WTO Meetings (24 January-14 February 2012)
The PIF-Geneva Office attended the following meetings: -
NEGOTIATING GROUP ON MARKET ACCESS (NAMA)
The meeting discussed ways forward for NAMA negotiations during 2012. Members agreed with the Chair’s proposal that there be three phases for the format of the negotiations (i) informal consultations between members themselves in the various settings horizontally and across all areas (ii) options emerging from those consultations to be presented to the Chair and (iii) the Chair will use that as a formal platform for members to negotiate on the various NAMA issues.
Further information is available on link: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news12_e/gc_rpt_14feb12_e.htm
NEGOTIATING GROUP ON TRADE FACILITATION (NGTF)
The purpose of this meeting was to obtain WTO members’ views on the 2012 Trade Facilitation Work Programme. The Work Programme is divided into two segments (i) Negotiations in formal mode vis-à-vis Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation and (ii) a complementary facilitator-led programme in an informal setting on fragmented topics.
Further information is available on link: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news12_e/gc_rpt_14feb12_e.htm
GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING
This was the first meeting of the Council after the Eighth Ministerial Conference (MC8) in December 2011. The meeting discussed, inter alia, (i) A Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiation Committee (ii) Work Programme on Small Economies (iii) Improving Guidelines for Granting Observer Status to Intergovernmental Organization in the WTO-Communication (from Arab Group) and (iv) Waivers under Article IX of the WTO Agreement. The meeting also welcomed H.E. Ms Elin Johansen of Norway who was appointed as Chair of the General Council for 2012, replacing Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah from Nigeria.
Further information is available on link: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news12_e/sum_gc_feb12_e.htm
SMALL GROUP MEETINGS
The PIF-Geneva Office also attended Group Meetings involving the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Group, the Small Vulnerable Economies (SVE) Group and the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) Group. A circular on pertinent issues arising from these meetings has been disseminated to PIC WTO members.
For further information on any of the above meetings please contact:
WTO Welcomes Vanuatu as a New Member
The World Trade Organisation’s General Council has paved the way for Vanuatu’s membership in the WTO by approving its accession package. Vanuatu will have to ratify the deal by 31 December 2011 and will become WTO’s 154th member 30 days after the ratification.
“With Vanuatu the WTO receives a least-developed country into the family. Its membership will strengthen the multilateral trading system and provide this country with a stable and predictable trade environment. Vanuatu’s accession brings the WTO one step closer to our goal of universal membership” declared WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.
Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Ham Lini Vanuaroroa, declared: “This is a happy moment of historical significance for Vanuatu. This accession will bring substantial gains to our country.”
WTO members congratulated Vanuatu for completing its accession process.
Vanuatu applied for WTO membership in 1995 and the Working Party concluded the negotiations on 2 May 2011.
Vanuatu’s accession package contains the Working Party report outlining its reformed trade regime and its commitments as a WTO member, the market access schedules on goods and services, the General Council Decision and the Protocol of Accession.
Working Party Adopts Samoa’s WTO Membership Package
The Working Party on Samoa’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) adopted the accession package which contains the reforms to Samoa’s trade regime, the market access schedules on goods and services, the draft General Council Decision and the draft Protocol of Accession. Samoa applied for WTO membership on 15 April 1998.
Members congratulated Samoa on its commendable efforts in conducting all the necessary reforms to become a member of the WTO. Members added that Samoa’s WTO membership will contribute to its economic development.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said: “Samoa’s accession to the WTO is a sign of confidence in the organization and the global trading system. WTO membership will enable Samoa to participate more fully in the global economy and will provide the country with a predictable and stable basis for growth and development. Samoa’s accession brings good news to the WTO family as we gather for the 8th Ministerial Conference.”
Samoa’s Chief Executive Officer from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Auelua Samuelu Enari, said that today’s Working Party decision marked a substantial milestone achievement for Samoa’s WTO accession process, paving the way for Samoa’s integration into the multilateral trading system and reinforcing its participation in the global trade economy. He added that WTO accession was a worthwhile investment in the long run for Samoa’s economic development.
Information about Samoa’s commitments
Samoa’s Accession Package takes account of the 2002 Guidelines on LDC Accessions, in particular, through appropriate transitional periods for domestic adjustments on a range of commitments.
As a result of the negotiations, Samoa has agreed to undertake a series of important commitments to further liberalise its trade regime and accelerate its integration in the world economy, while offering a transparent and predictable environment for trade and foreign investment.
Samoa committed that from the date of accession, it will fully apply all WTO provisions and did not require recourse to any transitional period except on intellectual property rights, transparency, customs valuation, the import ban on left-hand drive vehicles, vehicles older than 12 years and turkey tails and turkey tail products, as well as tax treatment of imported and domestic primary products.
Further details on Samoa’s commitments can be found on the WTO website: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news11_e/acc_wsm_28oct11_e.htm
Geneva Office Welcomes Radika Kumar
The Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum to the WTO in Geneva (PIF-Geneva), last month (September 2011) welcomed Miss Radika Kumar of the Ministry of Industry & Trade of the Republic of the Fiji Islands. Ms Kumar joins the PIF-Geneva Office to undertake a 6-month internship program funded through the WTO’s Regional Coordinator Internship Programme.
Miss Kumar is completing her final year of a Masters Degree in Commerce (Economics) degree from the University of the South Pacific. She is an Economic Planning Officer in the External Trade Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. She has been directly involved in regional trade negotiations and trade policy matters for Fiji. Miss Kumar recently co-authored an academic paper which will be published in a Tourism Journal in 2012: “Kumar, R.R. and Kumar R. (2012) “Exploring the nexus between Information and Communications Technology, Tourism and Growth in Fiji”, Tourism Economics, 18 (2).
During the period of her internship, Miss Kumar will be focusing on trade topics relevant to the Pacific region at the multilateral level. She will be working on Fiji-specific issues within the WTO and supporting the PIF-Geneva Office with related tasks.
The WTO’s Regional Coordinator Internship Programme is designed to enable an officer from a WTO member country to be based in the Mission of a rotating coordinator of each of nine designated groups, for a period of six-months. These groups are the ACP — both the Geneva secretariat and the office of the rotating country coordinator; the WTO African Group; the CARICOM; the GRULAC; the SAARC; the WTO LDCs’ Consultative Group; the Informal Group of Developing Countries; the Arab Group; and the Pacific Islands Forum.
The PIF-Geneva Office has in the past, hosted several trade officials from FICWTO Member and Observe States, the last being from Papua New Guinea in 2008.
In welcoming Miss Kumar to the PIF-Geneva Office, the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Tauvasa said ‘This opportunity is one that young FIC officers like Miss Kumar, can learn and benefit from ‘. She added, ‘… the placement of an officer in a place like Geneva also allows interns to attend related trade and investment meetings in other international fora of the United Nations and the ACP in Geneva’.
Miss Kumar said, ‘I am certainly looking forward to the opportunity and challenge of working directly with the WTO and the PIF-Geneva Office and I know the experience will benefit me personally and my contribution to my Department and Fiji ‘
For further information on how to participate in the WTO’s Regional Coordinator Internship Programme, please contact the PIF-Geneva Office through email@example.com.
THIRD GLOBAL REVIEW ON AID FOR TRADE
The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Third Global Review on Aid for Trade (AfT) took place at the WTO Headquarters in Geneva on 18-19 July 2011. Summaries and audio of the individual sessions of the Global Review are available on the WTO website.
The central theme of the Review was ‘Showing the Results of AfT’. A key message running through the event was that financial commitments to AfT initiatives have substantially increased over recent years (by 60% between 2005-09). Consequently, more focus is needed on monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the increased funding is being effectively used.
Going forward, Director General Lamy said that priorities should be to:
- boost engagement with the private sector on AfT access and implementation;
- step up efforts to mainstream AfT into national development strategies;
- advance the aid effectiveness agenda;
- continue to press for resourcing from development partners;
- leverage other sources of finance beyond traditional concessional funding;
- take south-south cooperation on AfT to the next level; and
- advance regional economic integration.
The Pacific Session was a panel discussion moderated by Commonwealth Secretariat Deputy Secretary General Ransford Smith and featuring a statement on behalf of PICs by Minister ‘Akolo of Tonga. Panellists discussed how factors such as isolation, remoteness and fragmentation increase the cost of trading for Pacific economies. Immediate priorities for AfT identified at the event included improving transport and communication infrastructure, building productive capacity, and the creation of an enabling environment for business. More broadly, it was agreed that a paradigm shift is needed for approaching AfT interventions in small island developing states. It is expected that a renewed and refreshed Pacific AfT strategy will contribute to this goal.
Panellists also called for the international development community to take greater note of the AfT needs of the Pacific region. Ambassador Joy of Vanuatu, for example, was appreciative of the WTO’s special session on the Pacific but said that it was a shame that Pacific issues were very peripheral in the main sessions of the Review.