of reflection will allow us to identify the kinds of future rules that can help to address, and minimize the impact of, these negative spillovers.
  • This is the process we are going through in the field of industrial subsidies for example, where having reflected on the kinds of rules needed we are beginning to discuss our ideas with other WTO Members.

 

12.       WAIVERS UNDER ARTICLE IX OF THE WTO AGREEMENT

 

(I)        LEAST-DEVELOPED COUNTRY MEMBERS – OBLIGATIONS UNDER ARTICLE 70.8 AND ARTICLE 70.9 OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT WITH RESPECT TO PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS, GRANTED ON 30 NOVEMBER 2015 UNTIL 1 JANUARY 2033 (WT/L/971)

  • The European Union supports a permanent waiver for the LDCs from obligations under Articles 70.8 and 70.9 of the TRIPS Agreement and an indefinite extension of their exemption of the TRIPS requirements to provide protection for pharmaceutical products for as long as they remain a least developed country.

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