European Union External Action

WTO GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING OF 23-24 JULY 2019 - EU STATEMENTS

Geneva, 25/07/2019 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 190725_3
Statements on behalf of the EU

  1. AID FOR TRADE – REPORT BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL ON THE GLOBAL REVIEW
  • As the world’s largest provider of Aid for Trade, contributing no less than a third of all Aid for Trade funds, would like to underline the EU and its Member States’ strong and unwavering commitment to continuing to provide Aid for Trade.
  • As you can read from the EU Aid for Trade 2019 report that was published on the first day of the review, in quantitative terms our contribution has been strengthening every year.
  • But as the report also stresses, we want to deliver more but also better aid for trade. That’s why our new Aid for Trade strategy, agreed in 2017, focuses its efforts on LDCs, and especially on disadvantaged groups, including women, young people, and the extremely poor.
  • Our new approach is to relate our aid ever closer to the market. It means ensuring that the considerable market access that we provide, especially to LDCs, is leveraged by aid for trade into real impact. Supporting implementation of the trade facilitation agreement is a prime example.
  • In that context we would like to highlight three points where we believe we have to double down with aid for trade efforts:
  • 1) Making trade inclusive means keeping the challenges and interest of the LDCs, women and youth at the forefront of our efforts.
  • 2) The future is digital – connectivity and skills will matter more than ever and we need to retain that high on the agenda.
  • 3) The future has to be greener - climate change is a threat to humanity; again it is the most vulnerable among us who suffer the most.
  • These three pillars are essential if we are to achieve our 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

 

5. INFORMAL PROCESS ON MATTERS RELATED TO THE FUNCTIONING OF THE APPELLATE BODY

  • Thank you Ambassador Walker for this summary.
  • We think you have given us a fair description of where things stand today.
  • We note though that the elements put forward by the EU and cosponsors in 753 are not part of the convergences you identified, even though they have significant support from the African group in the proposal it outlined this morning. We will therefore need to keep those issues under review.
  • Regarding the areas of convergence that you identified, we look forward to seeing them in writing, and we reserve our final position with respect to the details.
  • The EU would like to reiterate its support for this solution focussed process as the crisis is urgent.
  • This is why the EU, and many other Members, have made serious efforts to address the concerns raised by the Member blocking the appointments. And this is why we will continue to support you in your work. And we agree with the idea to develop text that would be the basis for the unblocking of the appointments.
  • Unblocking the appointments is the rationale for the current process, and we should not lose sight of this.
  • This is why we wish to reiterate our call on all delegations to engage substantively in this process, so that the appointments can be made as soon as possible.
  • On content, obviously the EU the best way forward is the one contained in the concrete proposals that we have submitted together with other Members to the General Council. But we are ready to show flexibility, if that leads to the unblocking of appointments.
  • At the same time, it must be clear that any attempts at addressing the crisis must preserve the essential features of dispute settlement, notably an independent and two step system and the principle of negative consensus.
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  1. WORK PROGRAMME ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE – REVIEW OF PROGRESS (S/C/57), (G/C/65)
  • Over the last months, WTO Members have engaged into in-depth and substantial discussions of all aspects of the WTO moratorium on custom duties on electronic transmission and its implications.
  • The discussion has allowed Members to address and discuss many of the questions raised so far.
  • On that basis, we continue to believe that the WTO moratorium on custom duties on electronic transmissions has made a significant contribution to the global growth of digital trade:
    • It has provided certainty to both consumers and business, including MSMEs, and encouraged their engagement in global e-commerce.
    • It has also ensured predictability and facilitated the decisions of businesses in terms of strategic planning and structuring of enterprises.
  • We therefore invite Members to extend the WTO rule prohibiting custom duties on electronic transmissions permanently, if possible, or at least by a regular 2-year period, which has been our consistent practice for over 20 years.

 

  1. PROCEDURAL GUIDELINES FOR WTO COUNCILS AND COMMITTEES ADDRESSING TRADE CONCERNS – COMMUNICATION FROM AUSTRALIA; EUROPEAN UNION; HONG KONG, CHINA; REPUBLIC OF KOREA; NEW ZEALAND; NORWAY; PANAMA; SINGAPORE; SWITZERLAND; THE SEPARATE CUSTOMS TERRITORY OF TAIWAN, PENGHU, KINMEN AND MATSU; TURKEY and UKRAINE (WT/GC/W/777/REV1)
  • The EU is pleased to introduce this proposal for a General Council decision on procedural guidelines for WTO councils and committees addressing trade concerns. I would like to thank our 11 co-sponsors and those who may join today as well as all Members who provided valuable comments during the preparation process.
  • Let me start by explaining the rationale and objectives of our proposal. As set out at earlier discussions about WTO reform, the EU sees the need for modernising all three core WTO functions, namely rule-making, dispute settlement and regular work. Safeguarding the dispute settlement and reinvigorating the rule-making functions are of course our priorities. But strengthening WTO regular work is also necessary especially at a time when the other two functions are under severe stress.
  • This proposal is part of our efforts to preserve the WTO as the basis of our trade relationships, by making its regular work respond better to the expectations of us Members but also our stakeholders. Addressing concerns over trade measures of other Members is the daily bread of most regular WTO councils and committees.
  • The underlying objective is to avoid that concerns escalate to dispute settlement stage. Unfortunately, we see too many repetitive, time-consuming exchanges which fail to generate genuine dialogue and collaborative solutions. In some instances, unresolved trade concerns linger on the agendas for several years. The recent CTG experience is a case in point. The last meeting on 8-9 July had a record number of 36 agenda items; most of them trade concerns; some of them on the agenda for years.
  • The EU and co-sponsors consider that horizontal guidance could help the councils and committees address trade concerns more effectively. At present, practices differ widely across committees, even though the concerns raised in different bodies are about the same or related measures.
  • The suggestions in this proposal are based on our experience in the regular bodies from both an offensive and defensive point of view. We have developed them over months in informal conversations with numerous Members, big and small. We compared practices across the WTO and took inspiration from good practices identified in some committees with a lot of experience with trade concerns such as the TBT committee and the Committee for Agriculture. The objective is not to interfere with what works well – this should be preserved and encouraged.
  • Mr Chairman, for the sake of time I will not go into details but will outline the main ideas. Our proposal has three main parts: 1) improved meeting arrangements – these are mostly tasks for the Secretariat; 2) guidelines for Members' work on trade concerns in council/committee meetings and 3) additional informal means for resolving trade concerns.
  • Regarding improved meeting arrangements, the set of rules in paragraphs 1-4 aims to facilitate the preparation of meetings. This would not only improve the consideration of trade concerns but also all other substantive discussions which need preparation. What we propose is simply to have a little more time than is currently the practice in many bodies for Members to digest items proposed for the agenda and relevant documents. We also propose that Members get reports of past meetings earlier than is currently the case. As paragraph 5 specifies, we propose this set of improvements to be mandatory.
  • For Members' work in council and committee meetings, the guidelines in paragraphs 6-11 aim to make the discussions on trade concerns more effective.
  • The Secretariat should help Members by managing and making available relevant information in a database (paragraph 8) and assisting the Chair in giving an overview of relevant discussions when a trade concern is taken up (paragraph 9).
  • I want to insist that what we propose are principles of good conduct. They are not intended to create new legal obligations.
  • As additional means for resolving persistent trade concerns, paragraphs 12-14 encourage the use of an informal avenue for resolving trade concerns with the help of Chairpersons and the Secretariat or other experts as appropriate. This possibility already exists – but we would like to put it more firmly on the radar screen of Members so that they exploit it better.
  • Let me close by making a few general observations. This proposal is far from revolutionary; nor is it the solution to the WTO's most fundamental problems. But it can be a useful piece in the WTO reform puzzle. It very much falls into the category of "doable" proposals.
  • Importantly, we do not intend to change one iota in the balance of Members' rights and obligations. We merely want Members’ to recognise there is a need to improve working practices and procedures and that by doing so we can collectively facilitate better outcomes for our operators and citizens.
  • When preparing this proposal, we did our best to take account of Members' comments. We are committed to make this proposal work for all and are therefore open to additional suggestions for improvement.

 

8. STRENGTHENING THE WTO TO PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT AND INCLUSIVITY – COMMUNICATION FROM PLURINATIONAL STATE OF BOLIVIA; CUBA; ECUADOR; INDIA; MALAWI; SOUTH AFRICA; TUNISIA; UGANDA; AND ZIMBABWE (WT/GC/W/778)

  • The EU appreciates the proponents' engagement in exploring how to reform the WTO through multilateral solutions.
  • The EU shares the sense of urgency to resolve the dispute settlement crisis as we already discussed yesterday under agenda item 5.
  • With regard to transparency and notification, we encourage all Members to continue to engage. We will return to this important area under the next agenda item.
  • Notwithstanding the objective of advancing multilateral rulemaking, the EU is also supportive of an open plurilateral track of negotiations. Thus, we welcome the active participation of both developing and developed Members on e-commerce, domestic regulation in services and investment facilitation.
  • We reconfirm that development is a central pillar of this organisation. We remain of the view that developing countries should be allowed assistance and flexibilities. However, to grant open-ended block exemptions to 2/3 of the Membership is no longer a viable model.
  • Flexibilities should be made available to those Members who actually need them. And the first file where this approach should be pursued is that of fisheries subsidies. Let us recall that developing Members account for 90% of world's marine capture and a clear majority of world's biggest fishing nations are developing Members.

 

9. AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO TRANSPARENCY AND NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS IN THE WTO – COMMUNICATION FROM THE AFRICAN GROUP; CUBA; AND INDIA (JOB/GC/218/REV.1)

  • The EU appreciates this contribution to the important conversation about how to improve transparency in general and compliance with our notification obligations in particular.
  • We agree with the African Group, Cuba and India that notifications are not the only aspect of transparency. We also recognise that notification work is resource-intensive and can be challenging, particularly for small developing countries or LDCs. Notifications are, however, indispensable for themonitoring function of the WTO. Moreover, notification work is, in our own experience, also capacity building in and of itself, as it strengthens inter-agency cooperation.
  • In any case, our suggestion would be to make the conversation more specific. We already have focussed conversations in the Council for Trade in Goods on the basis of the proposal made by the EU and other cosponsors (JOB/CTG/14/Rev2). We see the Communication before us as a contribution to those conversations.
  • The EU is in no way opposed to deepening the discussions on notifications in the relevant other bodies – to the contrary, we look forward to engaging with all Members on these issues.
  • For example, as regards annual agricultural notifications on domestic support (DS:1), where no developed or developing member is currently able to respect the deadline set out in the "notification requirements" of the Committee on Agriculture (G/AG/2), the EU would be ready to discuss a revision and update of that document, covering all agricultural notification obligations under the Agreement on Agriculture as well as Ministerial Decisions.
  • We would also be willing to take up a conversation about GATS Article III.3 notifications in the Council for Trade in Services.

 

10. PROCEDURES TO STRENGTHEN THE NEGOTIATING FUNCTION OF THE WTO – COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE UNITED STATES (WT/GC/W/757/REV.1 AND WT/GC/W/764)

  • As we already pointed out under agenda item 8, the EU reconfirms that development is a central feature of the WTO.
  • The current distinction between developed and developing countries no longer reflects the reality of the rapid economic growth in some developing countries.
  • The EU recognises the right of WTO Members to self-designate themselves as developed or developing countries. What matters is what a Member commits to.
  • Differentiation must become much more granular, in function of an individual Member's demonstrated needs and capacities. LDCs however should get special treatment and, in any case, have a graduation mechanism.

 

12. STATEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES ON TRANSPARENCY IN WTO DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

  • The EU expresses support to the proposals to enhance the openness of the dispute settlement proceedings.
  • Trade policy should be transparent in order to bolster public trust. Against that background, the EU has been advocating to make open meetings a general rule and make party submissions public. We have supported proposals to this effect also in the DSU review.
  • The EU would like to underline the importance of transparency from a systemic perspective. The WTO dispute settlement as it operates today has nothing to hide, so an increased transparency could only enhance its legitimacy with the public and reduce the space for misrepresentation.
  • We therefore urge WTO members to adopt practices of increased transparency that are possible under the DSU.
  • But needless to say, transparency in dispute settlement proceedings presupposes a functioning dispute settlement system.
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