WTO In Brief

21 December 1998

WTO negotiators last week again failed to meet a self-imposed deadline December 11 for reaching agreement on tariff cuts for information technology products, in a deal that would broaden the 1997 WTO Information Technology Agreement. Talks began in February 1998 and were to be concluded by June 1998. Most countries have agreed to a list of some 200 goods to be included in the agreement, a much shorter list than originally anticipated. Malaysia and India and some other developing countries remain the strongest holdouts in the negotiating process. India registered strong opposition to the agreement, saying it was drawn up by only a handful of rich members without consulting developing countries, and clearly represents developed countries interests. Negotiators are to meet again in February 1999. "WTO Information Technology negotiators miss deadline; India threatens to block deal," INTERNATIONAL TRADE REPORTER, December 16, 1998; "WTO talks delayed again," FINANCIAL TIMES, December 15, 1998.

WTO members last week failed to nominate a successor to WTO Director General Renato Ruggiero. France announced that it would support Moroccan candidate Hasssan Abouyoub, thereby breaking ranks with the official silence from Brussels. Sources report that Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi leads all four candidates, who also include New Zealand Prime Minister Michael Moore and former Canadian Trade Minister Roy MacLaren. WTO members agreed Friday to target the end of January for reaching consensus on a candidate. "Race for WTO chief intensifies as France breaks EU ranks to support Moroccan candidate," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, December 21, 1998.

At a meeting of the working party on Russia's WTO accession last week, Russia attempted to defend recent tariff measures affecting foreign imports by outlining economic problems brought on by a sharp decline in commodity prices and noted that the price of imported food had soared since its currency collapsed. Members also asked Russia to submit more recent data on agricultural subsidies than the pre-1991 data previously submitted. "Russia pressed for farm subsidy details in WTO bid," REUTERS, December 16, 1998.

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21 December 1998
• EVENTS WTO Meetings 20-21 January 1999: Trade Policy Review Body (Argentina). For information, contact Lucie Giraud, WTO, tel: (41-22) 739 50 75. 25 January 1999: Dispute Settlement Body meeting...
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21 December 1998
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