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

EU Statement by Ambassador João Aguiar Machado at the Trade Policy Review Body, 12 December 2019

Geneva, 12/12/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 191212_15
Local Statements

Trade Policy Review Body, 12 December 2019 Director-General’s annual overview report of developments in the international trading environment

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

The EU thanks the Director-General and the Secretariat for their thorough, informative and comprehensive report.

As usual, we would like to start with the positive developments, noted in the report, during the period under review:

  • The very significant number of new measures aimed at facilitating trade and estimated at USD 544.7 billion reaching the second highest trade coverage since 2012;
  • Effective use of the WTO Committee of Agriculture to discuss agricultural policies and issues related to the implementation of commitments under the Agreement of Agriculture.

Unfortunately, these positive achievements were overshadowed again by new trade restrictions and increasing trade tensions, which added to the uncertainty surrounding international and the world economy, namely:

  • 102 new trade-restrictive measures which include tariff increases, quantitative restrictions, stricter customs procedures, and imposition of import taxes and export duties. It represents not only an increase of 27% compared to the previous reporting period, but reaches the highest ever recorded number since 2012;
  • The trade coverage of import restrictions measures implemented since 2009 and still in force is estimated at USD 1.7 trillion, suggesting that the stockpile of import restrictions has continued to grow.

We share the concerns of the Director-General about the uncertainty in international trade and the world economy. It is our strong belief, that the only and best way to deal with current global trade challenges is preserving and strengthening the multilateral trading system. For this reason, we all collectively should stop unnecessary use of trade protectionist measures, which put the global system at risk.

We also recognise the importance of this reporting exercise, which started in 2009. It contributes to the transparency and predictability of the global trade system. Unfortunately, again the WTO faced “selective commitment to transparency” from its Members. This time only eight Members reported general economic support measures to the Director-General.

As a result, the WTO Secretariat could not include a separate annex on these measures again. The EU supports the Secretariat continuous efforts establish such annex. We echo the proposals made in the previous statements: 1) non-verified support measures should be included in the report with a remark: "no response to verification request received”; 2) Members requesting the deletion of a measure should be ready to explain the reasons for such request to other Members, in a restricted and informal format, if preferred. We are ready to engage in further discussions how to report those measures, since many support measures are “with potentially important ramifications for trade”, as stated in the Report. However, we ask all other Members also to engage in the constructive discussion and we count on the Secretariat to support these efforts.

We thank the Secretariat for highlighting and quantifying the increasing number of trade concerns which Members raise, often in multiple WTO bodies and for long periods. This trend was the reason behind the EU and 17 other Members to propose guidelines for WTO bodies dealing with trade concerns. While we are not under the illusion that this is the magic bullet for all trade concerns that exist, we think the guidelines could significantly improve the interaction among Members on trade concerns.

Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated 30 years of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism. At the conference organised on this occasion, everyone noted and praised the value of the WTO Trade Policy Review Mechanism, which is the main tool to ensure transparency in global trade. Trade Monitoring Report is one of the components of this mechanism. We all collectively benefit from it: it gives us not only updates of trade restrictive measures and trade facilitating measures, but also a broader view of the global economic situation and trends in world trade.

While the WTO is facing so many challenges at this moment, Trade Policy Review Mechanism has always been seen as a success story of this organisation. Therefore, we have to ensure that this exercise remains strong and respected by all Members.

 

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

 

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