Ministers Support Launch of New WTO Round
Dr Lockwood Smith
New Zealand Minister for International Trade
Chair, APEC Ministerial Meeting
Ministers Support Launch of New WTO Round
APEC Trade Ministers today took another significant step towards the launch of a new Round of multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation.
The Ministers attending the APEC Ministerial Meeting agreed to support the launch of a new WTO Round. They also encouraged the acceleration of accession negotiations for APEC¡¦s non-WTO members, and agreed that these economies should be able to participate in some capacity in the forthcoming WTO Round.
APEC Ministerial Meeting Chair Dr Lockwood Smith said the outcome was a positive reaffirmation of APEC¡¦s resolve, unity and vision for the multilateral trading system.
"I am pleased that such a broad ranging outcome has been achieved. Ministers have had extensive discussions on many aspects of the contribution that APEC can make to the launch of the WTO Round in Seattle this year.
"We have identified ways in which the WTO can achieve results at Seattle and can build on these progressively in the course of a short focused three year round. Key short term outcomes for Seattle are the commitments on accelerated tariff liberalisation, extending the moratorium on electronic commerce, and efforts to reach an agreement on transparency in government procurement.
Ministers have indicated their support for advancing the WTO agenda on the basis of results being implemented as a single package. They have also agreed that this does not preclude early results on accelerated tariff liberalisation where the aim is to conclude early liberalisation linked to single package by the end of 2000. Sectors include fish and forests, which are of key interest to New Zealand.
Other significant outcomes include the recommendation to leaders for the abolition of export subsidies.
"The APEC Ministers¡¦ commitment on services and industrial tariffs foreshadows a very positive approach to the market access elements of the new Round. We hope this will be reciprocated by others.
"APEC¡¦s blend of developed and developing, large and small economies lends particular credence to its words on the needs of developing economies in the WTO," Dr Smith said.
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Attachment: Why the Ministerial Agreement on WTO Issues is Important
Why the Ministerial Agreement on WTO Issues is Important
„h Ministers have agreed to support the launch of a new WTO Round. This marks a significant forward movement by a number of economies who in June were unable to commit to anything more than new negotiations.
„h They have encouraged an acceleration of accession negotiations for APEC¡¦s non-WTO members and have agreed that they should be able to participate in the forthcoming WTO Round. The acceleration question is particularly important for the China and Chinese Taipei accessions that are very close to conclusion.
„h They have agreed that the negotiations should be based around the concept of a single package under which the agenda is decided at Seattle and those issues agreed for inclusion are then negotiated with outcomes being finalised, bound and fully implemented together. This was resisted by several economies until this meeting. The outcome ensures that no economy can pocket an early result and then walk away from difficult issues. It does not however preclude an early result from the negotiations so long as this is related to the single package.
„h Ministers have agreed to negotiations on industrial tariffs being comprehensive. This means that all tariffs on non-agricultural products will be subject to negotiation without exception. Again several economies had not agreed with this position before. This outcome increases the potential value of the result of the industrial tariff negotiation and therefore increases the potential ambition of a result on agricultural tariffs. This also answers one of the final questions from the EU about the APEC position in this area. The EU has been requesting that APEC move to such a position.
„h APEC Ministers will support the extension of the current moratorium on duties on electronic commerce transactions. Given the growing importance of such transactions for New Zealand and the global economy this is a very important decision as it will allow this area of activity to continue its phenomenal growth without interference from Government duties. This will help business and consumers also.
„h They also supported efforts to reach an agreement on transparency in Government procurement. Many WTO members have non-transparent regimes that make it difficult to access a huge market. On average economies spend 15% of GDP on Government Procurement worth globally US$3.1 trillion each year.
„h The outcome on agricultural tariffs, NTMs and export subsidies was announced yesterday. On tariffs and non-tariff measures Ministers will be recommending to leaders that APEC would actively and constructively participate in the forthcoming agricultural negotiations in accordance with Article 20 of the WTO Agriculture Agreement. This sets an objective of substantial progressive reduction in support and protection. Tariffs on agricultural products remain high and have a very restrictive impact on trade. Non-tariff measures such as quotas are also a major difficulty for agricultural exporters.
„h On export subsidies they will be recommending that APEC convey to the WTO Membership APEC¡¦s support for the abolition of agricultural export subsidies and unjustifiable export prohibitions and restrictions. With all of APEC calling for the abolition of export subsidies it sends a powerful message to the EU which is the only significant entity advocating the continuing use of such measures. Export subsidies give subsidised product an unfair market share, distort production opportunities including for developing economy farmers and depress global prices. Global export subsidies in 1998 were US$6.4 billion ($2.2 billion was on dairy products).
„h On services APEC is now supporting a comprehensive negotiation for the first time. We have also highlighted four areas - transportation, tourism, environmental and energy services where APEC¡¦s work leaves members well placed to play a particularly influential role in the forthcoming negotiations.
„h The agreement on ATL is particularly significant for the fish and forest product sectors - of key interest to the New Zealand economy. With the other six sectors - chemicals, energy, environmental goods, gems and jewellery, medical equipment and toys - the ATL package in total constitutes 44% of industrial product tariff lines. APEC is now seeking liberalisation and implementation commencing before the end of 2000 ie as an early harvest within the new Round. APEC has recommitted to a 1999 target for reaching an initial WTO agreement to deliver this result.
„h The endorsement of the concept of provisional binding is particularly significant as it will allow an early result to be achieved at the same time as tying the result into the single package.