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4. INFORMAL PROCESS ON MATTERS RELATED TO THE FUNCTIONING OF THE APPELLATE BODY
· Thank Ambassador David Walker for his report.
· This process was launched almost a year ago with a clear purpose: to find ways to address the concerns that the US had raised with the functioning of the Appellate Body in order to unblock the appointments.
· Starting with proposals that the EU and others made in December last year, a number of additional proposals have been made since by other Members, and numerous meetings have been held to discuss these proposals and issues.
· We would like to thank all Members who have contributed to this process and obviously also Ambassador Walker for his hard work.
· In his report to the General Council in July, Ambassador Walker sketched out the “convergence elements”. Today, he has presented a draft decision of the General Council based on these convergence elements.
· We very much welcome this step and we think that this is a sound and balanced way to move the process forward towards its objective.
· Through such decision the WTO membership would effectively address the concerns that the US has raised with regard to the Appellate Body in the past. What Ambassador Walker has captured in his report and in the draft decision are precise directions to the adjudicators on the very issues on which the US has complained. If translated into a proper legal form, they would have a real impact on the way the dispute settlement system operates.
· The EU therefore supports this course of action and is ready to work towards the adoption of a decision based on these “convergence elements”, Indeed, we think that all Members have the responsibility to work towards the restoration of a fully functioning dispute settlement system, including by showing the necessary flexibilities.
· The EU is ready to do its part, as we have clearly shown until now. The EU is ready to work towards the adoption of the decision as sketched out by Ambassador Walker, but our support is based on the understanding that this is part of an overall solution that must necessarily include the unblocking of the appointments.
5. PROCEDURAL GUIDELINES FOR WTO COUNCILS AND COMMITTEES ADDRESSING TRADE CONCERNS – COMMUNICATION FROM AUSTRALIA; EUROPEAN UNION; HONG KONG, CHINA; REPUBLIC OF KOREA; NEW ZEALAND; NORWAY; PANAMA; SINGAPORE; SWITZERLAND; AND TURKEY (WT/GC/W/777)
· The EU would like to thank our co-sponsors: Albania; Australia; European Union; Hong Kong, China; Republic of Korea; Republic of Moldova; New Zealand; Norway; Panama; Qatar; Singapore; Switzerland; the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Thailand; Turkey; and Ukraine and also thank all other Members who provided valuable feedback to our proposal for "Procedural Guidelines for WTO Councils and Committees Addressing Trade Concerns". Since the initial presentation to the last meeting of the General Council in July, the group of co-sponsors has grown and we have been working to incorporate Members' suggestions into the proposal.
· The guidelines proposed by the EU and 15 other Members are intended as a modest, but practical and doable contribution to our big task of making the WTO more effective, and hence more concretely how we, the Members, deal with each other's trade concerns.
· Much inspiration has been taken from the best practices used in some committees that have longstanding experience with trade concerns, such as the Agriculture, SPS and TBT Committees. Importantly, this proposal does not intend to alter existing approaches which work well or to limit any WTO body from setting itself more sophisticated or more ambitious arrangements. Instead, the proposal aims at creating a minimum platform of good practices.
· At the last General Council as well as numerous outreach meetings, we received lots of encouraging reactions but also heard some questions and concerns. In response to these comments, co-sponsors have included a number of changes in this revision:
1. First, changes aim to underline that the responsibility for engaging in dialogue on trade concerns is upon WTO Members, whereas the WTO as an institution should assist Members in their dialogue (recitals 3 and 4);
2. Second, we took the suggestion of some developing countries on board to include additional practical tools that would help small delegations cope better with meetings – hence the principle that the Secretariat shall remind of the closing dates for agendas (paragraph 1).
3. Furthermore, a number of amendments emphasize the voluntary nature of the good practices which the proposal promotes. This is the case, for example, regarding participation at the informal meetings which is meant to help resolve persistent trade concerns (paragraph 12), as well as the involvement of capital-based experts by appropriate means (paragraph 13).
4. Finally, the changes clarify that the Chair's factual report about the informal meeting, which is intended to provide transparency to the wider Membership, is merely an oral summary (paragraph 14).
· Madam Chair, we are not looking to have a long debate today, but wanted to update the Membership about where we stand. In the interest of time, only a few co-sponsors will take the floor today. Co-sponsors will continue our informal outreach work with the whole membership in order to further mature the proposal for adoption.
· We trust that will Members have the political will to improve the way we work, in order to eventually strengthen the deliberative function of this organization. Thank you.
6. EXPANDING THE SCOPE AND MANDATE FOR THE GENEVA WEEK – COMMUNICATION FROM SAINT LUCIA, SOLOMON ISLANDS AND VANUATU (WT/GC/W/781)
· All Members should be able to participate effectively in the Multilateral Trading System and in the WTO. Trade-Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) is an important factor in supporting developing countries and especially LDCs in doing that.
· The EU supports the “Geneva Week” event, which should continue to concentrate on non-resident delegations. For developing countries (including LDCs) there are already a large number of TRTA activities and capacity-building initiatives organized, both face-to-face and online, in Geneva and in various countries.
· As an example of technical assistance that addresses the capacity constraints of small missions in Geneva, the EU would like to draw members’ attention to the Franco-Irish Mission Internship Programme (FIMIP). For over 15 years, the FIMIP has funded 10-month internship for up to 20 Geneva-based missions per year.
· The EU welcomes the increase of participants taking part in the TRTA activities during the year. In 2018, about half of the participants took part of the training online.
· The EU welcomes constant efforts by the WTO as well as the beneficiaries to enhance the efficiency and impact of the activities of the TRTA. We should see to that the activities target the main goals and are kept within the planned budget. Thank you.
7. PROCEDURES TO STRENGTHEN THE NEGOTIATING FUNCTION OF THE WTO – COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE UNITED STATES (WT/GC/W/757/REV.1 AND WT/GC/W/764)
· We concur that 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 to 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 and 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 evidence-based basis. The notable exception should be the LDCs who deserve particular treatment and who in any case have graduation mechanisms.
· We are open to looking into special and differential treatment (SDT) provisions in future agreements, starting with ongoing negotiations such as the 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 existing agreements, we are open to discuss and help other Members with difficulties they face. We already provide considerable development assistance to help developing countries, in particular LDCs, achieving their development objectives.
· There is a strong need to reform S&D and we are open to discuss any proposal that ensures that flexibilities responding to development concerns are available to those who need them. At the same time, it is clear that the economic situation of certain Members has improved considerably in the last decade and there is now a need for an evaluation of whether they have development needs that can be served by special and differential treatment or not.
8. STATEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES ON TRANSPARENCY IN WTO DISPUTE SETTLEMENT
· The EU thanks the United States and the co-sponsors for raising again this important matter and expresses support to the proposals to enhance the transparency of the dispute settlement proceedings.
· As we have always made clear, including in the last General Council meeting, the EU is strongly committed to ensuring that trade policy is transparent in order to enhance legitimacy and public trust. Against that background, the EU has been advocating for increased transparency in WTO dispute settlement, including by making open meetings a general rule and by making party submissions public. We have supported proposals to this effect also in the on-going review of the DSU.
· The EU would like to underline the importance of transparency of the proceedings from a systemic perspective. The WTO dispute settlement as it operates today has nothing to hide, so an increased transparency could only increase its legitimacy with the public and reduce the space for misrepresentation.
· We urge WTO members to adopt practices of increased transparency that are already possible under the DSU and look forward continuing discussions in relevant WTO fora on further proposals with increased transparency in mind.
· But transparency in dispute settlement proceedings obviously presupposes a functioning dispute settlement system. We therefore also reiterate our call on all Members to fill the outstanding vacancies of the Appellate Body as soon as possible.
9. WORK PROGRAMME AND MORATORIUM ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE – COMMUNICATION FROM AUSTRALIA; CHILE; COLOMBIA; COSTA RICA; GEORGIA; HONG KONG, CHINA; ICELAND; MEXICO; NEW ZEALAND; NORWAY; SINGAPORE; AND SWITZERLAND (WT/GC/W/782)
· The Moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions has become an indispensable aspect of modern trade relations. The Moratorium’s extension for over two decades denotes Members’ shared understanding of its contribution to the growth of digital trade, which in turn has contributed to the growth of global trade.
· The Moratorium has brought multiple benefits. It has enabled the development of digital trade free from burdensome customs duties. It has helped consumers access new services and has provided certainty to businesses, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, by enabling them to engage in global e-commerce.
· As indicated by Singapore, the recent economic study (ECIPE, August 2019) has shown that the payoff in tariff revenues would ultimately be minimal relative to the scale of economic damage that would result from import duties on electronic transmissions. Moreover, many Members have already committed to a permanent prohibition of custom duties on e-transmissions in the context of our bilateral or regional trade agreements. The absence of a multilateral commitment would mean that Members without vast FTA networks may face unfavourable terms of trade.
· For these reasons, the EU remains strongly attached to seeing that the Moratorium continues to apply.
· The EU preferred approach would be to render the Moratorium’s prohibition permanent. This would bring the benefit of certainty and predictability to businesses and consumers, and save on the important resources we engage in discussions every two years.
· If such a permanent solution cannot be agreed at this stage, the EU would support extending the Moratorium until MC13.
· Therefore, the EU calls on the General Council Chair to start consultations with Members in view of taking a decision at December’s General Council.
10. TRIPS NON-VIOLATION AND SITUATION COMPLAINTS MORATORIUM – COMMUNICATION FROM CHILE, COLOMBIA, NEW ZEALAND AND PANAMA (WT/GC/W/783)
· The European Union supports extending the moratorium of 13 December 2017 on not using TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints. Thank you.