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[Index][Thread]

BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol. 3, Number 7 22 February, 1999



Table of Contents                           

- Biosafety Talks Stalled
- U.S. Blocks Section 301 Panel Request
- U.S. Offers Country-of Origin Label To Resolve Beef Dispute
- EU Blasted For Alternative To Independent Legal-Aid Centre
- TRIPs Council Moves Slowly on Review of Life Patenting Exemption
- GMO Cotton: Monsanto Fails To Round-up EU Approval For Seed
- S Africa: U.S. Pursues More Trade; Agreement With EU Hung Up Over A Wine
By Any Other Name. . .
- No Move on WTO Document Deristriction
- In Brief
- WTO In Brief




EVENTS & RESOURCES

EVENTS

For a more complete list of events in coming months, please refer to
ICTSD's web calendar at: http://www.ictsd.org/html/calendar.htm

WTO Meetings

3 March 1999: Dispute Settlement Body.
 For information contact Nuch Nazeer, WTO, (41-22) 739-5393.

15-16 March 1999: Council for Trade in Services.
 For information contact Nuch Nazeer, as above.

17-19 March 1999: Textiles Monitoring Body.
 For information contact Luis Ople, WTO, (41-22) 739-5374.

19 March 1999: Dispute Settlement Body.
 For information contact Nuch Nazeer, as above.

22-23 March 1999: Working Group on the Relationship between Trade and
Investment.
 For information contact Luis Ople, as above.

25-26 March 1999: Committee on Agriculture.
 For information contact Peter Ungphakorn, WTO, (41-22) 739-5412.

Other Events

4 March 1999, WTO-NGO BRIEFING.
 This briefing will take place from 3 - 4.30 p.m. and will cover recent
meetings of the Dispute Settlement Body, meetings of the Special Session
of the General Council, the Committee on Trade and Environment of 18-19
February, and the High- Level Symposia on Trade and Development and on
Trade and Environment. The WTO Secretariat will be represented by
Gabrielle Marceau, from the Legal Affairs Division, Jorge Vigano from the
Trade and Environment Division and Claude Trolliet, from the External
Relations Division. The briefing will take place at the Geneva Executive
Centre, Conference Room 2, 11-13 Chemin des Anemones (Chatelaine).
 For information, contact Dagmar Timmer at ICTSD, (41-22) 917-8352 or at
dtimmer@ictsd.ch

5 March 1999: THE CAP REFORM/AGENDA 2000, THE AGRICULTURE INTERNATIONAL
CONTEXT, AND THE NEXT WTO ROUND.
 This Public Conference is hosted by the Association europienne de
formation paysanne et rurale (European Training Association for Farming
and Rural Affairs). Venue : Salle Benelux, Eurovillage, Bd Charlemagne 80,
Brussels (Metro Schuman).
 For information contact the AEFP at Rue Stevin 115, 1000 Bruxelles,
Belgium, tel: (32-2) 230-3694, fax: 230-9697. With the support of the
European Commission (DG VI - AII-1).

19 March 1999: COMPETING COMPETITION LAWS: DO WE NEED A GLOBAL STANDARD?
 This programme will be presented by the New England Centre for
International Law & Policy at the New England School of Law (American
Society of International Law Regional Meeting). Eleanor Fox of New York
University will give an introduction to "The Tension between National Laws
and 'Global' Trade."
 For information contact Michael P. Scharf, New England School of Law,
tel: (1-617) 457-3009; fax: 422-7453, e-mail: mscharf@fac.nesl.edu, web:
http://www.asil.org/schmtg.htm

28 June-2 July 1999: ADVANCED STUDY COURSE 1999, EUROPEAN COMMISSION
ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE PROGRAMME: "LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF
THE KYOTO PROTOCOL: MAINTAINING ACCOUNTABILITY WITHIN A FLEXIBLE REGIME."
 This course will be held in London, United Kingdom. Accommodation and
tuition fees are paid for by the European Commission. Interested persons
may request the application form from the Responsible Scientist,
Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, SOAS,
University of London, 46-47 Russell Square, London, WC1B 4JP, United
Kingdom, tel: (44-171) 637-7950, fax: 637- 7951, e-mail: cd2@soas.ac.uk,
web: http://www.field.org.uk
 The deadline for applications is 16th April 1999.

RESOURCES

TRADE, ENVIRONMENT AND THE WTO: A FRAMEWORK FOR MOVING FORWARD. By Gary P.
Sampson.
 A publication of the Overseas Development Council, available on the
Internet at www.odc.org. The author is Visiting Academic in the
International Relations Department at the London School of Economics, and
former Director of the WTO's Trade and Environment Division. The analysis
and proposals in this paper will be extended in a Policy Essay to be
published towards the end of this year.
 For information contact Linda Cotton at Overseas Development Council,
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20010, tel: (1-202) 234-8701
ext. 236.

LOGGING BURMA'S FRONTIER FORESTS: RESOURCES AND THE REGIME
http://www.wri.org/wri/ffi/burma/
 Using satellite data, sophisticated computer mapping, and data collected
on the ground, this report focuses on the environmental implications of
the increasing logging activity in Burma and on the political and economic
forces behind this logging.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INFORMATION SERVICE http://www.wri.org/wri/sdis/
 The new Sustainable Development Information Service (SDIS) helps users
identify and locate the best available information and in many cases
provides direct access to a variety of information sources, including
directories of information, data and maps, state of environment reports,
environmental indicators and treaties. SDIS was developed by the World
Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with partners at the World
Conservation Union (IUCN) and the International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED).

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE: THE TRIPS AGREEMENT. Edited
by Carlos M. Correa and Abdulqawi A. Yusuf (Sept. 1998).
 Comprised of chapters contributed by a distinguished panel of experts,
this book offers a framework for understanding the background, principles
and complex provisions of the TRIPS Agreement. It highlights the context
in which the TRIPS Agreement was elaborated and adopted and the way to
interpret and apply it.[ TRIPS = Trade- Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights]
 Published by Kluwer Law International, 496 pp. ISBN/ISSN: 904110707X
Price: NLG 295.00/USD 159.00/GBP 100.00. Kluwer Law International, P.O.
Box 85889, 2508 CN The Hague, The Netherlands, fax: (31-70) 308-1515.





BIOSAFETY TALKS STALLED

Negotiators from 174 countries made little headway last week toward
agreement on a biosafety protocol regulating the transfer and handling of
genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest
went to press a split between developed and developing nations over GMO
trade was seriously jeopardising the conclusion of agreement. Negotiations
are taking place in Cartagena, Colombia and the agreed text of the
protocol was to be submitted for approval by an extraordinary Conference
of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diverstiy (CBD), due to
meet 22-23 February.
 It was agreed in 1995 that an international protocol on biosafety was
needed to complement the CBD, adopted at UNCED in 1992. At present there
are no binding international agreements addressing situations where GMOs
cross national borders. (See BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest, Vol. 3, No
3, 25 January 1999.)
 An official with Mexico's Pulsar Group, one of the world's leading seed
producers, said the Cartagena talks had "been converted into negotiations
over international trade, not about safeguarding biodiversity." Indeed,
North-South divisions over GMOs get to the heart of South fears and
suspicions over the power and presence of multinational firms in trade
policy, and the ramifications for food security and developing countries'
pharmaceutical sectors.
 "Biotech companies are very keen to push genetically engineered organisms
and products on the South. But the threats posed by the technology to the
environment, health and livelihoods of farmers are too high in the midst
of great uncertainties and absence of regulatory rules," according to Chee
Yoke Ling, an environmental lawyer and member of the Independent Group of
Scientific and Legal Experts on Biosafety. The Independent Group provided
scientific and legal support to developing country negotiators at the
Cartagena talks.
 Leading non-governmental organisations meeting in a parallel session
called for a moratorium on GMOs "until the risks posed to human health and
biological and cultural diversity by the consumption and release of GMOs
are assessed, and until it is clear how they affect the economies of
developing countries," according to a statement by an international group
of 36 NGOs. The NGOs criticised the Cartagena talks for restricting civil
society participation.
 The EU issued a statement accusing the U.S., Australia, and Canada of
"favouring positions that would result in a protocol without any
environmental credibility," and which would result in a protocol with an
unfair balance of obligations between the parties of export and the
parties of import, and these [countries of import] are mostly developing
countries." The EU position was echoed by a number of developing
countries.
 Major issues still not agreed to at press time were over whether the
protocol should be limited only to GMOs that would be planted in the
environment, or extended to GMO derivatives including pharmaceuticals,
vaccines and processed food. Negotiators were also yet to agree on the
final wording around advanced informed agreement (AIA) between countries
shipping and receiving bioengineered organisms.

 "Focus of Biosafety Protocol Should Be On Deliberate Release of LMOs,
U.S. Says," INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT REPORT, 17 Feb. 1999;
 "UN talks on GM trade make little headway," FINANCIAL TIMES, 19 Feb.
1999;
 "U.S. strives to head off curbs on genetic-altered products,"
INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, 15 Feb. 1999;
 "L'avenir du commerce des produits genetiquement modifies se joue a
Carthagene," LE MONDE, 17 Feb. 1999;
 "Clashes over genetically modified organisms threaten biodiversity pact,
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 19 Feb. 1999.






U.S. BLOCKS SECTION 301 PANEL REQUEST

The U.S. last week rejected an EU request to establish a dispute
settlement panel to determine whether Section 301 of the U.S. 1974 Trade
Act violates international trade rules. Section 301 is the mechanism used
by the U.S. to establish unilateral trade sanctions. (See BRIDGES Weekly
Trade News Digest Vol 3, No 1-2, 18 January 1999.) The EU complaint
against 301 was brought in the context of the on-going dispute between the
EU and U.S. over bananas. The EU vowed to make its second (binding)
request for a panel at a special session of the WTO Dispute Settlement
Body (DSB) in March.
 The latest chapter in the EU-U.S. banana dispute has centred around
whether the U.S. could seek retaliation against the EU for alleged failure
to comply with the WTO ruling against its banana import regime before a
DSB panel on EU compliance has finished its work (decision due by April
12). St. Lucia and Dominica, India, Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, Canada,
Egypt, and Indonesia last month spoke out forcefully against DSB
consideration of the U.S. retaliation request until the panel on EU
compliance issued a ruling. These members noted concern over the long-term
institutional implications of considering the U.S. 301-sanctions request:
the members said the "unilateralism" with which the U.S. was proceeding
undermined the WTO foundation of decision by consensus.
 The EU maintains that Section 301 violates the Articles 3, 21, 22 and 23
of the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), which inter alia hold
that solutions to trade disputes should not infringe on members' benefits
under the WTO. The EU argues as well that Section 301 violates Article
XVI:4 of the Marrakech Agreement (which established the WTO), which
requires members' laws to conform to WTO rules. The EU also maintains that
Section 301 violates the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT) with
respect to most-favoured-nation treatment, import- export fees,
quantitative restrictions and concessions schedules (Articles I, II, III,
VIII, and XI).
 The U.S. countered that the EU argument against Section 301 was
"inaccurate" and was merely an attempt to divert attention away from the
fact that the EU has failed to comply with the WTO ruling against its
banana import regime. Earlier this month, Japan warned that it would bring
its own complaint against Section 301 if the U.S. seeks to impose
sanctions against it in trade disagreements over steel and auto parts.
 "EU to make second WTO panel request on Section 301 in March," INSIDE US
TRADE, 19 Feb. 1999;
 "EU Seeks WTO ruling on US sanctions law," FINANCIAL TIMES, 18 Feb. 1999;
"Japan opposes the return of Super 301 trade law," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, 5
Feb. 1999;
 "EU asks for WTO panel on US Super 301 legislation," AGENCE
FRANCE-PRESSE, 18 Feb. 1999;
 "EU move to probe US trade law blocked for now," REUTERS, 18 Feb. 1999.






U.S. OFFERS COUNTRY-OF ORIGIN LABEL TO RESOLVE BEEF DISPUTE

The U.S. last week proposed a resolution to the EU-U.S. dispute over an EU
ban on hormone-treated beef, offering to label U.S. beef exports with its
country-of-origin. The EU was unmoved by the offer, noting that the U.S.
did not include information regarding the presence of growth hormones, the
central issue of the ban.
 In a letter to the EU 11 February the U.S. said, "This beef labelling
proposal will allow consumers to recognise U.S.-sourced beef. Therefore,
consumers can choose whether to purchase the product. By labelling U.S.
beef and beef products with those U.S. labels already approved by the
Commission, the EU will have the necessary product identification to allow
for consumer awareness and choice. We would be willing to take these
voluntary measures to facilitate the EU's removal of the import ban."
 EU officials said the U.S. offer was unacceptable in its current form and
that any label would have to include information regarding the presence of
hormones. EU officials did however welcome the apparent willingness to
negotiate in the beef dispute displayed by the labelling offer.
 The WTO Appellate Body in February 1998 ruled that the EU ban on beef
treated with growth hormones was not based on adequate scientific evidence
and so violates international trade rules. The EU has until May 1999 to
lift the ban or provide scientific justification for it. Earlier this
month the EU proposed three options for resolving the dispute, including
one which called for the EU to lift the ban on hormone treated beef
imports with the caveat that hormone treated beef must be clearly labelled
stating that the product has been treated with hormones. (See BRIDGES
Weekly Trade News Digest Vol. 3, No 6, 15 February 1999.) U.S. officials
said their country-of-origin labelling offer was sent to EU officials
prior to receiving notice of the three options from the EU.

 "US proposes beef label plan to EU, EU reacts coolly," DOW JONES, 16 Feb.
1999;
 "EU says US beef proposal is unacceptable;" "US proposes labelling to end
EU beef trade dispute," REUTERS, 16 Feb. 1999;
 "L'OMC face a la guerre des hormones," LE FIGARO, 16 Feb. 1999;
 "EU still milling options in US hormone beef dispute," AGENCE
FRANCE-PRESSE, 18 Feb. 1999;
 "Text: U.S. Letter on Hormone Dispute," INSIDE US TRADE, 19 Feb. 1999.






EU BLASTED FOR ALTERNATIVE TO INDEPENDENT LEGAL-AID CENTRE

The EU came under fire last week for allegedly trying to sabotage a
proposed independent centre providing legal advice and support for poor
countries at the WTO. The planned Advisory Centre on WTO Law would provide
legal support to developing countries to defend their positions in trade
disputes. An estimated US$15 million is needed to start Centre operations,
to be funded by developed and developing WTO Members. Fees for using the
Centre would be based on developing Members' ability to pay. Centre
supporters note that the Centre is needed to provide equal access to
justice at the WTO level.
 The EU last week proposed that instead of the independent centre, WTO
Members should move to strengthen the ability of the WTO to provide legal
advice to developing countries when support is needed. A number of Members
criticised the EU proposal, noting that the WTO Secretariat was required
to be neutral in WTO matters and that keeping the legal centre within the
realm of the WTO would compromise the impartiality of the WTO. 
 Critics charged the EU with attempting to undermine the independent
Centre out of fear the Centre could help developing countries defend a
challenge against the EU's Common Agriculture Policy, or against social
and environmental clauses developed countries such as the EU and U.S.
would like included in WTO agreements. 
 Bangladesh, Colombia, Hong Kong, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa
and Venezuela are among the developing countries pushing for the
independent Advisory Centre on WTO Law. The Netherlands, Sweden and the UK
are among industrialised countries supporting the Centre. 
 "EU: Brussels accused of sabotage," FINANCIAL TIMES, 17 Feb. 1999;
 "Trade: More consultations on DG selection," SUNS, 18 Feb. 1999;
 "Rich men's rules," FINANCIAL TIMES, 18 Feb. 1999.






TRIPS COUNCIL MOVES SLOWLY ON REVIEW OF LIFE PATENTING EXEMPTION

Meeting on 17 February, the TRIPs Council once again turned its attention
to the review of Article 27.3 (b) of the Agreement on Trade- Related
Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which allows certain plant and
animal inventions to be exempt from patent protection. (See also BRIDGES
Between Trade and Sustainable Development, Vol. 2, No. 8, p. 3).

The approach to the issue within the TRIPs Council continues to focus on
"information-gathering," and input so far has almost exclusively consisted
of replies to a list of questions on how plant and animal inventions are
handled in domestic laws. Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, the EU and
several of its members, Hungary, Japan, the U.S. and Zambia have so far
submitted this information. Several other Members, as well as FAO and the
secretariat of the CBD have said that they will also submit information.
The WTO secretariat is expected to prepare a summary of the responses
received for the next meeting of the TRIPs Council, in April.

Despite the gentle pace of the review so far, it is well known that
proponents of removing all exeptions to patenting requirements (U.S. and
European industry for instance), and supporters of extending the exeption
to all life forms are lurking in the wings prepared to push their point of
view forwards. Some observers believe that the 1999 review will consist
solely of the information-gathering exercise underway, with negotiation of
the real issues carried over into the round of trade negotiations due to
be launched at the Third WTO Ministerial at the end of this year.

The TRIPs Council last week also discussed other subjects including:
geographical indications, "non-violation" complaints, how countries are
applying the "mailbox" and exclusive marketing rights provisions of the
TRIPs Agreeement (Arts. 70.8 and 70.9), and incentives for technology
transfer to least developed countries as required under Article 66.2 of
the Agreement. The TRIPs Council also elected its new Chair for 1999:
Ambassador Carlos Pirez del Castillo of Uruguay thus replaces Hungary's
Ambasador, Istvan Major.
 "TRIPS Council 17 February 1999 - US, Japan submit proposal on
geographical indications," WTO BACKGROUND NOTE, 22 Feb. 1999; ICTSD
Internal Files.






GMO COTTON: MONSANTO FAILS TO ROUND-UP EU APPROVAL FOR SEED

On 12 February the European Union rejected an application for the sale of
two varieties of genetically-engineered (GMO) cotton seeds despite the
approval by an EU panel of scientific experts. The GMO cotton - produced
by the U.S. multinational Monsanto Co. failed to get the required majority
from EU members for approval. The two varieties include one resistant to
herbicides (Round-up Ready) and the other resistant to insecticides
(Bollgard).

The application for sale of the two cotton seeds now goes to the EU
Council of Environmental Ministers, where a unanimous vote is required to
block the sale of the seeds. Environment ministers are expected to delay
that vote until June: it is reported that at present there is not enough
support among environment ministers to approve the application. Of the 15
EU members, only Greece and Spain grow cotton, which together account for
about five percent of world cotton production.

Last year the EU Scientific Committee on Plants found that the GMO cotton
posed no significant health risk. Last year, EU ministers rejected the
application for sale of GMO tomato and corn seeds, which also had the
backing of EU scientists. Despite the scientific approval, observers note
that EU consumers' mistrust of the scientific evidence makes acceptance of
GMO products on the EU market very difficult.
 "EU states preliminarily reject cotton seeds, despite green light from
science panel," INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, 17 Feb. 1999;
 "GM Crops: Genetically modified trade wars," FINANCIAL TIMES, 18 Feb.
1999;
 "EU postpones decision about Monsanto cotton," WALL STREET JOURNAL, 16
Feb. 1999. 






S AFRICA: U.S. PURSUES MORE TRADE; AGREEMENT WITH EU HUNG UP OVER A WINE
BY ANY OTHER NAME. . .

Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa last week, the US and S. Africa
announced the establishment of a bilateral council on trade and investment
aimed at increasing bilateral trade between the two countries. As part of
the agreement, the US and S. Africa will establish a bilateral mechanism
for dealing with trade disputes. For example, the dispute mechanism would
address issues such as the US complaint that S. Africa's attempts to
import unpatented pharmaceuticals violates S. Africa's obligations under
the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights.

The bilateral council is one more step in U.S. efforts to increase trade
relations with sub-Saharan Africa. The African Growth and Opportunity Act
(AGOA) is currently working its way through the U.S. Congress. The bill
promotes trade, investment, and increased development in Africa, and aims
to de-emphasise aid as the only means of cash flow from the U.S. to the
region. Before passing the House International Relations Committee on 11
February by a vote of 24-8 on its way to a second House committee for
approval, a workers' rights amendment was added to the bill, specifying
that countries receiving benefits under AGOA must have in place or be
working to ensure the protection of "internationally recognised worker
rights." A similar provision calling for environmental protection tied to
trade benefits was defeated.

Meanwhile, opponents to the bill call its impact insignificant to overall
U.S.-sub-Saharan trade. Critics also question whether the bill, with its
emphasis on increased access for African textiles, is really necessary
considering that the U.S. is required to eliminate by 2005 textile and
apparel quotas under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. Other
critics to AGOA, led by Representative Jesse Jackson call the AGOA bill a
form of neo-colonialism with respect to the economic reforms it specifies
as a contingency for receiving benefits.

In other news, an EU-S. African trade agreement agreed to earlier this
month has been held up by a disagreement over "legal language." The
disagreement is thought to be centred around the volatile issue of phasing
out S. Africa's use of the terms "sherry" and "port," within the
five-member South African Development Community. Spain and Portugal are
reported to have reservations over the timelines around eliminating S.
Africa's use of the terms and over a provision allowing duty-free access
for a certain amount of S. African spirits on the EU market. (See BRIDGES
Weekly Trade News Digest Vol. 3, No 5, 8 February 1999.)
 "South Africa, US Reach Trade Agreement," PANAFRICAN NEWS AGENCY, 18 Feb.
1999; "Does the African initiative matter?" JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, 16 Feb.
1999;
 "S Africa's Mbeki: "Legal Language" holding up EU Trade Pact," DOW JONES,
16 Feb. 1999;
 "Africa bill clears International Relations, held up in Ways & Means,"
INSIDE US TRADE, Feb. 12, 1999.






NO MOVE ON WTO DOCUMENT DERISTRICTION

India and Mexico blocked discussion last week of a Chair's proposal on
document derestriction. At the 16-17 February meeting of the WTO General
Council,members also discussed the European request for interpretation of
articles 21.5 and 22.6 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding in the
context of the ongoing banana dispute, (see "Dispute Settlement Review
Moves Ahead," BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest, Vol. 3, No. 6, 15
February, 1999) and the appointment of a new WTO Director-General, on
which no decision was reached. The deadline for WTO Members to appoint
someone to the top post has now been extended to 12 March.

In the context of document derestriction, India cited concerns about the
access of parties to a dispute to documents that the Secretariat prepares
for panels, and Mexico said that WTO Members were not properly consulted
about document derestriction. The proposal, already submitted to the
December 1998 General Council meeting (see BRIDGES Weekly Trade News
Digest, Vol. 2, No 48, 14 December, 1998), would amend current practice
through circulating Secretariat background notes as unrestricted, unless
the relevant WTO body decides that the note initially be considered as
restricted. Minutes of meetings would be derestricted after three months,
instead of the current six, but working documents (including meeting
agendas) would continue to be restricted until the adoption of the
relevant report. The proposal also advocated circulating as unrestricted
the 'Findings and Conclusions' portion of dispute settlement panel reports
as soon as it is available in all three WTO languages. India objected to
discussing changes to panel report circulation in the General Council,
arguing that such changes should be considered as part of the ongoing
review of the Dispute Settlement Understanding.

Document derestriction is part of a wider discussion on how to improve
transparency of the WTO. No changes to current practice have yet been
made, and the discussion is being pushed towards the back burner as WTO
Members focus on preparations for the Third Ministerial later this year.
Some observers are however saying that document derestriction could become
part of the larger negotiation package in the run-up to the third WTO
Ministerial. The issue is expected to figure on the General Council's
agenda when it meets next on 14 April.
 "India, Mexico block proposal to release more WTO documents,"
INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, 17 Feb. 1999;
 "New deadline for election of WTO Director General," IPS, 22 Feb. 1999;
ICTSD Internal Files. 






IN BRIEF

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last
week put into effect its first anticorruption agreement. The agreement -
agreed to by 29 of the world's largest industrialised economies,
criminalises bribes to government officials outside a person's home
country. The agreement also discontinues the practice of allowing bribes
to be deducted from taxes as legitimate business expenses.
 "OECD begins antibribery efforts," WALL STREET JOURNAL, 15 Feb. 1999.

A report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last week
said that trade liberalisation in Bangladesh has raised average income but
has also helped increase the gap between rich and poor in that country.
The report said that the poorest 20 percent of households have seen no
improvement in their standard of living, while the richest 20 percent have
improved their standard of living considerably.
 "Free trade widens rich-poor gap in Bangladesh," REUTERS, 15 Feb. 1999.

An U.S. forest products company has brought a NAFTA Chapter 11 suit
against the Canadian government, alleging that Canada has discriminatorily
applied the U.S.-Canadian softwood lumber quota agreement. NAFTA Chapter
11 allows an investor to seek compensation if a government acts to
directly or indirectly expropriate an investment in that country. Canadian
officials promised to keep details around the case transparent in response
to complaints that previous Chapter 11 cases have been kept secret.
 "ANOTHER U.S. FIRM SUES OTTAWA UNDER NAFTA," GLOBE & MAIL, 16 Feb. 1999.






WTO IN BRIEF

WTO Director-General Renato Ruggiero met with nearly 50 civil society
representatives in Brussels on 18 February for an informal exchange of
views on various issues relating to the multilateral trade system.
Participants' questions focussed to a large extent on the forthcoming High
Level Symposia. This meeting took place as part of Ruggiero's ongoing
efforts to improve WTO-civil society relations. ICTSD Internal Files.

Having learned from the MAI debacle, Japan's Foreign Ministry last week
announced it would meet with environmental, labour and consumer rights
NGOs in advance of the Third WTO Ministerial in November. The Foreign
Ministry hopes to foster co-operation with NGOs, which government
officials said would be key to the success of the next round of global
trade talks. A hearing is scheduled for March 9.
 "Ministry to hear from NGOs," ASAHI SHIMBUN, 17 February 1999.

EU Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan last week called for a "World Trade
Organisation Accession Initiative" with the of goal of bringing more than
30 countries into the WTO before the Third WTO Ministerial in November.
Sir Leon noted the accession process, "will consist of requiring less from
[developing countries] as a condition for membership than [until now] and
speeding up the process for them by having a uniform approach to their
accession, which would reduce the time needed to examine each
application."
 "EU urges WTO to add new members before Seattle Ministerial in November,"
INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, 17 Feb. 1999. 





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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-
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address as above, email: rmelendez@ictsd.ch.

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