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World Trade Organization Members Discuss Two Regional Trade Agreements

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Open Eyes Opinion {source: WTO]

Regional Trade Agreements

WTO members discuss two regional trade agreements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Members meeting as the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements (CRTA) discussed two trade agreements on 16 November 2015 and also heard a detailed update on pending work to further address the backlog in the Committee’s output.

Members concluded their consideration of the Free Trade Agreement between Mexico and Central America — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (goods and services). Consideration of such agreements is based on a factual presentation prepared by the WTO Secretariat as well as written questions and responses exchanged among WTO members in advance of the meeting.

Mexico said the agreement reduced transaction costs by establishing greater uniformity among 94% of rules in the parties’ preceding trade pacts. Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of Central America, said the agreement is a key tool for consolidating economic integration in their region and that it is based on the fundamental principles of the multilateral trading system.

The United States commended the parties for liberalizing a substantial share of their trade in goods and services and urged them to work on pending notifications to the Committee of their other agreements in force but not notified to the WTO.

Members were also invited to comment on the implementation report on the Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and Azerbaijan, which had entered into force in September 1996. This is in line with members’ obligation to notify the WTO of any changes affecting the implementation of a regional trade agreement (RTA). The report noted changes in the rules of origin as well as export restrictions for wheat and maize, among other things.

It also showed the growth in trade between the two parties. Azerbaijan’s imports from Ukraine are said to have grown to $419.6 million in 2014 from just $94.4 in 1996, the year the deal entered into force. Ukraine, meanwhile, reportedly imported $43.7 million worth of goods from Azerbaijan in 2014 compared to $30.8 million in 1996.

The European Union raised a few questions on export restrictions, which it said it will submit in writing. It also urged the two parties to submit the necessary data for the Secretariat to prepare a factual presentation on the agreement.

Besides discussing these two agreements, the Committee also took note of a status report which detailed the pending submissions the Secretariat needed to advance factual presentations for several RTAs. The Chair identified three main issues that led to delays in fulfilling the Committee’s mandate.

First is several members’ non-notification of RTAs, of which there are 75. Second is the delayed submissions of data necessary for drafting the factual presentations and third, the delayed submission of comments on such drafts. The Secretariat listed such pending submissions in an unofficial document and urged members to “make every effort to comply with the deadlines.”

The Chair also reported that implementation reports had been due for 123 RTAs as of 7 January 2015 and yet only one implementation report has been received this year.

The Chair said certain delegations had expressed their willingness to provide missing information as soon as possible. The Secretariat also reported having received the awaited data and comments for several RTAs and that it expects to issue a number of factual presentations shortly.

Some members at the meeting also said they would send data or comments shortly. Furthermore, there were suggestions on how to address the backlog, which the Chair recommended be taken up in additional consultations.

The Secretariat also reported on its technical cooperation activities in 2015 and indicated that 13 technical cooperation activities on RTAs were planned for 2016.

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[photo credits: By E. Murray (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

 

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