Statement by U.S. Mission to the World Trade Organization Attaché Quentin Baird
November 27, 2013
Thank you, Chair.
The United States warmly welcomes the delegation of the Republic of Macedonia, led by Deputy Minister Delev, for the WTO’s first review Macedonia’s trade policies and practices. We appreciate the reports prepared by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and the WTO Secretariat. They provide a helpful overview of Macedonia’s economic and trade policies in the decade since it joined the WTO. We also thank Ambassador Eyjólfsson for his observations as the discussant during this TPR.
The Republic of Macedonia’s progress and pursuit of economic reform over the past decade is notable, especially considering the setbacks of the global financial crisis and the challenging economic situation of some of Macedonia’s most important trading partners. Driven both by its WTO commitments and determination to draw closer to the European Union, the Republic of Macedonia has pursued considerable reforms since its accession to the WTO. Through such reforms, Macedonia has sought increased integration into the multilateral trading system, integration bilaterally with the European Union, and increased regional trade. As highlighted by the Secretariat, the Republic of Macedonia has actively pursued agreements to further these goals, and has concluded 32 bilateral trade and economic cooperation agreements as well as 38 bilateral agreements on promotion and mutual protection of investments.
We would also like to commend the Republic of Macedonia for becoming the newest observer to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement this past June, and we hope that it will consider becoming a full Member in the near future. Having Macedonia move from an observer to a full Member of the GPA would constitute a significant expansion of the Agreement, as we look to welcome developing country members into an agreement designed to promote transparency, consistency, and non-discrimination in government procurement. We look forward to working with the Republic of Macedonia on this effort as well as many others.
Noting the efforts undertaken since its accession, there are a few issues where we hope to obtain clarification from the Republic of Macedonia, as reflected in United States’ questions submitted in advance for this review.
For example, with respect to the Republic of Macedonia’s EU candidacy process, the United States would appreciate more information on the extent to which Macedonia has adopted or harmonized its regulations with EU technical and sanitary and phytosanitary regulations affecting imports, including whether Codex, OIE and IPPC standards have been taken fully into account.
In the area of intellectual property rights, while the Republic of Macedonia appears to have put in place an IPR legislative framework that generally fulfills the requirements of TRIPS and other international agreements, we have concerns about the adequacy of IPR protection, which sometimes reflects inconsistent or insufficient enforcement results, combined with a lack of public education on the need for IP protections. For example, we have concerns about reports on the wide use of unregistered software in public offices. Further, with regards to trademarks, we would also appreciate additional information on whether Macedonia provides protection for unregistered well-known marks.
We would also be interested in an update regarding pending notifications, including responses to the annual Questionnaire on Import Licensing Procedures. The Secretariat indicated that as of the end of June 2013, a number of notifications were under preparation, including those related to the Agreement on Agriculture and TRIPS. We would be interested in the current status of those notifications.
Finally, as the Secretariat has noted, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia has, periodically, introduced export restrictions, including temporary export bans on wheat flour to prevent serious shortages in the domestic market, resulting from insufficient wheat production in the country. At the same time, we have heard reports of import restraints on wheat and flour. We would appreciate further information on these apparent contradictory policy decisions, including the effects that such policies have had, and how the government plans to handle trade policy in this area in the future.
To conclude, we congratulate the Republic of Macedonia on its tenth year of WTO membership. Opening its economy to trade and investment within the framework of the WTO’s rules and obligations has undoubtedly contributed to Macedonia’s growth and global competitiveness, despite the challenges of the continuing global economic climate.
The United States appreciates this opportunity to participate in the discussion of the Republic of Macedonia’s trade and investment regime. We thank the delegation for its answers to our written questions and look forward to reviewing them. We also look forward to continuing to work together with the Republic of Macedonia to strengthen and build on the WTO’s rules-based system, and wish Macedonia a productive review.