U.S. Statement on transparency proposal at General Council
July 28, 2021
Proposed General Council Decision On Procedures To Enhance Transparency And Strengthen Notification Requirements Under Wto Agreements – Argentina; Australia; Canada; Chile; Costa Rica; The European Union; Israel; Japan; New Zealand; Norway; Singapore; Switzerland; The Separate Customs Territory Of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen And Matsu; United Kingdom; And The United States (Job/Gc/204/Rev.6 – Job/Ctg/14/Rev.6)
Today we are bringing to the General Council a reform proposal intended to support meaningful and successful negotiations at the WTO.
That proposal, as found in JOB/ GC 204/Rev.6-JOB CTG/ 14/REV.6, seeks to enhance transparency and improve Members’ ability to comply with notifications.
The proposal has substantial support from nearly one-third of the Membership.
We are bringing this proposal to the General Council because the General Council has responsibility for the overall functioning of the WTO and the WTO Agreements and Understandings covered by the proposal. The Council has a duty to ensure that the WTO remains true to the central principle of transparency, which is foundational for a predictable and stable global trading environment.
At its core, this proposal is an effort to respond to the needs of Members while enabling the WTO to function effectively. As we well know, the WTO cannot remain static if we wish it to continue championing smooth, predictable and free trade. Challenges must be addressed, and this proposal is an opportunity to do so.
From a systemic perspective, the information that Members should provide through existing notification obligations is necessary to improve the operation of various WTO agreements, Members’ monitoring work in WTO committees, and Members’ ability to negotiate meaningful agreements.
It has been almost two decades since the General Council tasked the Working Group on Notification Obligations and Procedures to review Members’ notification obligations and recommend changes. The Working Group has essentially been dormant since then, while new Members have joined the WTO and the organization has undergone a number of changes.
In the process of preparing this proposal, the co-sponsors have reached out to a broad range of Members to understand their needs and perspectives on how to improve notification capabilities. These conversations resulted in many constructive suggestions for actions and process improvements to notification procedures, which feature in the current version of the proposal.
I encourage those Members who have not reviewed the proposal for some time to take a moment to do so. It does not seek to expand Members’ existing notification obligations or increase notification requirements in any way. The objective is to find ways to enable Members to meet existing commitments, which has benefits for the entire WTO Membership.
To be clear, the goal of the proposal is not to penalize Members – we know that Members are making best efforts to submit complete notifications on time. Rather, this proposal is an effort to address notifications-related challenges at their root and help Members get the assistance they need, for the better functioning of the WTO as a whole.
We recognize that some Members face resource and capacity constraints and other challenges that hinder their ability to prepare and submit notifications in a timely manner. That’s why the proposal includes options for consideration by the working group, which is open to all Members, that would regularize online resources and support to Members both in Geneva and in capital as officials work to prepare and submit notifications.
The proposal also contains a number of opportunities for Members to seek specific technical assistance and capacity building support to enable them to submit notifications – and to build their capabilities to do so moving forward. These provisions are designed to address capacity gaps and domestic coordination challenges as identified in past discussion of the proposal in the Council for Trade in Goods.
And, in another effort to account for the development dimension, the proposal exempts LDCs from any administrative measures, provided that a Member seeks assistance and support for notification-related capacity building.
We welcome all opportunities to meet with Members to discuss the proposal in greater detail, and we are greatly appreciative of Members’ support for this initiative to reinforce transparency as a core principle for the effective functioning of the WTO.