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BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol. 2, Number 49 December , 21, 1998






BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol. 2, Number 49    December 21, 1998
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EVENTS & RESOURCES

EVENTS

WTO Meetings

20-21 January 1999: Trade Policy Review Body (Argentina).
 For information, contact Lucie Giraud, WTO, tel: (41-22) 739 50 75.

25 January 1999: Dispute Settlement Body meeting.
 For information, contact Nuch Nazeer, WTO, tel: (41-22) 739 53 93.

25 January 1999: Committee on Rules of Origin.
 For information, contact Luis Ople, WTO, tel: (41-22) 739 53 74.

25-26 January 1999: Council for Trade in Services.
 For information, contact Nuch Nazeer, WTO, tel: (41-22) 739 53 93.

Other Meetings

TRADE, INTEGRATION AND ECOLOGY IN LATIN AMERICA : The Latin American
Center for Social Ecology (CLAES) has started a new email information and
discussion list on the environmental aspects of trade and the integration
process in Latin America (EcoIntAL). The main languages of the list are
Spanish and Portuguese. Furthermore, through the list CLAES distributes
its electronic bulletin on trade and environment in that continent.
 To subscribe, send a blank message to: ecointal- subscribe@egroups.com.
For further information, contact CLAES at claes@adinet.com.uy

SECOND MEETING OF THE POPS INC: The Second Meeting of the
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for POPS is scheduled from 25- 29
January 1999 in Nairobi, Kenya.
 For information contact: UNEP Chemicals (IRPTC); tel: +41 (22) 979-9111;
fax: +41 (22) 797- 3460; e- mail: jwillis@unep.ch; Internet:
http://irptc.unep.ch/pic/

RESOURCES

REPORT ON THE COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION (CEC)'S JOINT PUBLIC
ADVISORY COMMITTEE (JPAC) REGULAR SESSION.
 Held on 3-4 December in Washington, DC, the JPAC held its fifth Regular
Session of 1998. One of JPAC's important roles is to promote public
participation in the activities of the CEC. The JPAC produced advice to
the Council of Ministers on the CEC Proposed Annual Program and Budget for
1999, Enforcement Issues, the selection process for the Executive Director
and institutional cooperation between the CEC and the Free Trade
Commission (FTC). The documents related to the December meeting in
Washington, DC will be available in the three languages the first week of
January 1999.
 The list of JPAC Meetings for 1999, the full record of discussions,
advice from JPAC to Council and other documents pertaining to the
Committee may be obtained through the CEC's Internet homepage under the
JPAC header or requested from Manon Pepin, the JPAC Coordinator at the CEC
Secretariat: e-mail: , fax: (514) 350-4314 or telephone: (514) 350-4366.

THE TRIPs AGREEMENT : A GUIDE FOR THE SOUTH.
 Published by the South Centre, this booklet is intended as an
introductory overview for developing countries of the WTO Agreement on
Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). In addition to
highlighting some of the central issues for the South, the document draws
attention to the aspects to which policy-makers and technical personnel
should pay special attention when formulating policy and legislation in
this field.
 To obtain copies, contact the South Centre at Chemin du Champ- d'Anier
17, Case Postale 228, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland. Tel : (41- 22) 798 34
33 ; fax : (41-22) 798 85 31 ; email : south@southcentre.org

REPORT OF UNCTAD CONSULTATION WITH NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS AND
TRADE UNIONS.
 This report summarises the proceedings of consultations between UNCTAD
and a number of NGOs and trade unions which took place in Geneva from
11-12 June, 1998. Some issue-areas covered include a Possible Multilateral
Framework Agreement on Investment ; Follow-up to the WTO High Level
Meeting on Integrated Initiatives for LDCs' Trade Development, and
Institutional Issues.
 The publication is available from the UN NGO Liaison Service, Palais des
Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. Document # : UNCTAD/NGLS/118.








Table of Contents                           

- Holiday Break
- Split Grows Between EU, U.S. On Bananas
- WTO General Council Pursues Ministerial Preparations
- GMO Corn Issue Referred To European Court of Justice
- ASEAN Agrees On Liberalisation, Environment
- FTAA: Call For Flexibility For Smaller Economies; Chile Considers New
Trade Agreements
- WTO Notes Limited Access To Canadian Market For Developing Countries
- Calls For Civil Society Participation in Regional Trade Policy
- In Brief
- WTO In Brief



HOLIDAY BREAK

BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest will be taking a break over the Christmas
and new year period, to coincide with the slower schedule of international
trade and sustainable development-related meetings and news at this time
of year.

The next issue of BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest will mark the beginning
of its third year. You will receive Vol. 3, No 1 on 18 January 1999. In
the meantime, we wish you a restful holiday season and all the best for
the new year.






SPLIT GROWS BETWEEN EU, U.S. ON BANANAS

Last week proved perhaps the most complicated week yet in the banana
dispute between the EU and U.S. It seemed early last week that the EU
would extend an olive branch to the U.S. and call for a speedy review of
its proposed banana import regime to the U.S. - in an effort to settle the
two sides' dispute over whether the EU has gone far enough in its revised
banana import regime to comply with the spirit of a 1997 WTO Panel ruling.
(See BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest Vol 2, No 48, December 14, 1998).
What the EU actually proposed left the co- complainants in the dispute -
the U.S., Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras (G-5) feeling that
rather than an olive branch the EU wielded a blunt instrument of
"procedural conditions" in an attempt to secure a favourable decision in
the case.

In its proposal to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) December 15 the
EU requested "the establishment of a panel under Article 21.5 of the DSU
with the mandate to find that [the proposed revised banana import regime]
must be presumed to conform to WTO rules unless their conformity has been
duly challenged under the appropriate DSU procedures." Article 21.5, a
provison not previously applied in a WTO dispute, specifies that if one
country disagrees with another countries' approach to the implementation
of a DSB ruling--in this case the EU's proposed banana import regime--the
disagreement "shall be decided through recourse to these dispute
settlement procedures, including wherever possible resort to the original
panel." The EU proposal last week, in simple terms, challenges the G-5 to
join the EU request for review under Article 21.5 if they believe the EU
regime is not consistent with the WTO, and that the absence of challengers
should indicate the regime is consistent.

The G-5 immediately rejected the EU proposal. The U.S. noted that Article
21.5 offers "no basis in the text for establishing a panel with the
'mandate' requested by the EC." Further, U.S. Ambassador to the WTO Rita
Hayes said in a letter to the DSB chairperson last week, "I can only
conclude that the EC is neither seeking to have a panel review its banana
import regime to determine whether it is consistent with EC obligations
under the WTO, nor providing the DSB with any legal basis for taking
action at today's meeting." The December 15 DSB meeting ended without
taking action on the EU request.

However, Ecuador later independently requested a panel review of the EU
regime in an effort to settle the dispute. "Ecuador is putting its trust
in the multilateral trade system, enough damage has been done, and we hope
the step is in the right direction," Roberto Betancourt, Ecuador's
Ambassador to the WTO, said. The DSB was expected to meet on this request
today (December 21) as BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest goes to press.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-EU summit last week in Washington yielded no progress
on the matter. However, the U.S. delayed publication - due December 15 -
of the list of products subject to 100 percent duties effective early next
year unless the EU changes its revised regime. Observers note that beyond
the specifics of this case, the dispute highlights a flaw in WTO rules,
specifically, how to enforce WTO rulings.

In related news, Associate U.S. Trade Representative Ralph Ives earlier
this month urged Caribbean countries to discuss alternatives to the EU
banana regime. Mr. Ives addressed dispute-related questions from reporters
and trade experts from the Caribbean, during which he adamantly rejected
the suggestion that U.S. policy in the banana matter has been at all
influenced by U.S.-based Chiquita Brands International.

 "US presses ahead with sanctions against EU in bitter banana dispute,"
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, December 21, 1998;
 "U.S. rejects EU bid to end banana fight, delays retaliation list;"
"Request for the Establishment of a Panel by the European Communities,"
INSIDE US TRADE, December 18, 1998;
 "WTO meet on EU-US banana row likely Friday - diplomats," THE HERALD (St.
Vincent-Grenadines);
 "Banana cease-fire," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, December 17, 1998; "U.S., Latin
Americans fume over EU banana move," REUTERS, December 15, 1998;
 "Improbable conciliation euro- americaine sur la banane," LA TRIBUNE,
December 17, 1998.






WTO GENERAL COUNCIL PURSUES MINISTERIAL PREPARATIONS

The WTO Special Session of General Council last week convened again in an
informal intersessional meeting as part of the first phase of lead- up to
the Third Ministerial, scheduled for November-December 1999 in the U.S.
The topic of this third, informal session were the Recommendations on the
follow-up to the October 1997 High-Level Meeting on Least-Developed
Countries. At the meeting, on 14 and 16 December, quite a number of WTO
Members took the floor; many of these explained what kind of national
actions they have taken in favour of LDCs. Many delegations echoed the
points made in two significant and detailed presentations by Egypt on
behalf of the African group, and by Bangladesh's Ambassador, Dr. Iftekhar
Ahmed Chowdhuri, also Chair of the WTO Committee on Trade and Development.

In his statement, Dr Chowdhuri considered why LDCs are in the state they
are in, what the WTO has done so far and what more the WTO can do.
Emphasising that special and differential treatment should not be viewed
as an exercise in generosity but rather as a corrective measure aimed at
the structural weaknesses of LDCs, in order to ensure balance in the
distribution of the benefits of the international trade system. He called
for radical thinking in order to improve the usefulness of WTO Agreements
for LDCs. Areas mentioned for improvement included the Dispute Settlement
Mechanism - which is costly for developing countries to use; the area of
labour-intensive services, which are so critical for LDCs, and on
safeguards, an area in which there are no rules at the moment. Dr
Chowdhuri also pointed out that the difficulties developing countries were
already facing in implementing the results of the last round could be
exacerbated by new obligations arising from the built-in agenda, and by
new issues added to the trade agenda. He insisted on the need to fully
implement the results of October 1997's High-Level Meeting and on the need
to give effect to market access commitments. He also raised the need to
design a fast-track procedure for speedy LDC accession to the WTO.

In his statement, Ambassador Mounir Zahran touched on several of the main
points raised by Ambassador Chowdhuri, including the difficulties for LDCs
of implementing the results of the Uruguay Round, their concerns regarding
the development of new international trade rules, and the difficulty for
LDCs of exploiting their rights in the WTO. He also pointed to supply side
constraints that hinder LDCs' ability to diversify their production and
exports and the need for the international community to take measures in
this area. Egypt went into some detail about the implementation of the
results of the 1997 High- Level Meeting, relaying some countries'
disappointment that the high expectations of the Meeting had not
materialised into concrete measures.

In their brief statements, the EU and the U.S. talked about measures they
have taken in favour of LDCs and the progress made in implementing the
recommendations of the High-Level Meeting.

As a result of this informal session, the Secretariat was asked to compile
a listing of the national actions taken over the last year-or- so in
favour of LDCs.

Prior meetings in this series of informal sessions of the General
Council's Special Session to prepare for the ministerial focussed on the
Built-In Agenda and on Implementation of existing agreements and
decisions. The General Council will meet again in an informal Special
Session on 26-27 January 1999 when it will consider the recommendations
concerning other possible future work on the basis of the work programme
initiated at Singapore, recommendations arising from consideration of
other matters concerning their multilateral trade relations, and
organisation of future work. On 25-26 February 1999 the General Council
Special Session will hold another formal meeting.

On 16 December WTO Members discussed organisation of future work. Although
no clear decision was taken, it appears that there is a general
convergence of views. After this "first phase" of exchanging views, which
will end with the 25-26 February General Council Special Session, Members
agreed that a "second phase," to continue until the summer break, would
give delegations the opportunity to make proposals on how to deal with all
the issues raised so far, i.e. how these issues would be dealt with in the
1999 Ministerial and what kind of decisions could be prepared for adoption
at the Ministerial. In the autumn, the "third phase" would start, which
would consist of the actual drafting of the Ministerial Declaration.

ICTSD Internal Files.






GMO CORN ISSUE REFERRED TO EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE

The French Council of State December 11 said it could not rule in the case
brought by the environmental organisation Greenpeace and farm groups
against the French government's February 1998 decision to allow Novartis'
Bt maize to be grown on approximately 30,000 hectares in France, referring
the matter for clarification to the European Court of Justice. (See
BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest, Vol. 2, Number 38 October 5, 1998).

The Council of State said it could not rule on the case before consulting
with the European Court for clarification as to France's obligation, as an
EU member, to accept a 1996 European Commission (EC) decision authorising
cultivation and sale of genetically modified seed in EU states. The
Council of State also questioned whether the EC allowed France all legally
mandated opportunities to express its opposition to authorisation of Bt
corn. The Council of State move could delay a ruling on the use of the
Novartis product for a year, during which time the product would remain
under ban.

In its case Greenpeace et al argue that serious scientific doubts remain
about the health and environmental risks associated with the use of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production, and argue that
the French Ministry of Agriculture ignored the "principle of precaution"
when approving Novartis' Bt corn licence. The precautionary principle -
often cited in international environmental policy - is a mechanism used to
allow governments to take preventive measures such as a ban before
approving a product for use when scientific evidence is lacking regarding
public health and environmental ramifications.

The EC corn directive has met opposition in other EU states as well.
Austria and Luxembourg have both refused to co-operate with the directive:
when the EC threatened to bring the two countries to the European Court to
force them to comply, the EC could not win support for such a move from EU
member-states. To address the reticence among some member states toward
overall GMO use in Europe, the EU Council of Environment Ministers was to
meet December 21 to allow member states to outline their positions on
proposed revisions to the EU's 1990 directive on Deliberate Release of
Genetically Modified Organisms.

 "French high court delays Bt-corn ruling, demands European Court of
Justice opinion," INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, December 16, 1998;
 "La commercialisation du mais transgenique reste suspendue," LE MONDE,
December 13-14, 1998;
 "Blow to hopes for use of genetically altered seed," FINANCIAL TIMES,
December 16, 1998.






ASEAN AGREES ON LIBERALISATION, ENVIRONMENT

Southeast Asian leaders last week met in Hanoi for the sixth Association
of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, where they adopted a
"Statement of Bold Measures" designed to foster investor confidence and
speed economic recovery in beleaguered ASEAN countries. ASEAN members
agreed to an investor-incentive package for the manufacturing sector,
including tax breaks and 100 percent foreign equity ownership. Ministers
also agreed to a feasibility study on establishing an ASEAN currency and
exchange rate system and measures to "reduce over-dependence on bank
financing and limiting risks of financial crisis."

ASEAN ministers agreed as well to move forward with tan ASEAN Free Trade
Area (AFTA) partially ahead of its 2003 implementation schedule. Under the
agreement signed last week, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore and Thailand agreed to implement a free trade area by 2002,
while less-developed ASEAN countries have until 2006-2008 to come into the
fold.

ASEAN leaders are eager to restore confidence in the region after
struggling under the weight of economic catastrophe for over a year.
However, observers note that changes to domestic policies that ASEAN
members will have to make are politically difficult in light of the
economic crisis, and would carry additional social costs at a time when
local businesses are already struggling and unemployment is growing.

In related news, ASEAN environment ministers last month agreed to more
regional co-operation on a number of transborder environmental issues.
Ministers agreed to collaborate on issues including haze pollution caused
by slash and burn forest fires, and to establish new working groups to
address nature conservation and biodiversity, coastal and marine
environment, and multilateral environment agreements.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

 "ASEAN pacts speed trade liberalisation," INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE,
December 17, 1998;
 "ASEAN sets its sights on trade boom," INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE,
December 15, 1998;
 "ASEAN summit to press for open markets," WALL STREET JOURNAL, December
15, 1998;
 "L'ASEAN veut s'ouvrir a son rythme," LE FIGARO, December 16, 1998;
 "SOUTH-EAST ASIA: Time for self-criticism by ASEAN," IPS, December 10,
1998;
 "SOUTH-EAST ASIA: After summit, time to sell prescriptions at home," IPS,
December 16, 1998: "ASEAN ministers agree to co-operate on host of
transborder environment issues," INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT REPORT,
December 9, 1998.






FTAA: CALL FOR FLEXIBILITY FOR SMALLER ECONOMIES; CHILE CONSIDERS NEW
TRADE AGREEMENTS

Jamaica's Ambassador to the U.S. Richard Bernal last week called for
flexibility in negotiating the hemispheric Free Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA), which would link 34 economies from the Yukon to Patagonia by 2005.
Mr. Bernal chairs the FTAA negotiating committee on small economies
designed to give voice to Caribbean and Central American countries in FTAA
negotiations. Speaking to the 22nd Annual Miami Conference on the
Caribbean and Latin America last week, Mr. Bernal outlined a negotiating
approach which would allow negotiators to agree on a core agreement
between the 34 countries, but under which each nation could determine
separately the speed at which it could reach FTAA liberalisation goals.
This would allow developed economies to move more rapidly toward trade
liberalisation while affording developing economies the necessary time to
adjust to liberalisation. Mr. Bernal also called for a differentiated
timetable for regional dispute resolution to account for the limited
resources available to smaller economies.

In other regional news, Chilean Finance Minister Eduardo Aninat confirmed
rumours that the U.S. may finally begin negotiations to bring Chile into
the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, between the U.S., Mexico
and Canada). The idea of NAFTA-expansion was launched four years ago at
the first Summit of the Americas when the U.S. vowed to extend NAFTA to
include Chile. To date, the U.S. has not been able to build domestic
support for this expansion, including the Clinton Administration's
inability to secure fast track negotiating authority. Meanwhile, Chile has
come into its own as an economy, forging alliances with South America's
trading power, the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR, which comprises
Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), and separate agreements with
Canada and Mexico. Chile has launched free trade negotiations with the EU.

Meanwhile, Chile's director of trade negotiations last week said that
Chile and South Korea are working furiously to begin negotiating the first
tans-Pacific free trade agreement early next year. Annual trade between
Chile and South Korea currently amounts to US$1.6 billion.

 "Flexibility is called key to FTAA acceptance," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE,
December 15, 1998;
 "Chile, Korea explore trans-Pacific trade deal;" "Reports say US may talk
with Chile about joining Nafta," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, December 16, 1998.






WTO NOTES LIMITED ACCESS TO CANADIAN MARKET FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

The WTO last week conducted the obligatory "Trade Policy Review" of
Canada. While Members found that Canada is a generally open economy, they
noted that Canada has work to do with respect to market access for
developing countries. WTO members noted that Canada still has in place
significant tariff protection for textiles, clothing and footwear and food
products, all sectors in which developing economies could have comparative
advantage as an exporter. Some members also noted concern around Canada's
dependence on the U.S. for much of its trade.

In separate news, Canada and the EU last week agreed to accept each
other's sanitary measures with regard to live animals and animal products.
The veterinary equivalency agreement should streamline EU- Canada trade in
dairy, fish and fish products, live animals and fresh meat. These products
already account for annual EU-Canadian trade worth US$655 million. The
agreement does not cover trade in genetically modified products or
phytosanitary measures. The agreement was signed as part of the EU-Canada
summit held last week in Ottawa. At the summit, Canada, whose farmers are
struggling with troubled grain and hog markets, were expected to press the
EU on agricultural subsidies, and probe the EU on its agenda for the next
round of WTO trade talks.

 "FOCUS: Canada's tariffs high on food, clothing- WTO," REUTERS, December
17, 1998; "EU, Canada reach agreement on sanitary rules for animals,
products," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, December 17, 1998;
 "EU braced for talks on agricultural subsidies at summit," OTTAWA
CITIZEN, December 17, 1998.






CALLS FOR CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION IN REGIONAL TRADE POLICY

Canada said it would continue to push for greater civil society
participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum in
1999, despite rejection of a proposal for broader public participation at
the APEC summit last month. Writing in the FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW
this month, Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy said the
Asian financial crises has "dramatically illustrated the interconnections
between the economic, social and political realms," and called on APEC to
engage new partners in forging an economic recovery program. Mr. Axworthy
said APEC must "engage its sceptics" in order to win support for regional
and global trade liberalisation, and to make globalisation work better.
Mr. Axworthy hailed the important contributions of non-governmental
organisations in the multilateral process, noting that NGO participation
contributed significantly to the outcome at the Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro and the World Conference on Women in Beijing.

In related news, U.S. and EU environmental groups last week pressed U.S.
and EU officials to fully include civil society in developing
Transatlantic trade policy. In advance of the EU-U.S. summit where the
Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP), an enhanced EU-U.S. trade
arrangement, was to be discussed, the Transatlantic Environment Dialogue
(TAED), a grouping of U.S. and EU environmental groups and NGOs, called
for equal access to TEP discussions as those afforded the Transatlantic
Business Dialogue (TABD), a grouping of U.S. and EU business interests. In
their first declaration, TAED urged the U.S. and EU to postpone
implementation of the TEP until environmental issues are added. "Our
governments must immediately begin to work with civil society to revise
the implementation of the TEP Action Plan to ensure that this partnership
will actively promote environmental protection and sustainable
development," the declaration said. Consumer and labour groups have also
joined to form parallel groups to the TABD, namely, the Transatlantic
Consumer Dialogue and the Transatlantic Labour Dialogue. The original EU
proposal on TEP called for increased EU-U.S. co-operation with respect to
trade and environment linkage, and recommended increased EU-U.S. dialogue
on the environment, labour and electronic commerce.

 "The fifth column: managing our people," FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW,
December 14, 1998;
 "USTR highlights role of NGOs in Transatlantic trade policy," INSIDE US
TRADE, December 18, 1998.






IN BRIEF

A report by the wildlife-trade monitoring programme of the WWF/IUCN found
that illegal trade in endangered wildlife remains high in former Soviet
states since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. A number of threatened
species such as snow leopard and Tien Shan brown bear and wild sheep are
poached and traded, while other non-endangered species are traded at
levels that may not be sustainable.

 "Environment: Illegal Wildlife Trade in Central Asia Uncovered," ENS,
December 4, 1998.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) earlier this month decried
globalisation as "a competing religious vision," and called on churches
and social movements to monitor the activities of transnational
corporations, the OECD, IMF and similar bodies. It recommended a campaign
for a new international financial system and said churches should review
the ethics of their own dealings with respect to investments and use of
agricultural land.

 WCC Eighth Assembly Press Release No. 56, December 15, 1998.

Trade will be the number one focus of U.S. international policy in 1999,
according to an U.S. Commerce Department official. Slower trade growth and
a growing trade deficit are expected to fuel increased interest in
international trade. At the forefront of the trade agenda, the U.S. is
expected to push Japan and China to embrace liberalisation and do their
part to help Asian countries recover from the economic crisis.

 "Commerce official: trade to top 1999 international agenda," DOW JONES,
December 14, 1998.

Inadequate infrastructure and growing insecurity threaten Colombia's
attempts to promote its biodiversity and ecotourism resources. Colombia's
46 national parks occupy about 10 million hectares and are home to nearly
14 percent of the species of flora and fauna known worldwide. Colombia
hopes that a governmental Peace Plan will be a success and alleviate
security issues, complemented by tax reductions designed to benefit
tourism.

 "Colombia: Ecotourism trapped between biodiversity and insecurity," IPS,
December 7, 1998.






WTO IN BRIEF

WTO negotiators last week again failed to meet a self-imposed deadline
December 11 for reaching agreement on tariff cuts for information
technology products, in a deal that would broaden the 1997 WTO Information
Technology Agreement. Talks began in February 1998 and were to be
concluded by June 1998. Most countries have agreed to a list of some 200
goods to be included in the agreement, a much shorter list than originally
anticipated. Malaysia and India and some other developing countries remain
the strongest holdouts in the negotiating process. India registered strong
opposition to the agreement, saying it was drawn up by only a handful of
rich members without consulting developing countries, and clearly
represents developed countries interests. Negotiators are to meet again in
February 1999.

 "WTO Information Technology negotiators miss deadline; India threatens to
block deal," INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, December 16, 1998;
 "WTO talks delayed again," FINANCIAL TIMES, December 15, 1998.

WTO members last week failed to nominate a successor to WTO Director
General Rennato Ruggiero. France announced that it would support Moroccan
candidate Hasssan Abouyoub, thereby breaking ranks with the official
silence from Brussels. Sources report that Thailand's Deputy Prime
Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi leads all four candidates, who also include
New Zealand Prime Minister Michael Moore and former Canadian Trade
Minister Roy MacLaren. WTO members agreed Friday to target the end of
January for reaching consensus on a candidate.

 "Race for WTO chief intensifies as France breaks EU ranks to support
Moroccan candidate," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, December 21, 1998.

At a meeting of the working party on Russia's WTO accession last week,
Russia attempted to defend recent tariff measures affecting foreign
imports by outlining economic problems brought on by a sharp decline in
commodity prices and noted that the price of imported food had soared
since its currency collapsed. Members also asked Russia to submit more
recent data on agricultural subsidies than the pre-1991 data previously
submitted.

 "Russia pressed for farm subsidy details in WTO bid," REUTERS, December
16, 1998.



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BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest) is published by the 
International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development 
with support from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade 
Policy.  Editor: Caroline Dommen, ICTSD, Geneva Executive 
Center, 13 ch. des Anemones, 1219 Geneva, Switzerland; 
email: cdommen@ictsd.ch; tel: (41-22) 917 8497; fax: (41-
22) 917 8093. Executive Director: Ricardo Melindez-Ortiz, 
address as above, email: rmelendez@ictsd.ch.

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