EU Statement by Ambassador Marc Vanheukelen at the Trade Policy Review Body informal meeting, 25 July 2018
Geneva, 25/07/2018 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 180725_14
The EU thanks the DG and the Secretariat for the latest version of the report on trade related developments. It is as solid and well prepared as always.
In the current climate of trade tensions and existential threats to this organisation – which we debated at yesterday's TNC meeting – this half-yearly report is particularly important as a beacon of transparency and alert mechanism against protectionism.
While there have been some noteworthy positive developments during the period under review – we note, for example, various trade facilitating measures mentioned in the report and ongoing work on the Buenos Aires Joint Statement initiatives - the EU is concerned about some of the key findings in the report:
Firstly, the observation that the increase in new trade-restrictive measures has accelerated (the report counts 11 new measures on average per month compared to 9 during the previous period) and
Secondly, that the ratio of trade covered by import-facilitating measures over import-restrictive measures has fallen significantly.
We shared the DG's concerns over this worrying trend while tensions and uncertainty continue increasing. We would like to echo your calls for Members to urgently de-escalate the situation and, in paraphrasing the last of the "key findings" of the report, help the system to help: the WTO does have the tools to remedy the situation, but Members have to let it use them. Our collective resilience will indeed depend on each and every one of us.
Let me use this meeting to address the issue mentioned also by the DG - the question of how to ensure the transparency mission of the report, because the EU is deeply concerned about the lack of cooperation by a number of Members in preparing the report so that it cannot really fulfil its objective.
For the third time in a row now, the Secretariat has not been able to include an annex about economic support measures and subsidy programmes in the report because, I quote from page 70, "More than 30 Members were requested to verify various general support measures or subsidy programmes", but "The response rate was disappointingly low and many insisted that these measures not be included in the Report". It is indeed worrying that many Members are reluctant to enhance transparency in this area. Moreover, it raises the question why they shy away from shedding light on their practices.
The Secretariat is rightly asking for guidance on how this issue might be addressed in future reports and whether there is an alternative approach for reporting general economic support measures. In this context, the EU invites Members to consider the following suggestions:
Where a Member does not respond to a verification request, the Secretariat should follow the practice for the so-called "other trade-related measures" in Annex 3, where confirmed and non-confirmed measures are listed in separate tables. Put differently, non-verified subsidy programmes should be included in the report with a remark such as: "no response to verification request received".
Where a Member responds but asks the Secretariat not to include a measure in the Report, the reasons for this, as well as the proposed measure, should be shared with other Members. This would not need to be done as part of the public report, but in more restricted format such as, for example, a room document and informal discussions among Members.
Chair, we believe it is essential to enable the TPRB to fulfil its monitoring and surveillance tasks. It is our collective responsibility to meet our transparency obligations and to hold open, informed discussions about relevant developments. This is the basis for building trust, and for navigating through times of challenge and crisis like the one we are going through today.