Statements by the United States at the WTO General Council – Day 2

Statements Delivered to the General Council by Ambassador Dennis Shea
U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization
Geneva, October 16, 2019

  1. WORK PROGRAMME AND MORATORIUM ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE –

The United States wishes to thank Switzerland and the other cosponsors for circulating this communication (WT/GC/W/782).  The United States continues to believe that all WTO Members should be prepared to agree to a permanent moratorium on customs duties on digital transmissions. While we remain committed to this long term goal, the delayed Ministerial Conference created some ambiguity around several of the deadlines agreed to at the 11th Ministerial Conference, including the e-commerce moratorium.

We support extension of the moratorium until 12th Ministerial Conference, as this would address our interest in ensuring that there is no arbitrary break in application of the moratorium before our Ministers convene again.

  1. STATEMENT ON SPECIAL AND DIFFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT – STATEMENT BY CHINA, CUBA, INDIA, NAMIBIA, OMAN, SOUTH AFRICA, UGANDA AND ZIMBABWE (WT/GC/202)

We listened to the four principles that India listed at the outset of this agenda item, and we are very encouraged to hear that they largely match—or at least do not contradict—principles that the United States has repeated when discussing our own special and differential proposal.  We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but our agreement is so broad that we are surprised we were not asked to co-sponsor today’s statement.

First, we fully agree that developing countries can make their own assessments regarding their own developing country status.  Neither the U.S. proposal nor the White House Memo says otherwise.

Second, we fully agree that self-declared developing country Members should retain the ability to utilize special and differential treatment provisions in existing WTO agreements.  Neither the U.S. proposal nor the White House Memo says otherwise.

Third, we fully agree, in principle, that special and differential treatment should be a part of current and future negotiations.  At several General Council meetings this year, we have reiterated our longstanding view that special and differential treatment should be available in current and future WTO negotiations to Members having difficulty integrating into the global trading system.

Of course, before discussing special and differential treatment related to an obligation, Members first need to agree on what the obligation is.  And therein lies the problem: the Membership does not seem able to negotiate new obligations.  The U.S. firmly believes that a root problem of our collective struggle is that certain self-declared developing Members refuse to take commitments relative to their status in the global economy and in trade.

Finally, let’s discuss the other principle that was put forth – the “developing countries’ unconditional rights to special and differential treatment in WTO rules and negotiations must continue.”

Let’s start by focusing on where we agree.  At several General Council meetings this year, we have reiterated our longstanding view that special and differential treatment should be available to Members having difficulty integrating into the global trading system.

It is our sense that Members generally agree that LDCs should have access to special and differential treatment in current and future WTO negotiations.  We suspect that Members also generally agree there is a set of relatively poor, less-integrated Members who also should have access to special and differential treatment in current and future WTO negotiations.

Our only point of departure, then, is our firm conviction that there is a group of self-declared developing country Members that are relatively advanced, wealthy, and influential and that should not have access to blanket special and differential treatment in current and future WTO negotiations.  They have the ability to take on obligations commensurate with their status, and they have the negotiating capacity to ensure they do not take on obligations in excess of their capacity.

In short, these Members do not need access to blanket special and differential treatment provisions because they can and do negotiate flexibilities they judge necessary to defend their interests.

For example, does China mean to say that if a Member self-declares developing country status in perpetuity, that such a country should also enjoy blanket special and differential treatment in perpetuity?  For example, will China still claim developing country status in 2030, and will it still then assert that it has a right to special and differential treatment despite what is likely to be ever more mounting evidence to the contrary?

In summary, we recognize that certain Members may lack the capacity to negotiate such flexibilities, but do any of us seriously believe that some of the most advanced WTO Members claiming developing country status lack this capacity in 2019?

UNITED STATES – CARIBBEAN BASIN ECONOMIC RECOVERY ACT (CBERA AS AMENDED) – EXTENSION OF WAIVER – DRAFT DECISION (G/C/W/765)

We thank the Membership for today’s decision.  The United States is committed to working in partnership with our friends and neighbors in the Caribbean to expand economic opportunities.  The CBERA provides a vital contribution to the efforts in this partnership by creating opportunities to expand trade between the United States and the Caribbean, thus promoting economic opportunity and growth in the region.

Read More: Statements delivered on October 15.