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The WTO Secretariat has circulated a meeting notice and list of items proposed for the next meeting, on 25 February 2019, of the Dispute Settlement Body, which consists of all WTO members and oversees legal disputes among them. The meeting notice is circulated in the form of a document officially called an “airgram”.
Addressing a meeting of European Union trade ministers in Bucharest, Romania, on 21 February 2019, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed the EU’s engagement in the conversations aimed at strengthening the WTO and called for their continued leadership to help address some of the key challenges in global trade, including current trade tensions and the impasse in the WTO’s dispute settlement system.
Speaking at an international conference on “interconnectivity in Central Asia” held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on 19 February, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff said an open trade policy agenda and active participation in the work of the WTO can promote greater connectivity within Central Asia and with the rest of the world. He stressed that the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and discussions on e-commerce can play an important role in addressing the region’s connectivity challenges. This is what he said:
Trade weakness is likely to extend into the first quarter of 2019, according to the WTO’s latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) released on 19 February. The simultaneous decline of several trade-related indicators should put policy makers on guard for a sharper slowdown should the current trade tensions remain unresolved.
A Regional Trade Policy Course for WTO members and observers from French-speaking Africa began on 18 February in Abidjan. The course, which is the first to take place in 2019, has been organized in partnership with the École Nationale Supérieure de Statistiques et d’Économie Appliquée d’Abidjan (ENSEA).
Twenty-nine officials from 15 governments in the process of acceding to the WTO participated in a Seminar on WTO Accessions Rules, which took place in Geneva from 4 to 15 February. The event was the first WTO Secretariat activity to focus on WTO accession rules.
Belarus stressed its strong commitment to conclude WTO accession negotiations by the 12th Ministerial Conference, which will take place in June 2020 in Astana, Kazakhstan. At the 11th meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of Belarus on 15 February, members commended Belarus’ efforts to bring its trade regime in conformity with WTO rules but underlined that significant progress will be needed if such an ambitious target is to be met. The meeting was the fourth since the resumption of the Working Party process in January 2017.
WTO agriculture negotiators met on 14 February to discuss domestic support and public stockholding for food security purposes following the first meetings of the two newly established working groups on these two topics. Members said they were encouraged by the active participation in the working groups and acknowledged the new process as a useful complementary forum for the Committee on Agriculture meeting in special session.
Director-General Roberto Azevêdo was in Maputo, Mozambique, today (14 February), where he met President Filipe Nyusi. They discussed how to strengthen global trade cooperation for the future, through the WTO, so it can keep supporting the integration of Mozambique and other least developed countries (LDCs) into the global economy.
The WTO Secretariat announced the launch of a new TRIPS notification submission system, an optional online tool for members to submit notifications, review materials and reports. The announcement was made at the meeting of the Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on 13 February, where members also discussed incentives for the transfer of technology to respond to the needs identified by least-developed countries (LDCs).
The WTO has issued a call for young economists to submit papers for the 2019 WTO Essay Award. The award aims to promote high-quality research on trade policy and international trade co-operation and to reinforce the relationship between the WTO and the academic community. Essays must be submitted by 31 May 2019.
WTO members took stock of progress in implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) at the 12-13 February meeting of the Committee on Trade Facilitation a week before the second anniversary of the Agreement’s entry into force. Members called for the timely fulfilment of commitments and discussed efforts to help each other carry out the Agreement.
Speaking at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 12 February 2018, entitled “The First FAO/WHO/AU International Food Safety Conference”, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo highlighted that food safety “is a central element of public health”. He noted that the WTO’s rules, such as the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement and the Trade Facilitation Agreement, play a key role in ensuring food is traded safely and called on the international community to harness new technologies and information tools to support food safety and the achievement of the SDGs.
Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff welcomed 29 participants from 15 acceding governments attending the first Seminar on WTO Accession Rules from 4 to 15 February in Geneva. Speaking at a ceremony on 11 February, DDG Wolff highlighted the success of the accession process since the establishment of the WTO in 1995 and underlined the benefits membership brings to countries in terms of higher standards of living for their people. This is what he said:
Director-General Roberto Azevêdo received today at the WTO Mr. Surya Deva, Ms. Anita Ramasastry, Ms. Elzbieta Karska and Mr. Dante Pesce, members of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
On 8 February 2019, a WTO arbitrator issued a decision on the level of trade suspension Korea may request in its dispute with the United States regarding US anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures on large residential washers from Korea (DS464).