WTO updates February 2023

February 22, 2023

Indonesia initiates WTO dispute complaint regarding EU steel duties

Indonesia has requested WTO dispute consultations with the European Union regarding EU anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on imports of stainless-steel cold-rolled flat products from Indonesia. The request was circulated to WTO members on 26 January.

Singapore submits formal acceptance of Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

Singapore deposited its instrument of acceptance for the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies on 10 February, making it the second WTO member and first coastal state to do so. Acceptances from two-thirds of WTO members are needed for the Agreement to come into effect.

Members address development dimension of WTO reform agenda

WTO members met on 2-3 February for focused discussions on the development dimension of the WTO’s reform agenda. The informal General Council meeting on WTO reform offered members an opportunity to kickstart an exchange on cross-cutting aspects of the development dimension with a view to finding mutually acceptable ways forward.

United States appeals panel report regarding US origin marking for Hong Kong, China goods

The United States notified the Dispute Settlement Body of its decision to appeal the panel report in the case brought by Hong Kong, China in “United States — Origin Marking Requirement” (DS597). The panel report was circulated to WTO members on 21 December. The appeal was circulated to WTO members on 30 January.

United States appeals panel reports regarding US duties on steel and aluminium products

The United States notified the Dispute Settlement Body of its decision to appeal the panel reports in the cases brought by China, Norway, Switzerland and Türkiye in “United States — Certain Measures on Steel and Aluminium Products” (DS544, DS552, DS556 and DS564). The panel reports were circulated to WTO members on 9 December. The appeals were circulated to WTO members on 30 January.

Panels established to review EU complaints regarding Chinese trade measures

At a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 27 January, WTO members agreed to requests from the European Union for the establishment of dispute panels to examine Chinese measures affecting trade in goods and services with Lithuania as well as China’s enforcement of intellectual property rights. Members also discussed recent panel rulings regarding interpretations of the WTO’s national security exception.

Least-developed countries discuss trade priorities ahead of UN Conference on LDCs

Over 100 capital-based officials from more than 40 least-developed countries (LDCs) took part in two stocktaking consultations on the trade aspects of the Doha Programme of Action for LDCs at meetings held in January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Siem Reap, Cambodia. Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang said in his opening remarks: “Trade has been one of the forces for achieving the ambitions set out in the Doha Programme of Action for LDCs. It is our collective responsibility to make sure the Programme can offer lasting benefits to people in LDCs.”

Switzerland is first WTO member to formally accept new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

On 20 January, Switzerland became the first WTO member to formally submit its acceptance of the WTO’s new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, paving the way for the historic agreement for ocean sustainability to enter into force. Swiss Minister Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, presented his country’s instrument of acceptance to Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the informal WTO ministerial meeting held on the side lines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Saudi Arabia showcases its development at ZAKAT Tax and Customs Conference 2023

At the invitation of Governor of ZAKAT, Tax and Customs Authority of Saudi Arabia, WCO Secretary General, visited Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 8 and 9 February 2023 to speak at the ZAKAT Tax and Customs Conference 2023. At the high-level panel session titled “An Investment-Friendly Logistics Environment (Transparency and Efficiency)”, Dr. Mikuriya spoke about international standards, including WCO instruments and programmes, technology and human capital, as ways to enhance connectivity at borders. In addition, he stressed the importance of developing trust and cooperation between domestic and international stakeholders, such as in Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programmes. He went on to say that sharing data with tax and other government agencies would improve economic competitiveness by facilitating and securing supply chains and thereby improving investment climate.   

The WCO now has 185 Members

Solomon Islands deposited with the Belgian Government its instrument of accession to the Convention Establishing a Customs Co-operation Council on 26 January 2023 and thus become the 185th Member of the Organization. An English-speaking archipelagic State, located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, Solomon Islands will be part of the WCO’s Asia/Pacific region. 
The WCO is pleased to welcome the Solomon Islands into the international Customs family.

WCO supports Namibia Customs in its Rules of Origin competency development

The World Customs Organization (WCO), under the framework of the EU-WCO Rules of Origin Africa Programme, funded by the European Union (EU) and in partnership with Namibia Revenue Authority (NamRA), held a national training workshop on rules of origin in Windhoek, Namibia.  Held from 23 to 27 January 2023, it brought together Customs officials from different units and border stations within the Customs services department, as well as private sector stakeholders. The objective of the workshop was to assist NamRA in enhancing its knowledge and application of preferential rules of origin and contribute to a seamless implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and relevant Free trade agreements (FTAs).

“How can the HS identify the green status of equipment?” was the fundamental question of the fifth Symposium on Visualising a greener HS to support environmentally sustainable trade

The fifth symposium in the WCO Symposia Series on “Visualising a greener HS to support environmentally sustainable trade”, supported by the European Union, was held on 23 January 2023.  These symposia have looked at the role that the Harmonized System (HS) can play in supporting environmental policy: aiming to provide new perspectives to assist the HSC Members in their considerations on what changes are needed to make the HS increasingly greener in its future editions. The theme of this event was “The environmental credentials of technology - can we identify the green status of equipment?”,  This recognised the difficulties in identifying what goods were “green technology” that should be highlighted within the HS and asked how can we improve in this. The symposium was attended by a broad range of HS users, including representatives of international and regional institutions, the private sector, civil society associations and Customs administrations, who discussed needs and the role of the HS in this area.


Pacific Island Members discuss how to improve the facilitation and control of small and low-value shipments

A Sub-regional Workshop on cross-border e-commerce was held from 16 to 19 January 2023 at the WCO Regional Training Centre (RTC) in Suva, Fiji. The objective of the Workshop was to raise awareness of the WCO tools and initiatives aimed at facilitating and securing cross-border e-commerce and to discuss good practices and challenges in this area. The event was organized with the financial support of the Customs Cooperation Fund of China (CCF China) and benefitted from the participation of twelve Customs officials from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu. During the last day of the Workshop, the participants attending on-site were joined by some representatives of designated postal operators from the beneficiary countries for an online presentation by the Universal Postal Union (UPU).

Throughout the event, the Workshop facilitators provided detailed explanations of the 16 standards of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce and the tools available to support their implementation. Dedicated sessions discussed the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines and the tools developed jointly with the UPU, such as the WCO-UPU Postal Customs Guide and the WCO-UPU Guidelines on the exchange of electronic advance data between designated operators and Customs administrations.

The six beneficiary Members delivered presentations focusing on revenue collection, facilitation and control of cross-border e-commerce, which were the basis for valuable exchanges of information on challenges and possible solutions.

Eswatini kicks off the implementation of an electronic advance ruling system project

On 27 January, 2023, the Eswatini Revenue Services (ERS) held a virtual meeting to officially kick off the development of the new electronic advance ruling system project. The electronic advance ruling system is being developed by the WCO under a partnership between the EU-WCO Programme for Harmonized System in Africa (HS-Africa Programme) funded by the European Union, and the Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme funded by the United Kingdom’s His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The electronic advance ruling tool intervenes as part of a comprehensive support to ERS in improving tariff and origin infrastructures and to contribute to the efforts of ERS in Customs modernisation and reform. The project combines the development of the tool with capacity building. The WCO has been supporting ERS under the HS Africa Programme with the implementation of advance ruling and building capacities in tariff classification. The Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme has been assisting ERS initiatives as a cross cutting enabler for trade facilitation. Hence, the joint support and concerted efforts by both programmes shall maximize the impact and yield tangible results in Eswatini and further contribute to meet the international standards of the WCO, WTO and the AfCFTA.

Regional consultation on WCO modernization with the Asia/Pacific region

On 7 and 8 February 2023, the WCO conducted its sixth and final regional consultation on WCO modernization with the Asia/Pacific (A/P) region. Twenty-one Member administrations and the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB) for A/P participated in this fully virtual consultation.

The A/P regional consultation was chaired jointly by the regional Vice-Chair, Mr. Michael Outram of Australia, and the WCO Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Ricardo Treviño Chapa. As was the case with the five previous regional consultations, the discussions focused on seven specific issues outlined in a discussion document, prepared in advance by the WCO Secretariat, concerning the current internal situation of the Organization and potential improvements for moving towards overall WCO modernization.

In his opening remarks, the regional Vice-Chair referred to many changes in the international operating environment, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring proper adaptation by the WCO in order to make the Organization a key influencer at global level. He welcomed the holding of regional consultations on these matters, highlighting the importance of taking stock of the WCO’s current position prior to developing a detailed strategy for its modernization. The Deputy Secretary General agreed that a general brainstorming process was required before being able to chart a clear path forward, together with related deliverables. He recalled the decision made at the December 2022 session of the Policy Commission regarding the extension of the timeframe for completing the exercise, ensuring that the final document to be presented in June 2024 duly considered all the relevant aspects to be addressed.




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