The Council for Trade in Goods, on 1 February 2012, approved a request by the European Union to temporarily lift EU duties on certain products from Pakistan to help the country recover from massive floods in 2010. This request for a waiver from its WTO obligations was initially made by the EU on 30 November 2010.
The EU presented a revised request for a waiver on trade preferences for 75 products from Pakistan, which it said now included 20 on which tariff rate quotas would be applied instead of full liberalization. It said this revision reflected consultations with members that have expressed concerns about the EU request. The EU reiterated that it was asking for a waiver for an exceptional measure being taken in the light of exceptional circumstances, and would not be a precedent in the WTO. It added that the measures would be in effect from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2013.
Saudi Arabia called on members to support the EU request.
Members that have previously expressed concerns about the waiver said they were now able to agree to the waiver after consultations with the EU and Pakistan, but stressed the waiver should not be treated as a precedent.
Brazil said that after intensive consultations with the EU, and also with private industry, it could now accept the waiver. Indonesia said it could now go along with the waiver. Bangladesh said that it is heavily dependent on textile exports, especially to the EU, but nevertheless view this as an exceptional circumstance. Argentina said the revised EU request allayed its concerns, and expressed solidarity with Pakistan. Peru noted the exceptional nature of the request.
The EU thanked members for their co-operation, adding that this showed the organization can move forward on trade matters. Pakistan expressed gratitude to members who are standing by in times of need and pain.
The Council approved the EU waiver request, and forwarded it to the General Council for adoption.
The Council also approved Cuba’s request for a five-year extension of its waiver in relation to GATT Article XV:6 (concerning WTO members that are not members of the IMF), and forwarded it to the General Council for final adoption. The duration of the extension is from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2016.
Korea expressed concern about a scheme in Chinese Taipei approved last December to grant $66 subsidy to consumers purchasing energy-saving and domestically-manufactured washing machines, air conditioners and dishwashers . It said this scheme is inconsistent with WTO provisions against favouring domestic over imported goods. Korea added that a previous similar scheme by Chinese Taipei was estimated to have cost Korean producers some $100 million.
The US and the EU requested Chinese Taipei to provide more information about the scheme.
Chinese Taipei took note of the concerns, which it said have been forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
Under “Other Business”, Australia expressed systemic and commercial concerns about Brazil’s measure that went into effect last December exempting domestically-assembled automobiles from an industrial tax on the automotive sector. It said it had expressed concerns in various WTO meetings about this measure last year.
Japan, the EU, Korea, US, Colombia and Hong Kong, China said they shared Australia’s concerns.
Brazil reiterated that the measure is transparent, provisional in nature, and was taken under exceptional circumstances. It added that there had been a sudden increase in car imports into Brazil, and that it was ready to discuss the matter with interested members.