Trade Facilitation in WTO: Developing Countries Stress Need to Clarify Scope of Negotiations

Original Publication Date: 
23 May, 2005

By Goh Chien Yen and Martin Khor (Third World Network)
Geneva, 11 May 2005

Introduction

The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation held its third meeting on 2-3 May. The meeting heard submissions of eleven new papers, coming from Bolivia, Mongolia, Paraguay, Korea, the European Communities, Switzerland, again Paraguay, Rwanda, Peru, Hong Kong China, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, China, Pakistan and the African Group. Several of the papers were joint submissions from some of the above countries.

In addition, there was a statement from the LDC Group, and an informal paper byIndia, Kenya and the Philippines (on behalf of the 'Core Group' of developingcountries) providing a response to earlier papers that had been presented at theprevious meeting of the Group in February.

While some members pressed ahead with proposals for new clarification of therelevant existing GATT rules as well as new obligations, several developing countriesvoiced their concern that some proposals that have been put forward exceeded themandate for the negotiations.

Many countries, especially the LDCs and the African Group, also stressed theimportance of giving concrete form to special and differential treatment (SDT) fordeveloping countries, assessment of implementation costs and the method of assistingdeveloping countries to meet these costs, and capacity building needs.

The mandate of the trade facilitation negotiations (as specified in Annex D of theGeneral Council 1 August 2004 decision, widely known as the 'July package') is toclarify and improve relevant aspects of Article V (transit of goods), Article VIII (feesand charges) and Article X (transparency in the publication and administration oftrade regulations) of GATT 1994, with the aim to further expediting the movement,release and clearance of goods including goods in transit.

Comments from Some Developing Countries to Clarify Trade Facilitation Needs Scope of Negotiations

Given the somewhat open-ended nature of the mandate, instead of going straight into making proposal on Articles V, VIII and X, some members have in their communications sought to bring more precision and clarity as to the scope and content of the negotiations.