Permanent Mission of the European Union to
the World Trade Organization (WTO)

EU Statement by Ambassador Marc Vanheukelen at the informal HOD/TNC meeting, 7 May 2018

Geneva, 07/05/2018 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 180507_13
Local Statements

Mr Chairman, many thanks for convening this meeting today to discuss the way forward following MC11. We thank the Chairs for their statements on the state of play in various strands of our work.

  • First, and ahead of the discussion that we will have tomorrow at the General Council meeting, I would like to repeat the EU's grave concern about the recent trade actions of a WTO Member. Measures taken to protect domestic industries under the guise of a national security justification pose a major risk to the WTO and the multilateral trading system.
  • The EU strongly believes in the need for all Members to comply with their commitments and to undertake actions strictly within the framework set up by the WTO agreement. The WTO agreement provides ample room to take justified measures in a legal and coherent manner as well as tools to resolve our differences.
  • These developments add to the persisting crisis in the Appellate Body. The EU continues to attach the highest priority to ensuring the smooth functioning of the WTO's dispute settlement system which is now being undermined by the blockage of new appointments to the Appellate Body.
  • We are ready to have a conversation about the concerns about the Appellate Body, but we first need clarity on what the issues are. And we also need to have clarity that this will lead to unblocking the appointments
  • In these tough circumstances, it is of utmost importance that we make progress in negotiations and work towards substantive negotiated outcomes. In that regard, the EU would like to express its appreciation of the ongoing constructive discussions on various issues that groups of Members have placed more firmly on the agenda in Buenos Aires.
  • It is indeed encouraging to see the broad participation of Members actively engaging in preparatory work as well as in actual negotiations under different formats. The willingness of Members to take new approaches to advance negotiations shows the interest of Members to develop new rules addressing today’s trade issues.
  • After the failure of MC11, the EU has been supportive of introducing further flexibility in the approach to negotiations to unblock the stalemate. The EU endorsed the joint statements in Buenos Aires and we will continue actively contributing to their implementation. We welcome the recent substantive discussions on e-commerce, domestic regulation in services and investment facilitation.
  • We will be attentive that this plurilateral process remains open and supports the development of multilateral outcomes. In that respect, the broad participation of both developing and developed Members, including Members who had not initially endorsed the joint statements, is very positive and shows the legitimacy of this approach.
  • At the same time, the EU will continue to prioritise the traditional multilateral approach whenever this is possible. Work has now re-started on fisheries subsidies. The EU remains highly committed to an ambitious multilateral outcome on fisheries subsidies. However, we should be mindful of the challenge ahead of us. If an outcome is to be achieved by MC12 as agreed in Buenos Aires, we need to focus and accelerate work in the coming weeks. 
  • Besides the negotiating and dispute settlement functions of the WTO, it is also critical for the future of the organisation to reshape its monitoring, surveillance and deliberative function. The EU is willing to look into areas where we could improve the situation. While work on transparency is an obvious priority and we should endeavour that notifications are timely and contain the necessary information, we would also want to better tap the underutilised potential of WTO's regular councils and committees to address trade concerns.

Thank you.

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