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Digest Content

  • Chair urges members to focus on priorities, outcomes for MC12
  • EU challenges Russian import substitution measures in new WTO dispute complaint
  • Costa Rica initiates WTO dispute case against Dominican Republic over steel bar duties
  • WTO issues 2021 edition of flagship statistical publication
  • WTO booklet highlights members’ activities in 2020 on food safety, animal and plant health

Chair urges members to focus on priorities, outcomes for MC12[1]

The chair of the General Council, Ambassador Dacio Castillo (Honduras), urged WTO members to focus on key priority issues and preparing possible outcomes for the organization’s upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference. Speaking at a 27-28 July meeting of the General Council, Ambassador Castillo said he intended to resume work in all areas in early September and start a process of consultations on a possible Ministerial Declaration without delay.

Four months remain until the start of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which will take place in Geneva from 30 November to 3 December. Members are currently engaged on a wide range of issues where they are hoping to achieve outcomes in the run-up to, or at, MC12, including a global agreement on addressing harmful fisheries subsidies, ensuring rapid and equitable access for products critical in combatting COVID-19, securing progress on agricultural reform, and others.

Much of the General Council meeting focused on the WTO’s response to the pandemic.  Members considered a joint proposal from 25 WTO members for a General Council declaration proposing a series of trade policy responses to the pandemic, separate initiatives from the European Union and Chinese Taipei on trade and COVID-19 and WTO members calling for a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19.

EU challenges Russian import substitution measures in new WTO dispute complaint[2]

The European Union has requested WTO dispute consultations with the Russian Federation regarding Russian measures which the EU alleges form part of an import substitution programme. The request was circulated to WTO members on 26 July.

The EU claims the measures relating to the activities of certain state-related entities, and laws and regulations regulating these activities, are inconsistent with various provisions under the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994, the General Agreement on Trade in Services, and Russia’s Protocol of Accession to the WTO.

In particular the Russian Federation has adopted several measures which form part of a broader import substitution programme aiming to replace, through a mix of restrictions and incentives, imported goods or services provided by foreign entities with domestic goods or services provided by Russian entities with respect to the procurement of goods and services for non-governmental purposes by certain State-related entities that are not governmental agencies, including State-owned enterprises, State-trading enterprises and legal entities implementing investment projects with State support.

The basic Russian legal acts governing import substitution with respect to procurement include Federal Law of 18 July 2011 No. 223-FZ on procurement of goods, works and services by certain types of legal entities (Law 223)1 which regulates the procurement of certain entities, including State-owned enterprises and State-trading enterprises and Federal Law No 488-FZ of 31 December 2014 on industrial policy (Law 488)2 which sets out the Russian Federation’s import substitution policy for industrial products and covered by Law 223.3

The respective laws, decrees etc. have been applied, or may be applied, by the relevant State related entities and/or by relevant Russian authorities.

The EU challenges the following respective measures:

  1. Price preference applied to procurements by State-related entities favouring Russian origin products and services from Russian entities;
  2. Requirement to obtain prior authorisation for the purchase of certain engineering products;
  3. Minimum quotas for domestic products in procurement procedures of certain State related entities favouring Russian origin products.

Costa Rica initiates WTO dispute case against Dominican Republic over steel bar duties[3]

Costa Rica has requested WTO dispute consultations with the Dominican Republic regarding anti-dumping duties imposed by the Dominican Republic on imported corrugated steel bars from Costa Rica. The request was circulated to WTO members on 27 July.

Costa Rica claims that the challenged measures are inconsistent with a number of provisions of the WTO’s Anti-dumping Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (further information is available in document WT/DS605/1/[4]).

Meanwhile, note, the request for consultations formally initiates a dispute in the WTO. Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. After 60 days, if consultations have failed to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.

WTO issues 2021 edition of flagship statistical publication[5]

The WTO issued the latest edition of its annual publication on international trade statistics, the “World Trade Statistical Review”.

In an introduction to the publication, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences across the world. Millions of people have lost their lives, and large sections of the world’s population, particularly in developing and least developed countries, remain unvaccinated.  The worst economic downturn since the 1930s has disrupted livelihoods and businesses around the world. Extreme poverty and hunger are on the rise, and employment is well below the pre-crisis trend.”

“This publication presents recent trends in world trade and seeks to provide statistical insights on the trade impact of COVID-19.”

The report highlights that the value of world merchandise exports declined by 8 per cent while services trade contracted by 21 per cent in 2020, with the most severe impacts of the pandemic being felt in the second quarter of the year. Trade began to recover as of mid-2020, but with major differences across regions and sectors. The recovery of merchandise trade was mostly due to trade in manufactured goods while services trade continues to be weighed down by continued COVID-19-related travel restrictions.

“A full recovery for international travel, and for global trade in general, depends on rapid, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world,” stresses DG Okonjo-Iweala.

The report’s analytical chapters are complemented by numerous statistical tables providing a detailed breakdown of various aspects of merchandise trade and trade in commercial services.

The merchandise trade data in the report were compiled in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) while commercial services data were jointly produced with UNCTAD and in cooperation with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the United Nations Statistics Division.

The publication can be downloaded here:  https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/wts2021_e/wts21_toc_e.htm.

WTO booklet highlights members’ activities in 2020 on food safety, animal and plant health[6]

A new booklet launched on 27 July highlights strong engagement from WTO members at all levels of development in transparency and prevention of trade disputes. The information contained in the booklet is based on the 2020 review of members’ implementation of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement).

The SPS Agreement aims to ensure that WTO members’ health protection measures in the areas of food safety, animal and plant health do not restrict international trade more than necessary. The WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures oversees the implementation of the SPS Agreement and is the forum where members discuss specific trade concerns.

The publication focuses on members’ compliance with notification requirements under the SPS Agreement and the trade concerns raised in the SPS Committee.

The publication can be downloaded at the following link: https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/publications_e/sps10key2020_e.htm

[1] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/gc_28jul21_e.htm

[2] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/ds604rfc_26jul21_e.htm

[3] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/ds605rfc_27jul21_e.htm


[5] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/publ_30jul21_e.htm

[6] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/sps_27jul21_e.htm

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