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

EU Statements by Ambassador João Aguiar Machado at the General Council meeting, 13 October 2020

Geneva, 14/10/2020 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 201014_3
Local Statements

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

The EU notes that a member has invoked the Bali Ministerial Decision on public stockholding for the first time. We are currently examining the relevant domestic support notification and accompanying data. The EU, along with other members, is still awaiting substantive answers to the technical questions raised on this matter in the Committee on Agriculture.

Secondly, the Nairobi Ministerial Decision on Export Competition was adopted, as you referred to, in December 2015. This required sixteen members to submit schedule modifications. Three members - but you indicated earlier that Indonesia submitted yesterday, so it is now two - have not still done so – including one who co-sponsored the proposal which lead to the decision. The EU would urge the members concerned to submit the necessary schedule modifications as soon as possible.

Finally, the EU would recall that the next review of the Nairobi disciplines is scheduled for 2021. The EU also notes that developing Members must eliminate all export subsidies by the end of 2022. In this context, we ask any Member contemplating the introduction of export subsidies to refrain from doing so.

PROCEDURES TO STRENGTHEN THE NEGOTIATING FUNCTION OF THE WTO – STATEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES

The EU reconfirms 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 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 European Union 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 evidence-based basis. 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.

IMPORTANCE OF MARKET-ORIENTED CONDITIONS TO THE WORLD TRADING SYSTEM – JOINT STATEMENT BY BRAZIL, JAPAN, AND THE UNITED STATES

The EU has repeatedly stated that market-oriented conditions are central to allowing a level-playing field. EU has also repeatedly expressed its concerns with non-market-oriented policies and practices that have resulted in distortions to the world trading system.

The role of the WTO – and therefore the role of all of us, as Members - is to ensure that there are effective rules in place to eliminate these distortions and to ensure a level-playing field. There are clearly gaps in the WTO rulebook that do not enable us to do so. These gaps must be addressed through the negotiation of new or updated rules to address the issues raised in the statement of the United States and its co-sponsors.

PROCEDURAL GUIDELINES FOR WTO COUNCILS AND COMMITTEES ADDRESSING TRADE CONCERNS – STATEMENT BY CO-SPONSORS

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 thank Members for the conversation about this proposal at our last meeting in July.

For the sake of new colleagues who have recently joined us, we would like to briefly recap the main objectives and features of our proposal. The proposed guidelines for WTO bodies dealing with trade concerns are part of our wider efforts to reform the WTO. Our concrete objective is to make an important part of the WTO’s regular work more effective and responsive to the expectations of our stakeholders.

The starting point is that numerous regular WTO councils and committees spend a considerable amount of time addressing trade concerns. However, the outcomes are unfortunately not always commensurate to the efforts that go into this work. Instead, we see too many repetitive, time-consuming exchanges which fail to generate genuine dialogue and collaborative solutions. At present, practices differ widely across committees, even though the concerns raised in different bodies are about the same or related measures. The cosponsors of this proposal share the view expressed by several Members that the specificities of each committee or council should be respected, but we also see room for improving the interaction between bodies working on related issues, such as trade concerns.

Accordingly, the proposed guidelines build on existing practices and procedures. They were carefully drafted not to put these into question. When implemented, they would rather create a minimum platform of meeting arrangements and a set of good practices. In fact, some WTO bodies have already applied certain provisions during the last months in order to better cope with the logistical and organisation challenges of lockdown. Other provisions would have made life easier, had they been in force: For example, 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 can be easily accessible.

Chair, at our meeting at the end of July, we noted that some Members continue to have doubts about this proposal. A few questioned whether a horizontal approach would be beneficial, rather than leaving it to each committee to come up with solutions. We do believe that a common platform would provide more clarity, allowing Members to engage more effectively. Some Members have expressed concerns that the proposal would jeopardise the neutrality of the Chairs and the Secretariat. The intention of the proposal is certainly not to encroach on such neutrality, which is of high value to the proponents as for other Members. But the proposal aims to give incentives to rely on the expertise of the Secretariat or of the good offices of the Chair, within the remit of their competences.

A few Members were also concerned that the suggested best practices would create additional burden for LDCs and other Members with capacity constraints. Let me stress once again that, apart from the section related to meeting arrangements, the proposal would create no binding rules. The proposal sets out guidelines, which would bring improvements for all of us, with an assistance provision enshrined in the proposal.

Chair, co-sponsors have tried to address these points, including in bilateral conversations. We thank again those Members who have engaged with us over the last few weeks. It is true that the current virtual way of working has made it more difficult to engage with more Members directly in an informal setting to go through comments in detail. Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue reaching out to those Members who have doubts and to try to address their concerns directly. We are ready to consider any suggestion that could contribute to improve the proposal further and hope that the membership will reach consensus on it before the next Ministerial Conference.

WORK PROGRAMME ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE AND MORATORIUM ON IMPOSING CUSTOMS DUTIES ON ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSIONS – REQUEST FROM INDIA

The EU remains convinced that the multilateral commitment not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions has brought multi-faced benefits to all WTO Members. It has contributed to the development of digital trade, has helped consumers to access new services and has provided certainty to business, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

We continue to believe that a permanent moratorium would provide the necessary certainty to business and consumers and would facilitate planning decisions related to further engagement in digital trade.

The EU remains committed to continue engaging in the structured discussions on the moratorium in line with the General Council decision of December 2019, taking into account the new evidence that has been published over the last year on the multiple benefits of the Moratorium for business and citizens.

The European Union remains committed to continue discussions in the informal open-ended General Council meetings, in the regular WTO Committees and structured discussions and we fail to see the need for a standing item on the General Council agenda on the e-commerce working party/moratorium.

 

 

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