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Cablegate: Meetings of the Wto Negotiating Group On Trade

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary/Overview: The WTO Negotiating Group on Trade
Facilitation met for the third time this year on May 2-3 for a
two-day highly substantive and constructive session. It was
characterized by the predominance of papers sponsored by
developing countries, the presence of unusual alliances forged
from common interest, and the active participation of land-locked
countries, such as Rwanda and Paraguay, that normally maintain a
relatively low profile in other WTO bodies. The U.S. delegation,
with Canada, held two well-received precedent-setting 'mini-
workshops' to help developing countries understand our previously
submitted proposals for commitments on Advance rulings and
Release of Goods with a Guarantee. On the margins, the U.S.
delegation held bilateral consultations with the "Colorado Group"
of countries that had helped launch the negotiations, with APEC
members, Latin American free trade agreement partners, Rwanda,
China, India, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong. End summary.

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2. After submitting proposals at the first two meetings this
year, the United States, Canada and Japan refrained from
submissions this time, while the EU submitted only a list of its
technical assistance activities and a general proposal on freedom
of transit issues under GATT Article V that was eclipsed by other
proposals on the same article submitted by developing countries.
As a result, the countries that participated most noticeably and
constructively at the May session, submitting substantive
proposals for strengthened commitments, were those who tend to
play a diminutive role, if any, in other WTO bodies. Two papers
supporting strengthened rules in Article V were submitted by
landlocked countries: the first by Bolivia, Paraguay, Mongolia
and the Kyrgyz Republic, and the second by Rwanda, Paraguay and
Switzerland. Both received substantial comment and support,
other than some concerns expressed by (non-landlocked) Kenya.
Korea's specific proposal to distinguish between "transshipped"
and other goods in transit also drew comments and questions.
Peru submitted a detailed list of proposed commitments, including
required publication on the internet of all customs-related rules
and regulations, echoing earlier U.S. proposals. Singapore
submitted a paper relaying the lessons from its recent positive
experience in adapting an Advanced Rulings regime (as a result of
its free trade agreement with the United States). Papers were
also submitted by New Zealand, Norway on Switzerland on trade
document standardization, and by Hong Kong China on fees and
charges, and transparency.

3. There were two papers of a cross-cutting nature. The first,
by the African Group, set out in a fairly measured tone the need
of its Members to receive technical assistance both during and
after the negotiations for implementation purposes. The paper
was notable in drawing a connection between technical assistance,
the identification of needs and priorities, and a presumed entry
into commitments. A paper by China and Pakistan elaborated on
ideas the United States had begun raising earlier in the year
about the need to undertake a 'bottom-up' approach by starting
now to assess individual Member situations and needs for the
purpose of implementing proposals.

4. Questions on proposals were constructive, seeking
clarification, and again reflecting substantial engagement.
Notably Uganda continues to be eager to push the benefits of
trade facilitation reforms, seeking to preempt Kenya from
appearing to represent its own negative views as representative
of those of African countries as a whole. India continues to
pose the greatest number of technical questions regarding the
feasibility of various proposals, but now giving the impression
that it is searching for ways to adopt them. In response to
Kenya, China intervened to ask why any country should be afraid
of binding rules. In another notable statement, the ambassador
of Jamaica, which had been reluctant to launch negotiations in
2002, urged others to think not only of the effects of TF reforms
on their imports, but also of the benefits for their exports.

5. The LDC group also submitted a paper, rumored to have been
drafted by an NGO, that took a dissonant tone out of character
from the rest of the meeting's engagement. The statement also
included barely-veiled criticism of U.S. proposals. However,
perhaps reflecting the success thus far in achieving constructive
engagement in the NG deliberations from all ends of the
development spectrum, a leading ambassador from the LDC group
privately apologized for the paper, noting that the submission of
the paper was the subject of significant debate among LDC's, with
final agreement to go forward being simply a matter of
maintaining group solidarity.

6. During the lunch break during the two days of NG meetings,
the United States (along with Canada) conducted one-hour
"interactive mini-workshops" concerning two of its previously
submitted proposals regarding new WTO commitments to maintain an
advance rulings regime, and to maintain a system for release of
goods while customs formalities are still pending. These
technical presentations were made by two officials from the U.S.
Customs and Border Patrol's Office of Regulations and Rulings.
These U.S. events were roundly saluted by developing country
Members, and appear to have established a precedent as another
tool for achieving full engagement by all Members during the

7. Comment: On the margins of the meeting, the U.S. delegation
met with APEC members, Latin American free trade agreement
partners, Rwanda, China, India, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong.
The highlight of the two days were the proposals that came in
from landlocked developing countries from all regions, the
significance of which was establishing such Members as
stakeholders in the Trade Facilitation negotiations-- joining the
United States in aiming toward results that will be in the form
of new and strengthened WTO commitments. Also notable was that
many, particularly China, the Philippines (chair of the "Core
Group" of former opponents of TF negotiations), and Malaysia,
supported the U.S. view that work needed to start soon on
assessing individual developing countries' situation regarding
the proposals being made in order to develop a factual foundation
for addressing Members' individual needs and priorities in terms
of implementation. End Comment. Deily

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