European Union External Action

European Union Statements at the General Council Meeting, 07-08 October 2021

Geneva, 08/10/2021 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 211008_43
Local Statements

Statements delivered by Ambassador João Aguiar Machado

2. Implementation of the Bali, Nairobi and Buenos Aires Outcomes

On the Bali Ministerial Decision on Public Stockholding as well as on the Nairobi Decision on export competition, the European Union refers to past statements on record.

On the Bali Ministerial Decision on Tariff Rate Quota administration (TRQ): The European Union is pleased to see progress made in the last Regular Committee on Agriculture on the Bali TRQ decision review, and in particular the text proposal that was submitted by Costa Rica.  We hope that consensus can be reached under the leadership of the Chair of regular Committee on Agriculture with a view to adopting a decision in time for MC12. We urge members to engage on this issue and work constructively. The European Union would underline that the outcome of this review should be part of the decisions to be taken by Ministers at MC12.

 

4.         TRIPS Council matters

  1. Status report on the considerations by the TRIPs Council on the revised "Proposal for a Waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPs Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of Covid-19” (IP/C/W/669/REV.1)

The European Union would first like to thank Ambassador Sorli for his report and for his efforts in guiding and steering the discussions in the TRIPS Council.

The European Union is strongly committed to achieving our common goal: to continue ramping up production, to share COVID-19 vaccines and medicines more widely and faster, and to ensure equitable access to these products for low – and middle-income countries.

Intellectual property-related issues are a part of the trade response to the pandemic. The intellectual property system has played a key role in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines and can play an enabling role in deploying existing capacity or creating new capacity for the production of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. The European Union believes that it is possible to enhance this role of the IP system while at the same time maintaining the protection required for incentivising technology transfer and investment in innovation, so that we can fight against new strains of COVID-19 and any future diseases. It is to this end that the European Union has put forward a proposal on the clarification and facilitation of the use of compulsory licensing system.

The European Union appreciated the possibility provided by the informal meetings of the TRIPS Council and small group meetings to discuss the issues of scope and implementation of the revised waiver proposal and the EU proposal.

The discussions have been helpful to understand the positions of various delegations and to identify important points of convergence. The results are encouraging in our view.

The European Union proposal is meant to clear any doubts that persist about the use of the IP system and to indicate ways in which the compulsory licensing system can be used in a fast and simple manner that is fully adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and to the need to support the local production on the needed vaccines, medicines and diagnostics.

We encourage all WTO Members to try to find agreement on the basis of the points of convergence identified in our discussions. We need a solution that is pragmatic, targeted and effective in responding to the current needs while keeping intact the necessary incentives for innovation. It is through the targeted approach that we believe we can advance in our discussions on the intellectual property element of the WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also pave the way for advancing on the other parts of the needed comprehensive approach.

We are committed to continue constructively engaging in the discussions in the TRIPS Council and in the small group consultations. In addition, we are ready to consider any other proposal that may contribute to our common goals.

Finally, we would like to emphasise that the intellectual property aspects are only a part of the multi-pronged approach proposed by the European Union. And we call on all Members to engage in discussions on all elements of this approach as only this way we will be able to adequately respond to the current crisis.

 

  1. Preparations for the Twelfth Session of the Ministerial Conference
  1. MC12 outcome document – Report by the Chair
  2. Work Programme on Electronic Commerce – Report by the Chair
  3. WTO Response to the pandemic – Report by the Facilitator

The European Union thanks you (GC) Chair and Ambassador Walker for your reports and consultations.

The European Union welcomes the launch of the process to reach an alignment among members on the content of the Ministerial Declaration for MC12. That said, we have some concern: even if the process is built ‘bottom up’, negotiations will still be required once the text is on the table. Circulating a text only at the end of October would actually be late. We need to go quickly – and the European Union would like to convey a sense of urgency.

On ecommerce: the European Union remains committed to ongoing discussions on the moratorium. We reiterate our support for extending the moratorium - at least until the next Ministerial Conference.

The European Union also thanks Ambassador Walker for his efforts as Facilitator on the WTO response to the pandemic. This response is one of the most important point for the forthcoming Ministerial Conference. We subscribe fully to the statement delivered by Canada on behalf of the cosponsors of the Trade and Health Initiative. There is now sufficient material on the table and we hope that the existing submissions will help you [Ambassador Walker] contributing to define what could be the WTO response at MC12 – as well as post-MC12 as we cannot exhaust the discussions within two months. Of course an outcome on trade & health strand of work will need to be complemented by the IP part of the discussions. The European Union is ready to work with you and the rest of the membership to assist you to put us on the right track.

 

  1. Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and Moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions – Request from India and South Africa

The European Union refers to its intervention under item 5 of the agenda of this meeting (EU intervention to be placed on the records of the meeting). 

 

  1. Trade related challenges of the Least Developed Countries and way forward: A draft for MC decision – Communications from Chad on behalf of the LDC Group (WT/GC/W/806/REV.1, WT/GC/W/807)

The European Union would like to thank the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group for its submission. We have been and will continue engaging on the matter.

The European Union is mindful of the challenges that LDCs face in integrating in the global trading system.

We believe that there should be support and flexibilities for WTO members, commensurate with their needs and capacity constraints, beyond the group of LDCs.

The European Union’s support for LDCs is well established, for countries that have recently graduated from the LDC status, as well as other developing countries.

For example, in the European Union General Scheme of Preferences (GSP), there are transition periods provided for the benefit of developing countries, particularly for recently graduated LDCs and other countries most in need.

The European Union has also launched a series of trade agreements with developing countries in Africa, including Economic Partnership Agreements which provide very significant preferences. And we also engage bilaterally with LDCs with a view to graduation to be able to best support the country during and after their graduation process.

In the area of trade specifically, the aim of the European Union is to focus on how to facilitate and enhance the capacity of countries to assume commitments that foster integration in the global economy. In our view that is the best way for the WTO to effectively contribute to sustainable development.

We are committed to continue our engagement. That said, this proposal raises a number of complex and substantive issues. It is unsure the membership will be able to finalise our discussions by MC12. But it is important for this discussion to continue so that we can understand what the needs of the LDC Group are, what their objectives are and how to best address their request.

 

  1. Supporting the conclusion of fisheries Subsidies negotiations for the sustainability of the ocean and fishing communities – Draft Ministerial Decision – Communication form Brazil (WT/GC/W/815)

The European Union thanks Brazil for its submission. The European Union fully supports an outcome that is ambitious and ensures sustainability. This negotiation is about the sustainability of fish stocks. The mandate does includes special and differential treatment (SDT). But SDT is not an objective per se. SDT is aimed to facilitate the implementation of disciplines, namely: to achieve the sustainability of fish stocks. SDT is not envisaged as a way to build a fisheries sector on the basis of harmful subsidies.

The European Union thanks the Chair of the Rules Negotiating Group for his efforts to steer us to concrete and positive outcomes. We all have responsibilities to ensure that harmful subsidies are discontinued and that fisheries continue to provide food and jobs for current and future generations. This negotiation cannot be about “common but no responsibilities for many”. We have to do all we can to come up with a meaningful outcome for MC12. It would be very negative for the reputation of this Organisation if we failed to meet the deadline that all Heads of State have asked us to deliver.

 

  1. Procedural guidelines for WTO Councils and Committees addressing Trade concerns – Communication from Albania, Australia, Canada, China, European Union, Hong Kong China, Iceland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland, the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan Penghu Kinmen and Matsu, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine (WT/GC/W/777/REV.6)

On behalf of all co-sponsors, the European Union would like to provide an update about our work on the proposal for "Procedural Guidelines for WTO Councils and Committees Addressing Trade Concerns".

This proposal fits into the context of the reform agenda, acknowledging that the WTO’s monitoring and deliberative function is in need of change, too.

To recall, this proposal aims to improve how Members address each other’s trade concerns in regular WTO bodies, including meetings arrangements.

In July, the co-sponsors of the proposal have presented a revision as a honest attempt to take account of Members’ comments and concerns. And we thank those Members who have provided their views and hope that Members have had time to review this revised version more in-depth.

More efficient meeting arrangements have become a necessity in a time where the pandemic brought fundamental change to the working methods of our committees. We feel that there is a lot of common ground on the first part of the proposal on meeting arrangements. In fact, some ideas have already been taken up and put into practice.

In July, several Members expressed their doubts as regards the feasibility of a horizontal approach on how to address trade concerns.  The co-sponsors acknowledge the diversity of the WTO Committee system and the importance for each committee to regularly look for improvements and efficiencies in their own procedures and working methods. However, we are also convinced that there are cross-cutting issues that all committees face and where non-binding guidelines could lead to improvements across the board. The proposal does not suggest a “one size fits all” type of harmonisation. It rather encourages the establishment of a common platform based on some core principles, as a complement to the specificities of each WTO committee. However, co-sponsors are open to consider further, how the horizontal approach could be best complemented by a committee-by-committee approach. We would welcome Members’ views in this regard. 

Some Members raised concerns as regards possible additional burdens. Let me dispel these doubts once again. The aim of the proposal is not to create additional burden. Quite the opposite, it aims at facilitating engagement, for example by providing non-binding guidance on how to handle written questions, while maintaining flexibilities to account of individual circumstances. Likewise, capital-based participation is suggested– not imposed - in possible informal bilateral consultations as a means to go deeper, and maybe better, into the concerns raised. Actually, the combination of Geneva-based and remote engagement has become a day-to-day reality after Covid.

Similarly, the database in paragraph 8 aims at facilitating Members overview of ongoing discussions of trade concerns and thereby decreasing administrative burden.

Finally, the co-sponsors would like to emphasize that the proposal is voluntary in nature. It does not aim in **any way to limit the Members’ ability to raise trade concerns as they see fit. However, we are open to discuss textual suggestions that provide further reassurance in this respect. 

The co-sponsors remain committed to advancing this proposal. We are looking forward to stepping up outreach and informal exchanges with Members with a view to finding common ground soon.

 

  1. Paper titled “The legal status of Joint Statement Initiatives and their negotiated outcomes” – Request from India and South Africa (WT/GC/W/819.Rev 1)

The European Union thanks India and South Africa for their paper. The paper touches on an important topic and we hope to discuss this subject post MC12 in more detail.

If one looks at history, multilateral outcomes were built on plurilaterals. We do not share the view that Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs) would be antithetical to developing countries. The four JSIs under negotiation today include many developing countries and themes that are specifically geared to the needs of developing countries.

The risk is that if members do not allow more flexibility to negotiate in this Organisation, negotiations will take place elsewhere. This amounts to an identity choice – and we prefer negotiations to take place here.

 

13.        Appointment of Officers to WTO Bodies – Report by the Chair

The European Union thanks the Chair for his engagement. We have suggested ways of improving the procedures of appointment of officers. We understand there could be two options: either to  ‘renew our vows’ and apply more discipline to agreed procedures; or to have a bottom up approach of selecting chairs in Committees themselves. It seems the preference of most is to build on the procedures that have been agreed in the past. The EU looks forward to working with the chair to find a way forward.

 

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