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WTO NEWS: 2001 NEWS ITEMS

General Council special session on implementation
Friday, 20 July 2001
Report by the Chairman of the General Council and the Director-General on their consultations on outstanding implementation-related issues and concerns

Chairman's statement, Mr. Stuart Harbinson (Hong Kong, China)

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Delegations will recall that at our meeting on 27 April, I reported on the consultations that I had been holding on the various subject areas. My assessment was that notwithstanding the considerable time and effort dedicated to the implementation review mechanism by everyone, there was still a considerable gap between the positions of delegations.

I stressed the need for the injection of fresh thinking into the process, so as to be able to fulfil the mandate conferred by the General Council in its 3 May 2000 Decision. I underlined the importance of flexibility and realism, and said that clinging to well-known positions would not help advance this vitally important work. I invited delegations which had ideas on how to move the process forward to share them with us.

Since our last meeting, Uruguay and six other Members (Argentina, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and Thailand) have taken up the challenge and produced a paper, which has been circulated to all delegations, with a view to contributing to the effort to find positive solutions. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to these seven countries for their initiative, hard work and spirit of compromise which, no doubt, called for considerable effort in terms of their own national positions.

As delegations are aware, the G-7 paper is divided into four parts, namely (i) issues on which early agreement could be reached; (ii) issues that have been solved, clarified, or appear relatively less urgent; (iii) issues referred to subsidiary bodies to be taken up again possibly in September; and (iv) other pending issues capable of being resolved after Doha. The reactions to the G-7 paper were generally positive, as many delegations expressed the view that it could help narrow the differences in the positions of delegations on several of the proposals.

Following the initial discussion of the G-7 paper by delegations, I announced that we were going to use it a basis for my further consultations on the subject while bearing in mind the General Council's mandate of 3 May 2000 and the views expressed by Members at the General Council meeting of 21 June. Subsequent to that, the Director-General and I held a number of consultations last week to discuss Section I of the G-7 paper which, as mentioned earlier, contains proposals on which, in the view of the G-7 countries, it was possible to reach "early agreement". It is important to point out that by "early agreement", I understand that the G-7 countries meant anytime between now and the Fourth Ministerial Conference.

Following these consultations, and taking into account the need for us to move as rapidly as possible to fulfil the mandate of the General Council in its 3 May 2000 Decision, the Director-General and I circulated a paper on Friday, 13 July building on the work done by the G-7 countries and identifying some elements on which we saw the possibility of early agreement. I should like to reiterate, as we have stated in the preface to this paper, that it is not to be considered as an agreed or definitive text. It is equally not an exhaustive list of possible elements. Most notably, it does not include proposals on the tirets relating to anti-dumping, textiles and clothing, and TRIMs, as consultations are continuing on these tirets. Let me also underline that further consultations will be convened to discuss the remaining elements in Section I, as well as Sections II, III and IV of the G-7 paper with a view to determining which additional issues could be added to the list that we have put forward. We have already begun these consultations. I should like to underline that we see this as a continuing effort, bearing in mind the framework of the G-7 paper and the General Council's decision of 3 May 2000.

I should like to stress that we are working on the basis of the G-7 paper, and that we are not in any way excluding early decisions at any time on any points contained in that paper, if Members are able to agree on them. Indeed, this point was emphasized at our informal meeting yesterday by the delegation of Norway.

That being said, I would suggest that delegations also focus today on the elements we have suggested which entail that issues be referred to subsidiary bodies for their consideration and for them to report back to the General Council before the Fourth Ministerial Conference, so that the General Council may be able to take action on the basis of the technical advice from these bodies. I am suggesting this for purely practical reasons: we must allow subsidiary bodies adequate time to carry out their work and report back to us. Let me underline here that I am very aware of the concerns on the part of a number of delegations regarding such referrals. I want to make it absolutely clear that referral of issues to subsidiary bodies does not in any way mean we are neglecting the issues or setting them aside. Any issues so referred to subsidiary bodies at this stage will remain under the General Council process and we will come back to them. This also does not in anyway preclude the General Council from taking any action it deems appropriate on these or any other issues.

Also, in possibly forwarding these issues to the subsidiary bodies, I will make two things clear: one, that in addition to any specific mandates that have been provided, they should all aim, in addressing and reporting on these issues to the General Council, to assist the General Council to identify ways needed to resolve them and take decisions for appropriate action in accordance with the 3 May Decision; and two, that these reports should be submitted to the General Council by 30 September.

Furthermore, to help address the concerns of Members, I also intend to request the Chairpersons of subsidiary bodies to which issues have already been referred, to report back to the General Council by the end of September, in sufficient time for these reports to be considered by our next Special Session. In this regard, and for your information, I have requested the Secretariat to prepare a paper indicating the current status of all issues which have been referred to subsidiary bodies. This has been circulated as Job(01)/115. This is in line with what the Director-General and I had foreshadowed in the preface to our paper of 13 July, regarding information on progress being made on issues already referred to subsidiary bodies.

Let me recall, for your information, the issues that the Director-General and I are proposing, with your agreement, for submission to the relevant subsidiary bodies for their consideration and reporting to the General Council by 30 September. These are the following:

Tiret 4

The consideration by the Market Access Committee of the proposal that a Member should be considered as having a substantial interest in a product when that product constitutes a significant share of its exports.

Tiret 12

The proposal requiring the SPS Committee to come up with concrete guidance in relation to the negotiation and conclusion of equivalency agreements.

Tiret 56

The proposal directing the Customs Valuation Committee to address Members' concerns relating to fraud in customs matters.

Tiret 65 

instructing the Subsidies Committee to examine all the relevant conditions for determining when export credits provided by developing-country members do not constitute export subsidies.

Tiret 68

requesting the Subsidies Committee to consider the implementation of Article 27 of the SCM Agreement, taking into account the percentage share of exports of individual developing-country Members' products in import markets and in global trade.

Tiret 80

requesting the SCM Committee to review the provisions of the SCM Agreement regarding countervailing duty investigations.

Tiret 83

instructing the SCM Committee to examine the threshold in Annex VII to the SCM Agreement and to consider the issues raised by developing-country Members in that regard.

Tiret 96

instructing the Committee on Trade and Development to review all S & D provisions in the WTO Agreements with a view to determining how they could be operationalised and further enhanced.

We have reached a critical time in the preparatory process for Doha and it is imperative for all delegations to engage constructively and show flexibility. My consultations have made it clear to me that all delegations attach the highest priority to the implementation issue and would like to see it resolved within the shortest possible time. Having said that, I would reiterate the need for realism, given the difficulties which some of the proposals present. An honest dialogue is needed to move the process forward to the satisfaction of all delegations.