WTO Ministerial Conference 13 – 27th February 2024 – Round-Up

Feb 28, 2024
  • Author(s) : Ambarish Sathianathan , Sanjay Notani , Shweta Kushe
  • South Africa and India drop their objections to New Disciplines on Services Domestic Regulation.

    • On Tuesday, the new disciplines on services domestic regulation were brought into force. It is expected to lower trade costs by over USD 125 billion worldwide.[1] These new rules are in 26 Schedules of commitments from 52 WTO members (including EU members). A total of 72 economies – comprising WTO members and two acceding members (Timor Leste and Comoros) – have committed to implementing the new disciplines. These disciplines will be applied on an MFN Principle basis, which means that they will benefit all the WTO members equally.
    • The disciplines seek to mitigate unintended trade-restrictive effects of measures relating to licensing requirements and procedures, qualification requirements and procedures and technical standards.[2]
    • India and South Africa are amongst the countries who have dropped objections but have refused to sign this agreement.[3] Commentators have noted that India and South Africa have only dropped their objections because they were faced with the impossible choice of going to arbitration in the wake of an impasse on WTO Dispute Settlement Reform.[4]

    Philippines is the newest WTO member to ratify the 2022 WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement – 40 more ratifications to go!

    • Philippines, one of the top 20 fishing nations according to FAO,[5] became the 70th WTO member on Tuesday to ratify the 2022 WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement.[6]
    • This ratification needs to be seen in the light of the fact that 40 more ratifications are necessary for the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement to be activated.[7]
    • The first deadline for ratification was decided to be June 17, 2023, but WTO members couldn’t meet the target. The deadline was then moved to the 2024 Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi, but it looks like even the new deadline will be missed by a substantial shortfall.[8]

    South Korea and UAE sign the Strategic Advanced Industrial Technology Partnership and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement

    • On the sidelines of MC13, South Korea and UAE have taken steps to strengthen their bilateral trade ties by signing the Strategic Advanced Industrial Technology Partnership and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.[9]

    The African Group, G33 and ACP countries release a draft proposal for a permanent solution on the Public Stockholding (PSH) issue

    • The proposal advanced by the African Group, ACP[10] and G33 countries seeks to draw a permanent solution to PSH conundrum.[11] Para 3 of the proposal states that the Aggregate Measure of Support (AMS) shall be calculated based on the actual quantity of foodstuffs acquired at administered prices, and the external reference price in this regard shall be either of the following:

    “(a) the three-year average price (f.o.b for a net exporter or c.i.f for a net importer) based on the preceding five-year period excluding the highest and the lowest entry for that product; or

    (b) adjusted for excessive inflation as per the methodology given in Annex Z.”

    • This proposal also adds that this decision will not preclude developing country members from introducing PSH programmes for food security purposes, thereby bringing the focus back to global food security.  This is crucial since more than 80 countries representing more than 61% of the world’s population have co-sponsored this proposal.[12]

    We hope you have found this information useful. For any queries/clarifications please write to us at insights@elp-in.com  or write to our authors:

    Sanjay Notani, Partner – Email sanjaynotani@elp-in.com
    Ambarish Sathianathan, Partner – Email – AmbarishSathianathan@elp-in.com
    Shweta Kushe, Associate, Emailshwetakushe@elp-in.com

    [1] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news24_e/serv_27feb24_e.htm
    [2] Ibid
    [3] twitter.com/CoppetainPU/status/1762568736463073423
    [4] https://twitter.com/CoppetainPU/status/1762498282574508056 and https://tradebetablog.wordpress.com/2024/02/27/plurilateral-services-certified-leaving-17-to-go/
    [5] https://www.fao.org/figis/pdf/fishery/facp/PHL/en?title=FAO%20Fisheries%20%26amp%3B%20Aquaculture%20-%20Country%20Profile
    [6] https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news24_e/fish_27feb24_e.htm
    [7] https://t.co/yaanSjChOI
    [8] Ibid
    [9] https://www.zawya.com/en/economy/gcc/south-korea-uae-ties-deepen-with-mc13-cepa-industrial-partnership-dd23v27n
    [10] ACP stands for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries group
    [11] https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/SS/directdoc.aspx?filename=q:/WT/MIN24/W17.pdf&Open=True
    [12] https://www.business-standard.com/india-news/wto-india-makes-strong-argument-to-finalise-permanent-solution-to-psh-124022701193_1.html