Statement as delivered by Christopher Wilson,
USTR Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’affaires a.i.
Geneva, October 4, 2017
Thank you, Chair.
On behalf of the United States, I would like to join others in warmly welcoming Director General Ramette and the entire Icelandic delegation for the fifth trade policy review of Iceland.
The United States and Iceland enjoy a close friendship and partnership across a range of issues based on shared values and principles. The economic relationship between the United States and Iceland also remains positive. Two-way goods trade between the United States and Iceland totaled more than $800 million in 2016, with U.S. goods exports to Iceland, up more than $30 million from 2015 [encompassing a wide range of products including inorganic chemicals, mineral fuels, aircraft, optical and medical instruments, and many other products].
While Iceland maintains a relatively liberal trade and investment regime, there are areas where Iceland could make further improvements and we have highlighted some of those in our submitted questions. We point first to the agricultural sector, where the Secretariat report notes that SPS measures remain strict because Iceland’s domestic animals are highly susceptible to exotic pests and diseases, leading to a prohibition of some imported products and controls and licensing requirements for others. We would look forward to more information regarding the basis for prohibiting some of the imported products. We also look forward to additional information on Iceland’s practices regarding notification of SPS measures to the WTO, particularly with respect to amendments and technical legislation under the European Economic Area. Along these lines, we have asked questions in this TPR about Iceland’s public notification process for amending legislation as part of the EEA, and Iceland’s process for conducting the appropriate risk assessments relevant to their own consumer’s consumption and exposure levels, in order to determine their appropriate level of protection.
Similarly, the Secretariat report notes that Iceland has not submitted notifications related to import licensing and preferential rules of origin, nor has it submitted draft technical regulations to the WTO TBT Committee. We would encourage Iceland to promptly notify proposed measures to the appropriate WTO Committees in advance of their adoption, irrespective of how the measures were developed or whether they are notified to other particular trading partners, so that all Members may provide comment, as outlined in the WTO agreements.
The United States submitted advance written questions on certain aspects of Iceland’s trade and economic regime, which requested additional information regarding some of the points that I have mentioned. We appreciate Iceland’s written response to our questions, and we plan to review the responses carefully and request clarifications as necessary during the course of this TPR.
In closing, we reinforce that the United States and Iceland have important common interests and our bilateral and WTO relationships are strong. The United States appreciates Iceland’s active engagement in a wide range of activities at the WTO, and the leadership it has provided through the years, including by furnishing excellent Chairpersons for negotiating bodies and Working Parties. Furthermore, we commend Iceland for ratifying the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and welcome its leadership in implementation.
We applaud Iceland’s progress since the 2012 review, and we pledge to work closely with Iceland in the WTO and other venues towards our shared pursuit of an open global trading system.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I wish the Iceland team a successful review, and we look forward to further information and discussions on trade matters with Iceland, both here at the WTO and in our bilateral exchanges.