World Trade Organization (WTO)

Australia will become the newest member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) plurilateral Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). On October 17, 2018, parties to the GPA unanimously approved a decision to welcome Australia as the 48th WTO member to be covered by the GPA.

The GPA is a plurilateral agreement that strives to ensure open, fair and transparent conditions of competition in the government procurement markets. It aims to provide legal guarantees of non-discrimination for the products, services or suppliers of GPA parties in procurement covered by the Agreement.

The Agreement is open to all WTO members, and it is currently binding on the 47 members to the Agreement (19 parties, including the United States, and the EU and its 28 member states). The GPA is composed of two main parts: the text of the Agreement and the coverage schedules. The Agreement applies only to those procurement activities that are carried out by covered entities that are purchasing services or goods of a value exceeding specified thresholds.

Australia will become a member after it submits its Instrument of Accession to the WTO’s Director General. With an estimated overall government procurement market worth USD $78 billion, Australia will add significantly to the current government procurement covered by the other 47 members to the Agreement, which is currently approximately USD $1.7 trillion.

Australia initiated negotiations to join the Agreement three years ago, in September of 2015. At the meeting, the GPA also reviewed the accession bids of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan. Other countries with currently pending accession negotiations include Albania, Georgia, Jordan and Oman. See a full list of the GPA members and observers here.

On Monday, July 30, 2018, the World Trade Organization (WTO) released new resources regarding trends in global trade. The resources issued by the WTO are the latest editions of the annual publications of World Trade Statistical Review, Trade Profiles and World Tariff Profiles.

World Trade Statistical Review provides an in-depth analysis of trends in global trade, including the types of goods and services being traded.

Trade Profiles provides a concise overview of global trade by providing key indicators on trade for 197 economies and highlighting the breakdown of exports and imports for each economy.

World Tariff Profiles is a joint publication of the WTO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). The publication provides comprehensive information on the tariffs and non-tariff measures imposed by over 170 countries and customs territories.

Additional information about the publications and additional data can be found on the WTO’s website with links to download the publications.

58021097 - peru flag with saudi arabia flag, 3d rendering

In the past two days, two more countries – Peru and Saudi Arabia – ratified the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).  Their ratification followed Mexico and Hondurus, who ratified the TFA earlier this month.

The submission of instruments of acceptance from Peru and Saudi Arabia means that more than 80 percent of the ratifications needed for the TFA to take effect have been obtained.   The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO membership formally accepts it.  Now that Peru and Saudi Arabia have accepted the TFA, there are a total of 89 ratifications.

The TFA requires its members to establish and maintain a national committee on trade facilitation to facilitate implementation of the TFA.  Earlier this year, on June 8th, the WTO hosted an experience-sharing event to help members of the WTO identify best practices and the challenges faced by WTO members in establishing or maintaining national trade facilitation committees.

The TFA contains provisions for improving the movement, release and clearance of goods and increasing global merchandise exports.  According to the WTO, the TFA could add USD 1 trillion per year to global trade.  For a brief summary of the TFA, see our earlier post here.  The World Trade Report 2015 is available here.

Copyright: cmcderm1 / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: cmcderm1 / 123RF Stock Photo

Turkey ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), and presented its instrument of acceptance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Deputy Director General Yi Xiaozhun on March 16, 2016.

Turkey is the 71st member of the WTO to ratify the TFA.  The TFA will enter into force once two-thirds of the WTO countries ratify a Protocol of Amendment and notify the WTO of their acceptance of the TFA.

Turkey has already begun to take steps to increase and facilitate trade with its neighboring countries. For example, the WTO noted in its recent Trade Policy Review of Turkey, that Turkey has launched a pilot project at a border gate with neighboring Bulgaria to reduce customs processing delays through coordination of customs procedures. A similar project is proposed to be launched at the border of Turkey and Georgia.

The implementation of the TFA has the potential to increase global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion per annum, according to the WTO’s flagship World Trade Report 2015.  For a brief summary of the TFA, see our earlier post here.

In addition to Turkey, the following WTO members have also accepted the TFA: Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Kenya, Myanmar, Norway, Vietnam, Brunei, Ukraine, Zambia, Lesotho, Georgia, Seychelles, Jamaica, Mali, Cambodia and Paraguay.

spirits4The European Union (EU) has requested consultations, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute proceeding, with Colombia to address what it believes are discriminatory practices against spirits being imported from the EU into Colombia. The EU says that Colombian authorities treat imported alcoholic beverages from the EU in a manner that is inconsistent with the WTO.

The EU spirits face higher taxes than local brand spirits, and Colombia’s regional authorities impose market-access restrictions for imported spirits. The EU believes this creates a competitive disadvantage against EU spirits and is inconsistent with the non-discrimination obligations of the WTO rules.  Because the EU is the number one exporter of spirits into Colombia, it is most impacted by these discriminatory practices.

The EU and Colombia signed a comprehensive free trade agreement in 2013. The trade agreement aims at opening up both markets and committed Colombia to creating a level market for imported and local goods.  The August 2015 deadline has passed for these arrangements to come into effect, which has spurred the EU to initiate the consultations.

The objective of the consultations is for the parties to resolve the dispute themselves, without litigation. The bilateral consultation is the first step in the settlement process.  If the consultations fail, and the parties are unable to resolve the dispute within 60 days, the EU can request adjudication by a panel to rule on the compatibility of Colombia’s trade practices with the WTO rules.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) released new editions of its key statistical publications for 2015: International Trade Statistics, Trade Profiles, World Tariff Profiles and Services Profiles.

These publications provide data on world trade, including trends in world trade, trade policy measures, average tariffs imposed by individual economies, basic economic indicators, and key statistics on infrastructure services for approximately 200 economies.

The four publications are available in electronic form on the WTO website.  You can access and download the information regarding Trade Profiles here, and the other three publications here.

The printed versions will be available in mid-November.