- Aid for Trade stocktaking event to examine impact of COVID-19 on developing countries
- Trade key to mitigating impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Africa
- Electronics and automotive products lift global merchandise trade in Q3, services lag behind
- WTO members conclude cluster of fisheries subsidies meetings
- UK and Switzerland confirm participation in revised government procurement pact
An online information session was held by the WTO on 2 December to prepare for an Aid for Trade “stocktaking event” to be held online on 23 — 25 March 2021. Organized by the Committee on Trade and Development, the online event is set to examine the trade and development challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken in response to the crisis.
The information session highlighted how the crisis has had a significant impact in areas such as economic diversification and resilience, e-commerce, the empowerment of women and young people, the integration of micro small and medium-sized enterprises into the global economy, trade facilitation and trade in services.
Aid for Trade is a multi-stakeholder initiative seeking to mobilize resources to address the trade-related needs and supply-side constraints identified by developing countries and least-developed countries.
Trade will play a key role in helping Africa to improve living standards and mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Director-General Yonov Frederick Agah said on 3 December. In remarks delivered to the annual meeting of the Africa Economic Zones Organization, DDG Agah said successful implementation of the new African Continental Free Trade Area would also play a role in overcoming the crisis and setting Africa on a common path for renewed growth.
Comments of the Deputy Director General Yonov Frederick Agah:
The WTO welcomes all initiatives to enhance regional integration in Africa; and would continue to make contributions to facilitate smoother trade flows across its members. The WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement provides a template to benefit trade through reduced administrative burdens, costs, and delays related to border procedures.
This pandemic has highlighted the critical need for governments to work, not only with each other but with all stakeholders, in particular the business sector and wider civil society. In the coming months and years ahead, trade policy decisions, as well as other economic policy choices, will determine to a large extent the pace of economic growth and recovery.
The third quarter of 2020 saw a partial recovery of world trade in manufactured goods, led by electronics, textiles and automotive products, as production resumed and lockdown measures were eased in major economies, new WTO statistics show. However, despite substantial improvement in recent months, merchandise trade is still well below 2019 levels, and preliminary estimates suggest services trade remains severely depressed.
Total merchandise trade — which includes fuel and agricultural products as well as manufactured products — in the period from January to September was down 11% year-on-year. Trade in manufactured goods, for which prices are less volatile than commodities, contracted by 10% on average in the first nine months of 2020. The value of trade in fuels and mining products saw sharp declines in the third quarter due to falling prices, while trade in agricultural products remained resilient due to sustained demand for food during the pandemic.
By contrast, services trade remained depressed, down 17% year-on-year in September after registering declines of 23% in July and 22% in August compared to the same months in the previous year. These estimates are based on preliminary statistics of 39 economies representing more than two-thirds of global services trade.
On 2 December 2020, at the conclusion of two days of meetings at the level of heads of delegation, the chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, said he will continue consultations with WTO members on the next steps in the negotiations.
During the meetings, delegations responded to questions posed by the chair about determinations of illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing; sustainability considerations in the prohibition of subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing; and special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries.
Prior to this meeting, members have been involved in “intersessional” discussions to discuss many of the key parts of the revised text of fisheries subsidies, including dispute settlement; subsidy disciplines in the areas of IUU fishing, overfished stocks, and overfishing and overcapacity; and special and differential treatment.
The chair said he will continue consultations in the coming days, ahead of the meeting of the General Council on 16-17 December 2020, on how members would like to move negotiations forward.
Switzerland and the United Kingdom have completed the final step of the accession process to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). As of 1 January 2021, the revised GPA will be in force for Switzerland and the UK. Switzerland submitted the so-called “instrument of acceptance” to the WTO on 2 December. This means that, as of 1 January 2021, the revised GPA will be in force for all GPA parties.
The same day, the UK submitted the so-called “instrument of accession” to the WTO. This means that the UK will take part in the GPA in its own right from 1 January 2021. The UK continues to be covered by the agreement during the European Union-UK transition period, which ends on 31 December 2020. It is treated as a member state of the European Union during the transition period.
Deputy Director-General, Yi Xiaozhun, who received the UK’s instrument of accession and Switzerland’s instrument of acceptance, said: “Today’s submissions by the United Kingdom and Switzerland very clearly demonstrate both countries’ strong commitment to an open and rules-based trading system for their government procurement. Their participation in the revised Government Procurement Agreement will allow companies in GPA parties to access Switzerland’s and the United Kingdom’s procurement markets covered by the GPA based on the principles of transparency, good governance, non-discrimination and fair competition.”
Switzerland’s Ambassador to the WTO, Didier Chambovey noted the importance of Switzerland’s accession to the GPA, as the country attaches great importance to a strong rules-based trading system, including through plurilateral agreements such as the GPA.” In turn, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the WTO, Julian Braithwaite noted that the UK joined the GPA in order to ensure UK businesses will have continued access to a GBP 1.3 trillion global market in public procurement. This means that the UK has delivered on its longstanding objective of maintaining full certainty, both for businesses in the UK and overseas. Julian Braithwaite thanked all 20 parties for their cooperation throughout the process.
We remind you that the GPA is a plurilateral agreement — open to all WTO members but binding only for the parties to the Agreement. Each country’s terms of participation are negotiated with the other GPA parties and set out in its respective market access schedule. These schedules contain several annexes defining the party’s commitments with respect to:
- the procuring entities whose procurement processes will be open to foreign bidders
- the goods, services and construction services open to foreign competition
- the threshold values above which procurement activities will be open to foreign competition
- exceptions to the coverage.
Currently, 48 WTO members are bound by the Agreement. The GPA aims to open up, in a reciprocal manner and to the extent agreed between WTO members, government procurement markets to foreign competition, and make government procurement more transparent. It provides legal guarantees of non-discrimination for the suppliers of GPA parties in covered procurement activities.