WTO Trade Policy Review of Honduras
Statement delivered by Ambassador Michael Punke,
U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization
May 2, 2016
Thank you, Chair. The United States is pleased to welcome Under-Secretary Melvin Redondo, our friend Ambassador Dacio Castillo, and the entire Honduran delegation to its third Trade Policy Review. We would first like to recognize the excellent work of the Secretariat, the Government of Honduras and our discussant Dr. Lai in compiling the reports before us, which thoroughly detail Honduras’ key trade policy objectives and developments since its last review in 2010 to give us a more complete picture of Honduras’ policies affecting trade.
Since Honduras’ last review in 2010, we recognize the economy suffered the challenges of the global financial crisis and the slump in both demand and price for bananas and coffee, key Honduran export products. Nonetheless, Honduras has continued on a path toward integration into the global economy with a focus on active participation in multilateral, regional and bilateral negotiations and implementing policies to attract investment in strategic sectors and to promote and facilitate trade. We look forward to learning more about Honduras’ trade policies and its engagement through various regional and bilateral trade agreements.
The United States and Honduras continue to enjoy a strong trade and economic relationship. The United States is Honduras’ leading partner in both exports and imports. Our bilateral trade in goods was $10 billion in total (two-way) trade in 2015. Trade and economic integration between the United States and Honduras is an important element of our bilateral relations and generates important benefits for both countries and the region.
The United Sates and Honduras are partners under a regional free trade agreement, the Dominican Republic – Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), among the Dominican Republic, the United States, and five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua). Over the last ten years, since implementation of the DR-CAFTA, our trade relationship with Honduras has transitioned to one based on reciprocal free trade.
In general, the United States commends Honduras on the positive direction of its trade liberalization strategy, as it continues to pursue greater integration in the global economy by opening markets with partners around the globe, stimulating domestic production and promoting national efficiency, diversification, and competitiveness.
Honduras is an active participant in various WTO groups, and we are particularly pleased to hear that it has introduced domestic legislation to accept the Trade Facilitation Agreement. We encourage the government to work closely with its legislature towards rapid approval.
It is clear that regional and bilateral economic integration and preferential trade agreements have been increasingly important elements of Honduran trade liberalization. Honduras has focused on improving and deepening Central American Economic Integration and harmonizing regulatory frameworks and renegotiating, updating, and consolidating old agreements with the other Central American countries and Mexico. Honduras implemented the agreement with the European Union with its Central American Common Market partners, and bilaterally with Canada, to add to its list of bilateral agreements in force with Colombia, Panama, Chinese Taipei, and Chile. This year Honduras will enter into a free trade agreement with Peru and will continue negotiations with the Republic of Korea and Ecuador. Finally, negotiations on a Customs Union with Guatemala are also addressing movement of goods and natural persons. The United States would appreciate further explanation about the Customs Union approach with Guatemala, any plans for expanding that to the rest of Central America and how Honduras’ Customs Union approach differs from its other regional trade agreements. We also encourage Honduras to notify any non-notified FTAs, including its agreement with Venezuela.
In intellectual property (IP) rights, the Secretariat raised, and the United States strongly supports, ongoing, Honduran efforts to improve compliance. The Secretariat further notes the enactment in 2012 of a Law on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The United States would appreciate more details on the status of Honduras’ accession to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) and if Honduras’ law fully complies with UPOV 1991.
The Secretariat and the Honduran government highlight the importance to the Honduran economy of traditional and new niche market agriculture. And, as such, the Secretariat notes the importance of technical standards and regulations and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and import controls. The United States urges Honduras to ensure that issuance of import permits is fully transparent and consistent with its trade commitments and that SPS measures are transparent. According to the Secretariat, Honduras has notified 20 SPS measures from early 2010 to mid-2015. But, the United States questions why we have not seen any SPS measures notified by Honduras since May 2014.
In closing, we would like to reiterate our appreciation for Honduras’ active participation in the work of the WTO and efforts on the TFA.
We also thank the delegation of Honduras for its willingness to consider these points and welcome the opportunity to engage with Honduras and other delegations in a discussion of Honduras’ trade policy regime.