GENTECH archive


BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol4, Number 18 -9 May, 2000




For more information on these events please visit ICTSD's online calendar

Meeting of Parties to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in
a Transboundary Context
   For information contact: UN/ECE; tel:(41- 22) 22917-4444; fax:
917-0505; email:

   For information contact: Luis Ople, Information and Media Relations,
tel: (41-22) 739.5374; email:

TO GATS AND THE SERVICES NEGOTIATIONS. The seminar will take the shape of
briefings followed by discussions on the GATS and the schedules of
commitments and on the major current areas of work in the Council for
Trade in Services and its subsidiary bodies.
   For information contact: Nuch Nazeer, WTO Information and Media
Relations Division, tel: (41-22) 739-5393; email:

10-11 May, Buenos Aires, Argentina: INTERNATIONAL STANDARDIZATION
CONGRESS. Hosted by The Argentinean Standardization Institute (IRAM). For
information contact: Argentinean Standardization Institute, email:

   For information contact: European TAED Coordinator: Ronald Kingham,
EEB, 34 Boulevard de Waterloo, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium, tel: (32-2)
289-1090; fax: 289-1099; email: US Coordinator: Rina
Rodriguez, Defenders of Wildlife, 1101 14th Street, NW, Suite 1400,
Washington, DC 20005, tel: (1-202) 689-9400; fax: 682-1331; email:

12-13 May, Nijmegen, the Netherlands: PALLAS CONFERENCE ON "ENVIRONMENTAL
LAW FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM." This conference is sponsored by the DG
Environment of the European Commission, Oxford University Press, and the
Yearbook of European Environmental Law.
   For information contact: The Pallas Consortium, tel: (31-24) 361-3090;
fax: 361-5838; email:; web:


An updated list of forthcoming World Trade Organization meetings is posted
at . Please bear in mind that dates
and times of WTO meetings are often changed, and that the WTO does not
always announce the important informal meetings of different WTO bodies.
Unless otherwise indicated, all WTO meetings are held at the WTO, Centre
William Rappard, Rue de Lausanne 154, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

   For information contact: Luis Ople, Information and Media Relations,
tel: (41-22) 739- 5374; email:

contact: Nuch Nazeer, WTO Information and Media Relations Division, tel:
(41-22) 739-5393; email:


18-20 May, Wageningen, the Netherlands: SUSTAINABLE ENERGY: NEW CHALLENGES
organised by Wageningen University, Wageningen Institute for Environmental
and Climate Research (WIMEK/SENSE) in collaboration with the Mansholt
Institute, the C.T. de Wit Graduate School Production Ecology (both in
Wageningen), and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
(IIASA, Austria). The main objective of this conference is to bring
together economists and other scientists working in the area of
sustainable energy and land use modelling, in order to discuss the
implications for agriculture of a transition towards a society that relies
on sustainable energy.
   For information contact: Alfonso Oude Lansink, Wageningen University,
Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen; tel: (31-317)485194; 482745; email:; web:

29-30 May, Brussels, Belgium: DG TRADE ISSUES GROUP MEETINGS. The main
purpose of these issue group meetings is to provide an opportunity for
discussions on the subjects in question. This meeting will focus on
health, services, agriculture, environment and sustainable development.
For information contact: Haitze Siemers, Trade G-1, European Commission
CHAR 15/16, Rue de la Loi 200 1049 Brussels ; tel: (32-2) 299-0185 ; fax:
(32-2) 299-0900 ; email:; web

DEVELOPMENT - SMEs AND NEW ENTERPRISES. This two-day conference is hosted
by The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions. It will discuss SMEs and present their particular challenge in
the drive towards sustainable production. The conference will comprise of
a plenary session and four parallel sessions dealing with the following
themes: product design, support systems for SMEs, training needs of SMEs,
and evaluation of draft Foundation report on Factors and Processes leading
to Successful Design. Interested parties can contact the Foundation though
participation will be by invitation only
   For information contact: Sarah Farrell, Secretary; tel: (353-1)
2043172; web:


publication is being brought out by the Geneva-based United Nations
Research Institute for Social Development in June to coincide with the
Geneva conference on Social Development. The report makes a strong case
for a new balance between public and private interests. It also sheds
light on gender issues, sustainable development and role of civil society.
   To obtain contact: United Nations Research Institute for Social
Development, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland; tel: (41-
22) 917-3020; fax: (41- 22) 917-0650; email:

May, this collection of essays is based on the idea that substantial
reform of the GATT/WTO systems of dispute settlement may benefit from the
insights and lessons derived from the practice of other international
courts such as the International Court of Justice and the European Court
of Justice. It sheds light on existing procedures and suggest improvements
in comparison to other practices from the other international courts.
   To obtain contact: Cameron May Ltd, 69-71 Bondway, London SW8 1SQ UK:
tel: (44-20)7582-7567; fax: 7793- 8353; email:; web:

published by the Commonwealth Secretariat/World Bank Joint Task Force on
Small States. The report analyses the special characteristics common to
many small states, such as their heavy reliance on foreign trade, aid, and
foreign investment, and relatively undiversified production. The task
force also identified common weaknesses in capacity among small states,
reflecting indivisibilities in the provision of basic public services, and
limited competition and economies of scale in the private sector.
   To obtain contact: World Bank, email:; web:


Business & Development Officer (BDO)

The main work of this position will be in the provision of accurate
financial, accounting, control and forecasting information to ICTSD's
projects and programmes. ICTSD has established a cost-centre system of
accounting for time and materials that enables better management and
reporting outputs. A significant portion of the work in this position will
focus on ensuring that this system is functioning properly and
efficiently; and that it is being used properly in the assessment of
projects and programmes. The incumbent will be responsible for
maintaining, developing and monitoring financial, human resources and
fundraising activities at ICTSD. He/she will serve all programme
components as the organisation^Ňs focal point on all budgeting and finance
issues. The BDO will work as part of a small team reporting directly to
the Executive Director, with supervision from and coordination with the
Programmes Director. The position focuses heavily on accounting, budgeting
and entrepreneurial-base support; it also concentrates on donor reporting
and liaison with vendors.
   For further information please consult ICTSD^Ňs website at:

Table of Contents

- WTO Advances on Implementation; Peru to Chair Ag Negotiations - US
Targets Argentina, India, Brazil, Others in WTO Disputes - CSD-8 Tackles
Trade, Other Issues - US Africa, Caribbean Trade Bill Gets House Nod,
Senate To Vote This Week - News From The Regions: The Americas - ASEAN
Discusses Expanded Free Trade With Regional Partners - In Brief - WTO In
Brief - Corrigendum


In what one WTO official described as two 'dramatic' General Council (GC)
sessions, WTO Members made progress last week on a variety of initiatives
aimed at building confidence in the WTO for developing countries. They
also ended months of indecision by agreeing to appoint Peruvian Ambassador
Jorge Voto-Bernales as Chair of the Special (negotiating) Sessions of the
Committee on Agriculture. The GCs were held on 3 and 8 May, with informal
sessions preceding each.

Discussions at the GCs covered implementation, transition periods for
Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs); the appointment of chairpersons
for the Council for Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and
subsidiary bodies of the Council for Trade in Goods; a market access
initiative for Least-Developed Country (LDC) Members; technical
cooperation funding; a report by General Council Chairman Kĺre Bryn on
ongoing consultations on improving internal transparency; and acceding
countries' participation in agriculture and services negotiations.

Primary among the confidence-building measures was the question of
implementation, long a central issue for developing countries. At the 3
May GC, Members agreed to establish an implementation review mechanism by
convening periodic Special Sessions of the General Council for that
purpose beginning in June. According to a General Council agreement
released after the meeting, the sessions will address "outstanding
implementation issues and concerns, particularly those raised during the
preparations for the Third Session of the Ministerial Conference [in
Seattle in late 1999]".

Though the work programme for the Special Sessions on implementation
remains undecided, discussions are expected to focus on issues such as
extension of transition periods in certain agreements (i.e. agreements on
Customs Valuation and (TRIPs)); developed countries' compliance with
agreements on market access for textiles and subsidies; and antidumping
measures against developing countries' exports (see BRIDGES Weekly Trade
News Digest Vol. 3, Number 46, 24 November 1999, ). Members have pledged to
complete this process by the Fourth Ministerial Conference, to be held
before the end of 2001.

WTO Director General Michael Moore hailed the implementation agreement as
a "tremendous result," and a potential break in the post-Seattle WTO
deadlock. Bangladesh -- which often speaks for LDCs at the WTO -- offered
a more cautious appraisal of the General Council decision, calling the
special implementation mechanism a "modest but welcome advance."

"We would like our developed partners to respond to our problems that we
face in implementation. When this mechanism is set up, the proof of the
pudding is in the eating," Bangladesh's Ambassador to the WTO Iftekhar
Ahmed Chowdhury said.

With respect to the question of TRIMs deadlines extensions, Members also
addressed procedures for reviewing developing country requests for
extending the 1 January 2000 implementation TRIMs deadline. An agreement
was reached at the 8 May GC whereby reviews will be carried out on a
case-by-case basis with the chair of the WTO's Council on Trade in Goods
leading consultations.

Developing countries did not receive a comprehensive or multilateral
arrangement covering the extension of transition deadlines in TRIMs, TRIPs
and Customs Valuation as they had requested. Instead, the text emanating
from the GC regarding TRIMs notes only that "Members have also indicated
that there is a need to preserve the multilateral character of this
process and that the requested extensions shall be examined in accordance
with the rights and obligations of Members under Article 5.3 of the TRIMs
Agreement." Article 5.3 mandates the Council for Trade in Goods to extend
transition periods for developing country or LDC Members who demonstrate
difficulties in implementing provisions of the Agreement (see BRIDGES
Weekly Trade News Digest - Vol. 4, Number 17, 2 May 2000, ).

In a long-overdue decision, delegates agreed on Peruvian Amb. Voto-
Bernales -- who had been nominated by the EU -- to chair the Committee on
Agriculture. Mr. Yoichi Suzuki (Japan) was appointed as Vice Chair for the
Committee. The process had been stalled due to lack of agreement between
the EU and Japan, on the one hand, and the Cairns Group of
agriculture-exporting countries on the other (see BRIDGES Weekly Trade
News Digest - Vol. 4, Number 12, 28 March 2000, ). Ambassador Chak
Mun See (Singapore) was appointed Chair of the TRIPs Council, while Mr.
Shishir Priyadarshi (India) will chair the Committee on Sanitary and
Phytosanitary Measures, Mr. John Adank (New Zealand) will chair the
Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, and Mr. Oscar Hernández
(Venezuela) will chair the Committee on TRIMs.  For a complete list of
chair appointments please see WTO In Brief, below.

Regarding market access for the least developed countries (LDCs), 13
Members announced willingness to extend preferential market access to
LDCs, including the Quad Group (US, EU, Japan, Canada), Chile, the Czech
Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Korea, Norway, New Zealand, Slovenia and
Switzerland. The Quad proposal is the most closely watched of these
proposals, and has thus far been criticised for not going far enough to
expand market access for the world's poorest countries (see BRIDGES Weekly
Trade News Digest Vol. 4, No. 14, 11 April 2000, ).

Mr. Moore called the Quad market access offer a "modest step forward."
Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of developing countries, reiterated
previous criticism of the Quad package at the 3 May GC meeting. "The Quad
paper has initiated a focus that we appreciate and take note of. But it is
inadequate and much more remains to be done," Mr. Chowdhury said.

Members agreed at the GC on 8 May that technical cooperation work is a
core activity of the WTO, and Director-General Moore asked Members to
increase the core budget for technical assistance from $US 434,984 to
$US5.8 million over three years.

GC Chair Bryn of Norway reported to the Council that on the matter of
internal transparency, Member governments have suggested holding more
informal sessions of the GC and making more effective use of information
technology to ensure better and faster dissemination of information. He
suggested that Members hold an "open-ended information meeting" at which
Chairpersons of central WTO bodies could provide delegates with an
overview of the state-of-play in their various Councils and Commissions.

Finally, Members agreed on a text formalising the modalities for
participation of countries acceding to the WTO in the ongoing negotiations
on agriculture, services and "on other relevant elements of the built-in
agenda." The agreement states that negotiations will be open to acceding
countries for which an accession working party is established, though "any
decisions taken in the context of these negotiations will be taken only by
WTO Members." There are approximately 30 countries engaged in WTO
accessions proceedings, including China and Russia.

   "WTO Members clinch deal on ways to address implementation," WTO
REPORTER, 4 May 2000;
   "WTO addresses implementation issues," BUSINESS TIMES (Singapore), 4
May 2000;
   "WTO to tackle trade issues facing developing countries," KYOTO NEWS
   "WTO agrees to hold forum on implementation of trade accords,"
   "Mooted WTO mechanism would be 'modest advance': Bangladesh envoy,"
   "WTO resolves fight over implementation talks' impact on new round,"
INSIDE US TRADE, 5 May 2000;
   "WTO agrees on mechanism to ensure implementation of trade accords,"
AFX, 4 May 2000;
   "Moore hails General Council outcome," WTO PRESS RELEASE, 8 May 2000;
ICTSD Internal Files.


The US on 1 May announced it would seek to establish WTO dispute
settlement panels and/or request consultations with six trading partners.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) targeted India over its local content
requirements in its auto sector, Brazil over its requirements on local
production of patented pharmaceuticals, the Philippines over local content
requirements in its motorcycle and automotive sector, and Argentina for
"significant deficiencies in its patent regime," including failure to
grant exclusive marketing rights for certain technologies. Separate
consultations were requested regarding customs valuation measures by
Brazil over textiles and Romania over clothing, poultry and spirits. The
US also announced consultations with Denmark over its alleged failure to
adequately enforce intellectual property protections.

The USTR notified the WTO actions in a series of annual reports
identifying trade expansion priorities and outlining what the US deems to
be unfair trade practices by its trade partners. The report also noted
potential US actions against the EU for alleged subsidies to Airbus;
against Japan for alleged barriers to market access to Japan's flat glass
sector; and against Mexico's customs valuation practices.

The announced actions received mixed support in the US, where some trade
lobbyists welcomed the legal actions as evidence of US willingness to get
tough with trade partners, and particularly timely in light of the
upcoming Congressional votes on granting China Permanent Normal Trade
Relations (PNTR) and on whether the US should withdraw from the WTO

More critical observers, including officials from WTO Member countries,
noted the USTR announcements were very poorly timed, coming as they did
just days in advance of the 3 May General Council meeting where, inter
alia, WTO Members were to try to reach an agreement with developing
countries on addressing implementation issues (see related story in this

Many analysts believe the US is using the disputes as showcases for why
the WTO remains a useful tool for US trade policy.  This is particularly
important at the current time, as the US Congress is expected to hold a
controversial vote on granting China permanent most- favoured nation
treatment later this month and a vote on maintaining WTO Membership later
this year.

In related developments, a WTO Dispute Settlement Panel issued a
confidential ruling on 5 May finding that neither Brazil nor Canada has
complied with a 1999 WTO ruling against both countries' aircraft export
subsidies regime. Brazilian trade officials said Brazil is likely to
appeal the ruling. The still-confidential ruling will be made public
within a few weeks.

Also last week, the US informed the EU that it would comply with a WTO
ruling against the US Foreign Sales Corporations (FSC) regime by replacing
FSCs with a more broadly based domestic tax regime. The tax scheme is
expected to be in place by 1 October, the WTO deadline for US compliance
with the ruling. The EU responded unfavourably to the American initiative,
with one EC trade official indicating that it was akin to "putting a gun
to our head and telling us to take it or leave it." The WTO ruled in
October 1999 that US tax exemptions for FSCs constitute unfair export
subsidies under global trade rules. The EU brought the complaint to the
WTO, arguing that the US subsidises about $US10 billion annually through
tax exemptions for US companies. (See BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest
Vol. 4, No. 8, 29 February 2000.)

   "USTR releases Super 301, Special 301 and Title VII reports," USTR
PRESS RELEASE, 1 May 2000;
   "U.S. to pursue WTO cases with India, Brazil; consult with Argentina,"
INSIDE US TRADE, 5 May 2000;
   "Washington cheered by offensive on trade front," FINANCIAL TIMES, 3
May 2000;
   "U.S. announcements called badly timed, unsettling for implementation
talks," WTO REPORTER, 3 May 2000;
   "India will have to defend auto policy at WTO:US," ECONOMIC
TIMES(India), 3 May 2000;
   "Bombardier unfazed by Brazil plan to appeal ruling," REUTERS, 2 May
   "WTO finds Brazil, Canada fail on aircraft subsidy rules," DOW JONES
NEWSWIRES, 2 May 2000;
   "WTO rules against Brazil in aircraft subsidy dispute," BLOOMBERG NEWS,
2 May 2000;
   "US pledges to scrap export-subsidy regime," WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3 May


The Eighth annual session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
(CSD-8) wrapped up on 5 May. Delegates discussed a range of issues,
including, inter alia, Integrated Planning and Management of Land
Resources; Financial Resources, Trade and Investment, Economic Growth;
Agriculture; and a 10-year review of the 1992 Rio UN Conference on
Environment and Development (Rio + 10).

Delegates held discussions on the use of environmental impact assessments
for trade, and on the multifunctional character of agriculture (see
BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest Vol. 4, No. 17, 2 May 2000, ). At a special
session on sustainable agriculture, representatives from government,
industry, farmers, trade unions and non-governmental organisations
discussed trade liberalisation, biotechnology, and the multifunctional
role of agriculture.

During these discussions, a number of representatives noted that greater
trade liberalisation would help to foster sustainable agriculture, while
others noted that the objective of the Rio Earth Summit -- to enhance food
security in an environmentally sound way -- could only be achieved if
trade-distorting practices and barriers were eliminated. Regarding
multifunctionality, a number of representatives expressed concern that the
term -- often used by the EU, Japan and Korea in trade contexts to justify
domestic agricultural subsidies -- was merely a disguised protectionist

WTO Director-General Mike Moore addressed CSD-8, telling delegates that
further trade liberalisation could put developing countries on a firmer
footing in the global economy. Mr. Moore noted that while sustainable
development was one of the WTO's objectives, the WTO was not an
environmental protection agency and had to remain sensitive to the needs
of its Members.

Delegates agreed to text outlining a future work programme aimed at
promoting sustainable development through trade and economic growth;
making trade and environment policies mutually supportive; promoting
sustainable development through investment; and strengthening
institutional cooperation, capacity-building and promoting partnerships.

Delegates called for improved market access for products of export
interest to developing countries as a means toward economic development.
Towards this, governments (particularly developed countries) were urged to
pursue continued trade liberalisation through the elimination of
unjustifiable and discriminatory trade practices and non-tariff barriers
to trade.

Government representatives also agreed to text addressing biotechnology
and the precautionary principle. Delegates "encouraged" governments "to
explore, using transparent science-based risk assessment procedures, as
well as risk management procedures, applying the precautionary approach --
as articulated in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration and recalled in the
Cartagena Protocol to the CBD -- the potential of appropriate and safe
biotechnology for enhancing food security for all."

   "Summary of the Eighth Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development," EARTH NEGOTIATIONS BULLETIN (IISD), 8 May 2000,;
   "Commission on Sustainable Development, winding up Eighth Session,
adopts key texts in preparation for Agenda 21 review," UN PRESS RELEASE
(ENV/DEV/547), 8 May 2000,


The US House of Representatives on 4 May approved the Trade and
Development Act of 2000 aimed at expanding US trade and investment with
more than 70 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Central
America. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill as early as 9 May,
where it is expected to pass.

The bill would be the first major trade legislation to pass the US
Congress since 1995, and comes just weeks before Congress is expected to
vote on whether to extend Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with
China as part of China's bid to join the WTO.

For sub-Saharan African countries, the bill would allow duty and quota
free access to apparel made from US fabrics, and would allow apparel
imports from Africa made of non-US fabric starting in 2000 at 1.5 percent
of total US apparel imports, rising to 3.5 percent by 2008. The bill also
exempts countries with per capita GNP below US$1,500 from the US-fabric
content rules through 2004, for which about 12 of the 48 sub- Saharan
African countries will be eligible. The bill is expected to boost US
imports of apparel from Africa from about US$250 million in 1999 to more
than US$4.2 billion in 2008.

The bill contains very strong transhipment provisions to appease
lawmakers' concerns that African countries would become a major
transhipment point for apparel from countries such as China. Under the
provisions, exporters could be suspended from benefits if caught and US
customs would have to have access to African facilities. The bill also
calls for an annual summit with African leaders to review the agreement.

For the 25 Caribbean and Central American countries currently trading with
the US under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), the bill extends
so-called NAFTA-parity for apparel and other exports. NAFTA- parity would
extend the same preferential market access enjoyed by Mexico under the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to CBI countries. CBI
countries claim that NAFTA has caused textile and other manufacturers to
move from the Caribbean to Mexico in order to gain better access to US

The Trade and Development Act of 2000 would extend duty and quota free
access for CBI apparel exports made from US fabric, and expand market
access for a capped level of apparel imports made of regional knit fabric.
The caps will increase 16 percent year-on-year from October 2000 through
2004. The bill also expands the current CBI to provide immediate tariff
reductions on a range of imports currently excluded from CBI, including
canned tuna, petroleum and petroleum products, footwear, handbags,
luggage, flat goods, and some additional apparel.

A group of US Representatives issued a statement of opposition to the
NAFTA-parity benefits extended under the bill, arguing that the process of
crafting the agreed trade bill was non-transparent. The grouping also
noted that NAFTA-parity for CBI countries was unnecessary, indicating that
CBI countries as a group from 1994-1998 represented the largest single
exporter of apparel to the US, with exports increasing each year during
that period. The grouping pointed out that CBI NAFTA- parity could violate
WTO rules on non-discriminatory trade practices, and could result in
increased US job losses in the domestic textile and apparel sectors.

There are however provisions within the Trade and Development Act of 2000
that could limit countries' eligibility for participation. These include
provisions requiring countries to uphold core international labour
standards and requirements that countries be moving towards a market-based
economy and reduction of barriers to US trade and investment.

The bill also contains controversial provisions directing the US Trade
Representative to adopt a so-called 'carousel' approach to trade
retaliation against countries that have failed to comply with a WTO
ruling. Under a carousel approach, the US would periodically change
targeted products on trade retaliation lists in order to maximise the
trade impact on the offending trade partner. The provision is targeted at
the EU for its delay in implementing WTO rulings against its banana import
regime and its ban on imports of US hormone treated beef. An EU official
last week warned that the carousel approach could violate WTO rules by
expanding the WTO-mandated retaliation levels.

   "House approves Africa-CBI conference report with carousel," INSIDE US
TRADE, 5 May 2000;
   "House passes final Africa-CBI trade bill, moving it to Senate," TRADE
COMPASS, 5 May 2000;
   "Way clear for US-Africa trade bill," FINANCIAL TIMES, 4 May 2000;
   "House "Dear Colleague" letter in opposition to Africa-CBI Conference
Report," INSIDE US TRADE, 5 May 2000;
   "U.S. African-Caribbean-Centam trade bill is ready," REUTERS, 3 May
   "EU may challenge US in WTO over 'carousel' approach to trade
sanctions," WTO REPORTER, 8 May 2000.


Ministers from Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and
Nicaragua met from 3-4 May to discuss plans for greater regional economic
co-operation. Ministers were to discuss ways to move forward on
integration plans for their Central American Integration System (CISA)
amid regional commercial and border disputes, and to discuss preparations
toward regional free trade negotiations with Canada (set to launch in
2001). However, talks faltered after El Salvador and Guatemala announced
plans to form a free trade area without consulting the other three SICA

Ministers from Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica called the move "unhelpful"
and a "test for regional integration." El Salvador invited the three
countries to join the pact at the SICA meeting. "We are not looking to
hurt anybody nor disrupt the process of integration, more to provide an
example of what we want so we can achieve more," Maria Brizuel de Avila,
El Salvador's foreign minister said. Honduras was particularly stung by
the development, since it is partners with El Salvador and Guatemala in a
so-called Northern Triangle free trade area.

The grouping, with a combined population of 35 million and gross domestic
product of more than US$50 million, has struggled with commercial and
border disputes in recent months, including a potential dispute at the WTO
between Colombia and Nicaragua over Nicaragua's so- called sovereignty tax
imposed on goods and services from neighbouring Colombia and Honduras (see
BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest Vol. 4, No. 14, 11 April 2000, 00.htm ).

A coalition of more than 90 environmental groups from the US, Mexico and
Canada on 27 April called on government officials from the three countries
to immediately suspend secret negotiations the groups allege are aimed at
changing the environmental side agreement to the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA). The coalition, which includes the World Wildlife Fund
(WWF), Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, Friends of the Earth, and the
Canadian Environmental Law Association, said US documents reveal that
ongoing negotiations over the past 10 months are aimed at revising
procedures under NAFTA that allow for citizens to submit complaints of
environmental infringements resulting from NAFTA.

"The credibility and legitimacy of the Commission for Environmental Co-
operation (CEC) as a public institution are threatened by these secret
discussions," according to the coalition statement. The coalition called
on the US, Canadian and Mexican governments to explain why the
negotiations have been conducted in secret, arguing that previous CEC
negotiations have included civil society participation. The secret talks
raise "serious questions regarding the level of commitment the NAFTA
governments have made to the participation of civil society in trade
agreements," according to Jake Caldwell, trade and environment
co-ordinator at the National Wildlife Federation.

For their part, government officials deny that the meetings were intended
to be secret, noting that there was a public announcement that minor
procedural matters would be discussed. Environmental groups countered that
information released by the US Environmental Protection Agency indicate
much more substantive matters on core aspects of the citizens' submission
process were discussed.

In other news, US President Bill Clinton on 2 May said the US remains
committed to the goal of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The
FTAA would link economies from Alaska to Patagonia into an estimated US$10
trillion economy. Progress towards a FTAA has been largely stalled by the
lack of so-called fast-track negotiating authority by the Clinton
Administration, which gives the US President power to

negotiate free trade agreements subject to a simple yes or no vote in
Congress, thereby bypassing the usual amendment process. Without the broad
authority granted by fast-track, US trade negotiators face credibility
problem with potential trade partners, as Latin American countries are
loathe to sit down for serious discussion with US negotiators if an
agreement is subject to US Congressional amendment.

"We are still determined to meet the goal we set at the Miami Summit of
the Americas in December of 1994 to achieve a free trade agreement by 2005
that will embrace the entire Americas," Mr. Clinton said in a speech to
the Council of Americas. "You should not believe that because [fast track
legislation did not pass Congress in 1997]...that the US is any less
committed to finishing the [FTAA], or that, because [fast track] didn't
pass, any agreement we make in the context of a FTAA is less likely to
pass Congress," Mr. Clinton said.

In other news, the Dominican Republic on 28 April signed a free trade
agreement with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), creating a free trade
area comprising over 14 million people. The Dominican Congress must still
approve the agreement. The agreement keeps in place tariffs on about 50
products, including soft drinks and glass containers.

   "Central American integration focus of Panama talks," REUTERS, 3 May
   "Honduras snubbed in trade pact," FINANCIAL TIMES, 4 May 2000;
   "Environmental groups condemn secret trade meetings," SUNS, 27 April
   "Clinton wants Americas trade zone, help for Colombia," DOW JONES
NEWSWIRES, 2 May 2000;
   "Dominican Republic in trade deal with Caribbean," REUTERS, 28 April


Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 2 May
met with officials from Japan, China and South Korea to discuss trade and
economic co-operation between Southeast and Northeast Asia. Ministers
discussed, inter alia, developing a joint approach in WTO talks and in
Asian Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum matters, regional
economic recovery, and the possibility of developing an expanded free
trade area. The meeting was part of preparations for the first
ASEAN-plus-Three Summit scheduled for November 2000.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister and WTO Director-General in-waiting Supachai
Panitchpakdi commented on the meeting, noting the growing trend toward
regional trade blocs added importance to ASEAN plus three co- operation.
"Personally, the close economic integration of ASEAN-plus- Three seems
most viable and much needed in the future. Japan, I think, is more and
more inclined to participate as a leading economy," Mr. Panitchpakdi said.

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

ASEAN ministers and ministers from New Zealand and Australia met on 27
April to discuss a possible free trade agreement. New Zealand and
Australia are already linked via a Closer Economic Relations (CER) accord.
An ASEAN-CER accord would link the 11 economies in an estimated US$1
trillion dollar free trade zone by 2010. Singapore Trade Minister George
Yeo said ASEAN ministers were generally positive about a free trade
agreement with the two countries, but that ASEAN countries did not expect
great benefits from such an accord as Australian and New Zealand tariffs
are already relatively low. Mr. Yeo noted that non- tariff barriers to
trade in New Zealand and Australia posed a bigger barrier to ASEAN

Regarding internal-ASEAN matters, ASEAN ministers agreed to a Malaysian
request for a two-year extension on its deadline for tariff cuts on auto
imports. The tariff cuts are part of terms agreed as part of the ASEAN
Free Trade Area (AFTA) due to launch by 2003. Malaysian officials said the
extension is necessary to protect Malaysian carmakers against a potential
flood of imports from ASEAN-partner Thailand, which has become a regional
import hub for autos from Japan, the EU and US.

   "Asean explores wider ties," REUTERS, 2 May 2000;
   "Trillion-dollar trade talks start," THE PRESS (New Zealand), 27 April
   "ASEAN and East Asian three to work for regional growth," THE STRAITS
TIMES (Singapore), 3 May 2000;
   "Malaysia happy with ASEAN's extension on car tariffs," AGENCE
FRANCE-PRESSE, 3 May 2000.


Cuba on 29 April announced that it would withdraw its bid to join the Lome
Convention - the trade and aid accord between the EU and 71 African,
Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Cuban officials cited
"discriminatory and interfering" conditions demanded by the EU as the
reason for dropping its bid. Cuban officials said Cuba would continue to
pursue increased trade and investment opportunities with individual EU
member-countries. EU members Spain, France and Italy are among Cuba's
biggest trade and investment partners.

 "Cuba drops EU trade bid," FINANCIAL TIMES, 30 April 2000.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on 2 May announced the
launch of its Amazon Project to develop investment and trading
opportunities in biodiversity-based products and services. The Amazon
Project aims at building the capacity of developing countries in the
Amazon region to produce biodiversity-based products and services for both
domestic and international markets. Eight countries will participate in
the three-year project: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru,
Suriname and Venezuela. The Amazon Project is part of UNCTAD's BIOTRADE
Initiative, launched in 1996 with the objective of stimulating trade and
investment in biological resources to further sustainable development, in
line with the objectives of the UN Convention on Biodiversity.

   "Amazon region to benefit from UNCTAD'S Biotrade Initiative," UNCTAD
PRESS RELEASE, 2 May 2000.

Deep divisions exist among the US public regarding trade policy
priorities, according to a poll published in the 24 April edition of the
newsmagazine Business Week. The poll of 1,024 respondents, conducted by
Harris Interactive in early April, shows that while most Americans believe
that globalisation is in general good for US consumers, for the US economy
and for strengthening the economy of poor countries (68 percent, 64
percent and 72 percent respectively), only 45 percent believe
globalisation was "good" for the environment. Respondents were also split
as to the effect of globalisation on job creation in the US. 50 percent
believe globalisation has a good effect, while 42 percent say it is
detrimental to US employment. When asked to classify themselves as "free
trader", "fair trader" (i.e. someone who believes in trade with some
standards for labour and the environment), or "protectionist", 51 percent
claimed to be fair traders, with protectionists at 37 percent and free
traders at only 10 percent. According to the poll, 69 percent of Americans
believe that trade agreements with low-wage countries drive down US wages,
perhaps pointing to one reason why fully 79 percent of respondents are of
the opinion that the US should grant China permanent most-favoured nation
treatment to the US market only when it agrees to meet human rights and
labour standards. To access the full poll results, visit

   "Globalization: what Americans are worried about," BUSINESS WEEK, 24
April 2000.

The City Council of Vancouver, Canada on 2 May passed a motion urging the
government of Canada "to consult widely and in depth with the people of
Canada, especially and including municipal councils, before taking any
further action on the WTO General Agreement for Trade in Services (GATS)."  
Vancouver City Councillors are concerned that proposed changes to the GATS
structure -- namely, a change from the current "bottom-up" to a "top-down"
or "horizontal" structure -- could affect existing jurisdiction for local
governments and may result in significant administrative burdens and
costs.  The Vancouver municipal government has also urged the Canadian
government to "file a permanent and explicit exemption in the GATS
limiting application to areas of Federal jurisdiction to ensure
sub-national jurisdictions maintain local flexibility and control over the
delivery of public services."  Further, Vancouver has asked the province
of British Columbia to establish a Trade Advisory Committee to enable
stakeholders to engage in consultations on international trade issues.


Thai customs officials in late April seized 1,078 pounds of raw ivory
smuggled into Bangkok from Zambia. One smuggler was arrested and released
after signing over the illegal goods to the Thai government. Thai customs
officials said it was unclear what the Thai government would do with the
ivory. The customs officials said Thailand, a member of the UN Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) would not sell the
ivory stock in compliance with a CITES ban on international trade in ivory

   "Ivory: Thailand seizes 1,000 pounds, lets smugglers go," UN WIRE, 2
May 2000.


At a summit meeting on 31 May in Queluz, Portugal, the EU and the US will
attempt to narrow their differences over trade and seek to give momentum
towards launching a new round of WTO trade negotiations later this year.
Head of the EC delegation in Washington D.C. Günter Burghardt said the two
sides would use the occasion to see if enough common ground exists to push
for a new round this year. "By the end of May, I think it would have to be
relatively clear whether the chances [exist to begin the talks this year]
because the calendar is running out." Though US President Bill Clinton
will lead the US delegation, it remains unclear whether the top trade
negotiators from the EU and US (Pascal Lamy and Charlene Barshefsky,
respectively) would be on hand at the summit.

  "U.S., EU leaders will meet this month to discuss prospects for new WTO

The WTO and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP) on 8 May launched a joint training program on WTO issues for
regional government officials. The program, based in Bangkok, is aimed at
building human resources capacity for developing country participation in
WTO activities around agriculture, textiles, services, market access,
anti-dumping, and dispute settlement agreements.

  "WTO: training program for developing countries launched," UNIS, 5 May

The WTO has released preliminary estimates for global tourism trade for
1999, reporting an increase of 3.2 percent over 1998. Global tourism trade
in 1999 reached US$455 billion. Central America showed the largest growth
in tourism, increasing by 23 percent over 1998, followed by the Middle
East (17.5 percent), South America (10 percent) and Africa (nine percent).

  "WTO says African tourism industry is improving fast," PANA, 4 May 2000.

On 8 May 2000, the WTO General Council selected the following individuals
to fill the respective chairperson posts (see related story, this issue):
Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs):
Ambassador Chak Mun See (Singapore); Committee on Agriculture: Chair:
Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales (Peru); Vice Chair: Mr. Yoichi Suzuki
(Japan); Committee on Anti-Dumping Practices: Mr. Yair Shiran (Israel);
Committee on Customs Valuation: Mr. Remo Moretta (Australia); Committee on
Import Licensing: Mr. Albert Wright (Denmark); Committee on Market Access:
Mr. Christophe Kiener (Switzerland); Committee on Rules of Origin: Mr.
Sándor Simon (Hungary); Committee on Safeguards: Mr. Joshua Phoho Setipa
(Lesotho); Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures: Mr. Shishir
Priyadarshi (India); Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures:
Mrs. Usha Dwarka-Canabady (Mauritius); Committee on Technical Barriers to
Trade: Mr. John Adank (New Zealand); Committee on Trade- Related
Investment Measures: Mr. Oscar Hernández (Venezuela); Working Party on
State Trading Enterprises: Mr. Breffini Carpenter (Ireland).


In the Vol. 4 No. 15 issue of BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest (18 April
2000), we reported that at the meeting of the Special Session of the WTO's
Council for Trade in Services on 14 April 2000, a number of developing
countries (including Venezuela, Pakistan, Dominican Republic, India,
Egypt, El Salvador, Guatemala and Cuba) expressed dissatisfaction with a
Secretariat Assessment of Trade in Services, calling for more statistics
to describe the impact of services liberalisation on developing countries.

Contrary to our report, most members expressed satisfaction with the
papers submitted to date. Many Members, however, noted the difficulties
related to obtaining accurate statistics and in gathering relevant
information in the services area. Several countries -- including
Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Dominican Republic --
asked the Secretariat to compile all papers and relevant materials related
to the assessment exercise. Guatemala, speaking on behalf of itself and
Nicaragua, also suggested use of relevant information in TPR reports, and
further encouraged coordination with UNCTAD through the use of its MAST
(Measures Affecting Services Trade) database. India suggested looking to
other sources as well including the IMF, UNCTAD and the central banks of
some members. The United States and the European Communities offered to
share statistical information on services trade with other Members. We
apologize for the error.

BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest© is published by the International Centre
for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) with support from the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). This issue has been
researched at ICTSD by DanVy Nguyen; written by Judy Brienza (IATP) and
written and edited by Hugo Cameron, The Director is
Ricardo Melendez-Ortiz,  ICTSD is an independent,
not-for-profit organisation based at: 13, ch des Anemones, 1219 Geneva,
Switzerland. Tel: (41- 22) 917-8492; fax: (41-22) 917-8093. Excerpts from
BRIDGES Weekly Trade News Digest© may be used in other publications with
appropriate citation. Comments and suggestions are welcomed and should be
directed to the Editor or the Director.