17 de julio de 2024

El Consejo del Comercio de Mercancías hace balance de los progresos para mejorar su funcionamiento y hacer avanzar la reforma de la OMC

El Consejo del Comercio de Mercancías hace balance de los progresos para mejorar su funcionamiento y hacer avanzar la reforma de la OMC.

The Council

01 de mayo de 2024.- The Council for Trade in Goods (CTG) agreed in October 2023 to periodically hold informal sessions where experts from the WTO Secretariat would present the digital tools available and members would be given an opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions on possible improvements. These informal sessions should take place annually and be organized back-to-back with the first formal CTG meeting of the year.

The first informal session on digital tools took place in a dedicated session, before the Council’s formal meeting, and was divided into three parts. The first one was dedicated to the WTO’s digital tools of a horizontal nature, and included presentations on the WTO webpage dedicated to the Council, the calendar of meetings on the website, Documents Online (including e-subscriptions and a new e-training module), the newly launched e-Delegate system, and information on new projects by the Secretariat.

Part two focused on Committee‑specific digital tools that are used in the CTG’s 14 subsidiary bodies, covering the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) Database, the Trade Remedies Data Portal, and the Committee on Market Access Quantitative Restrictions (QR) Database. Part three continued with Committee‑specific digital tools and covered the eAgenda, the Import Licensing Notifications Portal, and the Trade Concerns Database.

The outgoing Council Chairperson, Ambassador Adamu Mohammed Abdulhamid of Nigeria, noted the value of these sessions in providing members with a better overview of WTO digital tools and a better understanding of how these tools can assist members’ delegations, especially to prepare for committee meetings and follow up on them.

At the formal meeting, the Secretariat presented a report summarizing the numerous actions taken over the past months in response to the discussions and agreements of the Council to improve its functioning, including:

  • eAgenda: Adjustments aligning with member feedback, along with finalizing guidelines for usage;
  • Trade Concerns Database: Three decades of trade concerns reflected in the CTG minutes are now available in a database for member review;
  • Annotated agenda: The Secretariat has prepared an annotated agenda for the past two meetings, with future versions to include direct links to the newly updated trade concerns database;
  • Airgram: Format and content changes to the convening notice to aid member preparations, which were also adopted horizontally by all other WTO bodies;
  • CTG information hub: The hub (CTG gateway) has been improved for better meeting and document access;
  • Training for delegates: The first Information Session for delegates was held on 18 April, with resources and recordings accessible via the CTG gateway;
  • Annual digital tools session: The first session saw high participation, with recordings and presentations to be made available soon;
  • Chair’s follow-up notes: A document with highlights of formal meetings’ outcomes was issued by the Chairperson after the November 2023 CTG formal meeting, with the respective document to be issued for the current meeting, including relevant dates for the subsequent meetings; and
  • eDelegates Platform: Launched to manage user options and authorizations for digital tools, with other functions to be added progressively.

 

The Secretariat emphasized that none of these changes would have been possible without the input and feedback from delegates, as well as the assistance of a large number of Secretariat staff. Delegations commended the hard work done to improve the functioning of the CTG and its subsidiary bodies and noted this process is an example of how members can deliver when they work together. The Chairperson also underlined the CTG’s remarkable achievement, which has been an example for other WTO councils and committees. Many had considered reform impossible, but with the commitment and spirit shown by members, the CTG has delivered some remarkable results, he said.

Trade concerns

The Council reviewed 37 specific trade concerns (STCs), all of which had been previously raised. These concerns covered a wide range of measures, including non-tariff barriers, environmental policies, import/export restrictions, national security, halal certification, subsidy schemes and investigations, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, discriminatory domestic taxes, administrative procedures, and trade disruptive and restrictive measures.

They also encompassed a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, information technology, and forestry and food products, as well as specific products such as electric vehicles, electric batteries, liquors, air conditioners, apples and pears, cheese, pulses, cosmetics and tyres.

The Chair reminded delegations that the annex to the Annotated Agenda of the meeting contained links and cross‑references to discussions in other bodies, most of which were provided by the members requesting the inclusion of the agenda items and complemented by the Secretariat. Where available, direct links to the trade concerns database were also provided.

The full agenda of the meeting is available here.

Other issues

The Group of least-developed countries (LDC Group) reiterated its request to allow graduated LDCs to benefit from flexibilities in the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM). They explained that export subsidies are a policy tool, and that they are not seeking an amendment of the SCM Agreement but to address the uncertainty about this extension of flexibilities to graduating LDCs with a gross national product (GNP) under USD 1,000. The LDC Group encouraged other members to engage in a pragmatic manner.

Some delegations welcomed the MC13 Ministerial Decision on a smooth transition for graduating LDCs, while others noted that this request would need to be looked at taking into account specific flexibilities and the justification for them, not as a blanket measure. Developed country delegations looked forward to fully incorporating LDCs into the global trading system and welcomed discussions on this item at the SCM Committee, a technical body and more appropriate forum to discuss these details.

Regarding the election of chairpersons for the CTG’s 14 subsidiary bodies, the outgoing CTG Chair reported on the process and informed members that consultations would continue with a view to finding consensus. Once this is reached, the new Chair will reconvene the meeting to address this agenda item only.

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