Canada’s Statements at the WTO General Council, December 2020
18 December 2020
6. WORK PROGRAMME ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
- Thank you Chair
- As it is the first time I take the floor today, I would like to offer a few thoughts for our colleagues leaving Geneva shortly.
- I want to thank all the permanent representatives who are finishing their posting here, at a time when the WTO is facing unprecedented challenges.
- Canada has appreciated your hard work, dedication and commitment to an organization that we all care for deeply, and I hope our paths cross with you again soon to continue on this important mission
- I also want to express my thanks to Sunanta.
- I especially want to express my appreciation to my neighbour from "south of the border" and friend, Dennis Shea, who, after three years spent in Geneva, will return to the U.S shortly.
- Dennis, I appreciated our friendship, collaboration and common efforts in upholding the values of this organization, which are a testament to the reality that those you trade and work closest with are the ones that are closest to you on many aspects, and perhaps above all, closest to you geographically.
- And from my neighbour to the South to my neighbour in the WTO rooms, I also want to bid a fond farewell to Ambassador Zhang of China and to thank him for his friendship and hard work on updating the multilateral trading system.
- Now on this agenda item, as Members are considering ways to address the pandemic and support a more inclusive economic recovery, Canada remains convinced that ensuring a permanent, tariff-free space for cross-border electronic transmissions, including content, is a meaningful way to provide a long-term predictability, certainty and openness for businesses and consumers.
- While Canada strongly supports having the multilateral moratorium become a permanent prohibition, we also acknowledged that Members extended the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC12.
- Canada is aware of the concerns raised by a few Members in recent years with respect to the possible impact of the moratorium at the WTO.
- We have welcomed and actively participated in informal open-ended meetings and structured discussions, which were brought forward by Members.
- Canada acknowledges the new communication submitted by India and South Africa and wishes to provide initial reactions on the three specific items included in the document for consideration by the General Council:
- On the first proposal, Canada takes note of the 1998 mandate of the Work Programme (WT/L/274), which identified several relevant WTO bodies to examine the trade-related aspects of e-commerce.
- In that context, Canada remains of the view that it should be left to individual councils or committees to determine the manner in which discussions on these topics take place.
- Secondly, we are of the view that an informal, open-ended setting is more appropriate for technical or in-depth discussion on the moratorium.
- Interested Members can use existing mechanisms, including the proposed structured discussions.
- Furthermore, Canada do not see the value of establishing a permanent agenda item under the General Council meeting.
- We noted that the document asked to continue the structured discussion. It is our understanding that this mechanism is already available to interested Members and we do not see the need for the GC to make such decision.
- Moreover, we believe that specific elements related to the Work Program should be considered in the relevant council or committee.
- In line with the desire to reinvigorate of the Work Program, Canada is pleased to have co-sponsored the proposal to engage in exploratory discussions on supporting digital capability of business and consumers.
- Canada believes the past practices related to periodic review remains appropriate. Canada does not support the proposal for having continuous reviews as both the Work Program and the E-Commerce Moratorium are not permanent and subject to periodic extension. Any periodic review needs to be considered in that context.
- Finally, Canada does not agree with statements suggesting the negotiations of JSI on e-commerce negatively affects the organization or specific group of Members.
- Establishing rules on e-commerce are more than overdue.
- The JSI negotiations are open, inclusive and transparent. We note the increased number of developing Members participating.
- Thank you, Chair.
8. COVID-19 AND BEYOND: TRADE AND HEALTH – STATEMENT BY COSPONSORS OF WT/GC/223
- Thank you Chair.
- Canada is pleased to co-sponsor this communication.
- As countries worldwide are experiencing increasing COVID-19 cases, WTO Members must make efforts to minimize disruptions to trade flows, especially in essential medical supplies.
- The objectives of the proposed Trade and Health Initiative speak directly to that: to keep markets open, to avoid obstacles to the distribution of the much-awaited vaccines, and to help better prepare for any future crises.
- It is clear from the information gathered by the Secretariat that many Members have done just that in response to the pandemic.
- Over 70 Members unilaterally reduced or eliminated tariffs on supplies necessary to address the pandemic.
- A number of Members have also taken steps to reduce friction at the border and smooth the transit of goods.
- Over 20 Members have notified the WTO of various forms of export authorization or licensing requirements or outright bans. However, many of these measures were carefully targeted and in some cases removed shortly after they were put in place.
- More importantly, Members’ transparency around these measures was very prompt.
- This is something we need to build on to ensure Members are better prepared to respond to public health emergencies now and in the future.
- We also need to make efforts to be coordinated in the approaches we take to protect our citizens.
- As we know well, nothing in the global economy happens in isolation.
- As the EU mentions, we need to ensure our actions are disciplined and transparent.
- That is why this Trade and Health initiative can build confidence that Members will work together to confront the shared challenges we face to protect their citizens and the most vulnerable populations around the world.
- Canada looks forward to working with all Members to reflect our commitment to remove the barriers in the trading system in order to make the effort to address COVID a worldwide success.
9. PROPOSAL ON AGRICULTURE EXPORT PROHIBITIONS OR RESTRICTIONS RELATING TO THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
A. DRAFT GENERAL COUNCIL DECISION - COMMUNICATION FROM ALBANIA, ANGOLA, AUSTRALIA, KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN, CANADA, CHILE, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR, GRENADA, GUYANA, ICELAND, INDONESIA, ISRAEL, JAPAN, REPUBLIC OF KOREA, LIECHTENSTEIN, MALAWI, MALAYSIA, MALI, MEXICO, MOLDOVA, MONGOLIA, MONTENEGRO, MYANMAR, NEW ZEALAND, NORWAY, PARAGUAY, PERU, QATAR, SAMOA, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA, SINGAPORE, SOLOMON ISLANDS, SWITZERLAND, THE SEPARATE CUSTOMS TERRITORY OF TAIWAN, PENGHU, KINMEN AND MATSU, UKRAINE, UNITED KINGDOM, UNITED STATES, VANUATU, AND VIET NAM (WT/GC/W/810 – TN/AG/46)
- Thank you Chair, as a co-sponsor, Canada supports the adoption of this draft decision by the General Council.
- The current group of co-sponsors represent over half of the WTO Membership and in addition, almost all other WTO members have expressed support for this initiative.
- The importance of the World Food Programme’s work has increased as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The adoption of this decision would allow the World Food Programme to undertake its important life saving work in a more efficient manner.
- WTO Members and the World Food Program (WFP) have highlighted the importance of the WFP’s policy of “do no harm” when procuring food in order to ensure the food security of a supplying Member is not put in peril. Adopting this decision in no way would put in jeopardy the food security of any Member.
- Chair, despite the best efforts from all WTO Members and the assurances provided by the WFP, we recognise that some Members may not be prepared to adopt this Decision today. This is regrettable.
- WTO Members have worked hard to reach an acceptable compromise and address questions and concerns from Members, including intensively over the course of this week. In our view, an agreement was within reach.
- Thank you
10. IMPORTANCE OF MARKET-ORIENTED CONDITIONS TO THE WORLD TRADING SYSTEM – JOINT STATEMENT BY BRAZIL, JAPAN, AND THE UNITED STATES (WT/GC/W/803/REV.1)
- As we have mentioned in the past, Canada fully supports the principle that the multilateral trading system should be based on open and market-oriented policies.
- We remain open to engaging with all Members in this regard, including on discussions that could eventually lead to new or improved WTO disciplines.
13. TRIPS COUNCIL MATTERS
B. STATUS REPORT ON THE CONSIDERATION BY THE TRIPS COUNCIL OF THE "PROPOSAL FOR A WAIVER FROM CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE TRIPS AGREEMENT FOR THE PREVENTION, CONTAINMENT AND TREATMENT OF COVID-19" (IP/C/W/699) – STATEMENT BY THE CHAIR OF THE COUNCIL FOR TRIPS
- Canada is pleased that Members were able to reach consensus on the status report, and indeed as to the next steps in this important discussion.
- Canada is confident that Members will be able to resolve any concrete IP challenges identified by Members in an evidence-based and consensual manner.
- Canada once again wishes to highlight its communication, co-sponsored by Australia, Chile and Mexico and numbered IP/C/W/671, which seeks to better understand the nature and scope of any concrete IP challenges experienced by Members related to or arising from the TRIPS Agreement such that would constitute impediments to the fight against COVID-19.
- We look forward to an evidence-based and fruitful discussion of these important issues in the TRIPS Council.
- Chair, Canada is working closely with international partners, including Gavi, the COVAX Facility, and vaccine manufacturers, to ensure that all possible options are explored in developing mechanisms to ensure doses get to people around the world who need them.
- Canada has contributed 865 million Canadian dollars to date to partners of the ACT-Accelerator, a coalition of international organizations and countries overseeing the development, production and equitable distribution of affordable COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
- Canada remains actively committed to a robust, multifaceted, and global effort to address the pandemic, one that draws upon all of the necessary resources and tools available in the international rules-based trading system, as well as new mechanisms for global cooperation on the procurement of treatments for COVID-19.
- As equitable, timely, and affordable access to testing, treatments, and effective vaccines will be critical for controlling and ending this pandemic, we look forward to continued engagement with all members of the international community, including here at the WTO, to finding solutions to these global challenges.
- Thank you.
- Date Modified: