Under the framework of the EU-WCO Rules of Origin Africa Programme, funded by the European Union, the World Customs Organization (WCO), in partnership with the Directorate General Customs and Indirect Taxes of the Republic of Congo, held a national training workshop on rules of origin for Customs and other relevant stakeholders. The workshop was held in Brazzaville, Congo, from 4 to 8 December 2023 and brought together Customs and trade officials as well as representatives from Chambers of Commerce and private sector with the objective to assist Congo in enhancing its knowledge and application of preferential rules of origin.To kick off the workshop, a visit to a local manufacturing and packaging company was organized to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the private sector at the wake of the implementation of the AfCFTA in Congo. During the workshop participants worked on key concepts for proper origin determination, related operational and procedural issues, including origin certification and origin irregularities, as well as the establishment of efficient origin management. In addition, participants discussed specific areas of concern, including the low level of knowledge and use of the FTAs and challenges linked to verification of origin including trough administrative cooperation.
At a COP28 launch event held on 5 December in Dubai, WTO Deputy Director-General Jean-Marie Paugam announced that 42 standard-setting organizations, companies, industry associations and international organizations have now endorsed the new Steel Standards Principles.
The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed at its meeting on 27 November to a request from Indonesia for the establishment of a dispute panel to review countervailing duties imposed by the European Union on imports of biodiesel from Indonesia.
At the final round of e-commerce negotiations for 2023, taking place from 27 to 30 November, the co-convenors of the talks — Australia, Japan and Singapore — drew up a roadmap for negotiations for the remainder of the year and the first quarter of 2024. Participants “parked” the negotiating text on privacy, bringing the total number of “parked” articles to 13. The co-convenors said the initiative has achieved “substantial conclusion” on several global digital trade rules that will facilitate electronic transactions and foster an open and trusted digital economy.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) has published a comprehensive study detailing the digitalization of the Certificate of Origin (CO). This Study focuses on the practices of WCO Members in origin certification, emphasizing the digital transformation of the origin-related process. It aims to highlight both the challenges and success factors encountered by Members in this transition. During its 139th and 140th Sessions in June 2022, the WCO Council endorsed the Strategy Plan 2022-2025 and the Implementation Plan 2022/2023. A key component of the Implementation Plan 2022/2023 was the work in area of revenue collection, which included a study of the requirements for establishing inter-Customs cooperation in information exchange and digitalizing origin-related procedures. To achieve these objectives, the WCO Secretariat carried out a survey in Autumn 2022 to assess the state of play in digitalizing the certificates of origin. This survey, which garnered 84 responses from WCO Members, collected information on practices concerning issuance of electronic certificates of origin (e-COs) and systems for exchanging origin data. The findings have been thoroughly analyzed and compiled into the "Study on the Digitalization of the Certificate of Origin."
India notified its decision to appeal the panel report in the case brought by the European Union in “India — Tariff Treatment on Certain Goods” (DS582). The panel report was circulated to WTO members on 17 April. The appeal was circulated to WTO members on 14 December.
A Sub-Regional Workshop on Customs Laboratory for the ASEAN Member countries took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 4 to 8 December 2023. The workshop was organized jointly by the WCO, Indonesia Customs and Excise, and the ROCB Asia-Pacific (AP), with the sponsorship of the Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF) of China. It was facilitated by two experts of the WCO Secretariat and attended by 19 officials from Customs administrations of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
This workshop aimed to expand regional Customs chemists' knowledge of chemical analysis techniques and methodologies, update their understanding of classification related to chemical analysis, and facilitate the exchange of best practices and experiences among participants.
The WTO on 15 December released an information note on Africa’s trade in intermediate goods (IGs), providing a snapshot of the region’s growing participation in supply chains. The latest data covering 2010 to 2021 indicates an expansion in Africa’s exports and imports of intermediate goods while also pointing to a high concentration of exports to a few economies and a comparatively narrow range of products. The note also reveals a relatively small share of intra-African transactions.
In their last dedicated discussion of the year on the Work Programme on E-commerce on 8 December, WTO members discussed text proposals for a ministerial decision to be considered at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024. The proposals address progress under the Work Programme, the moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions and the development dimension of e-commerce.
WTO monitoring shows that between mid-October 2022 and mid-October 2023, the value of world merchandise trade covered by new trade-facilitating measures far exceeded that affected by new trade restrictive measures, an encouraging trend at a time of uncertainty and tension in the global economy. Nevertheless, the WTO Director-General’s annual overview of developments in the international trading environment, presented on 7 December at a meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body, indicates that trade restrictions continue to weigh on global trade, with persistent export restrictions contributing to food price volatility.
The WTO Secretariat on 2 December launched a 10-point set of “Trade Policy Tools for Climate Action” at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai to present governments with a toolkit to draw from in their efforts to meet global climate targets. The new publication explores how integrating the trade policy options, such as reviewing import tariffs on low-carbon solutions, into national strategies can help economies mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to its consequences.
The WTO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agreed on 1 December to boost cooperation and collaboration on a range of issues in the area of food and agricultural trade and climate change. The initiative comes at a time of growing crises affecting global food security and sustainable agriculture production.
WTO members have discussed progress in undertaking the Work Programme of the MC12 Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Declaration aimed at identifying and addressing challenges in the implementation of the SPS Agreement. At a meeting of the SPS Committee on 15-17 November, members agreed to continue efforts to build consensus on the report to be presented to the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi in February 2024 on challenges and opportunities facing international trade in food, animals and plants. The Committee also addressed a record number of specific trade concerns.
At the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) meeting held on 13, 14 and 16 November, members considered seven proposals to reinvigorate discussions on climate change and sustainable development at the WTO. Members also discussed suggestions on environment-related outcomes for the upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13). Members were furthermore updated on preparations for the UN COP28 Climate Change Conference.