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January 11, 2019

Japan, EU, US continue work on fairer trade system

Trade leaders from the EU, Japan and the US have shared an update on the progress of a plan to develop a more efficient system that allows global trade to be conducted in a fairer way.

By Hannah Abdulla

Trade leaders from the EU, Japan and the US have shared an update on the progress of a plan to develop a more efficient system that allows global trade to be conducted in a fairer way.

Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and the EU Commissioner for Trade Cecelia Malmstrom, met in Washington DC on Wednesday (9 January) for discussions on their shared objective to address non market-oriented policies and practices of third countries that lead to severe overcapacity, create unfair competitive conditions for their workers and businesses, hinder the development and use of innovative technologies, and undermine the proper functioning of international trade, including where existing rules are not effective.

The meeting followed on from one in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, where the trio reiterated their call for a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) after China irked fellow members by allegedly failing to comply with rules the WTO needs to be reported to when a member extends subsidies to domestic industry. 

The following points were covered:

  • Non-market oriented policies and practices: Ministers took stock of the intensification of the exchange of information between them, the identification of additional criteria indicating market-oriented conditions, and confirmed that market-oriented conditions are fundamental to a fair, mutually advantageous global trading system and that their citizens and businesses operate under market-oriented conditions. The Ministers also confirmed their commitment to continue working together to maintain the effectiveness of existing WTO disciplines, including through ongoing WTO disputes.
  • Industrial subsidies: Ministers instructed their staff to finalise trilateral text-based work in this area by spring in order to engage other key WTO Members after that, as appropriate.
  • Forced technology transfers: Ministers confirmed their agreement to cooperate on enforcement, on the development of new rules, on investment review for national security purposes and on export controls and further take stock of this cooperation by spring.
  • WTO reform: the three partners submitted a joint transparency and notification proposal to the Council for Trade in Goods last November with other co-sponsors, and the ministers agreed to intensify engagement with other trading partners to advance this proposal. They confirmed their agreement to work towards strengthening the regular committees’ activities. They also reiterated their call on advanced WTO Members claiming developing country status to undertake full commitments in ongoing and future WTO negotiations.

The ministers reaffirmed the importance of cooperating in facilitating digital trade and the growth of the digital economy and to enhance business environments through the promotion of data security and confirmed their support for the timely initiation of WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce that seek to achieve a high standard agreement with the participation of as many WTO members as possible.

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