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US commitment to WTO

By Caribbean News Global fav

GENEVA, Switzerland – Deputy United States Trade Representative Maria Pagán on Friday delivered remarks during the continuation of the 15th World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Policy Review of the United States.

In her remarks, ambassador Pagán noted the broad support from WTO Members for the multilateral trading system, highlighted US efforts to deepen economic relationships with the African continent after the successful US – Africa Leaders’ Summit, and reiterated the US commitment to the WTO’s principles and foundational objectives.

US priorities at the WTO

We were encouraged to hear many Members from across the development spectrum support the core objectives of the multilateral trading system – that trade should raise living standards. ensure full employment, pursue sustainable development, and protect and preserve the environment. There is nothing easy about achieving these objectives, but with our mutual commitment to meaningful and constructive engagement, we can do better here, for all of our people.

GSP renewal

Many Members spoke about the importance of our GSP program to the development and advancement of their economies, and they asked about its renewal. As many of you know, the legal authority to reauthorize GSP lies in the US Congress, which is currently deliberating on when and how it will update and renew the program. I can tell you that the Office of the United States Trade Representative continues to support Congress’s efforts to reauthorize the GSP program.

Deepening our relationship with Africa

Several of our African partners called for deepening our economic relationships, bilaterally and regionally. The United States strongly supports the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which include promoting economic policies to reduce poverty as well as regional economic integration through trade. This week, during the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, United States Trade Representative Tai and AfCFTA secretary general Mene signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation for Trade and Investment Between the AfCFTA Secretariat and the United States.

The MOU establishes an annual high-level engagement and quarterly meetings of technical working groups. Our shared objective is to deepen the relationship between the United States, the AfCFTA Secretariat, AfCFTA member states, and related stakeholders.

Several partners also mentioned the importance of AGOA. I would note that this week, ambassador Tai hosted trade ministers from sub-Saharan Africa for the AGOA Ministerial. She reaffirmed the US commitment to expanding trade and investment with the continent. She also stated our interest in improving AGOA, including how we can increase utilization rates, particularly among smaller and less-developed countries. Our shared objective is to translate AGOA’s opportunities into concrete benefits for African people in all segments of society.

LDC agenda

Some of our LDC partners in particular have noted the importance of industrialization for their sustainable development. We share your goal. We recognize it is challenging to find realistic paths toward industrialization, and that the path is made more difficult by unfair trading practices of some Members. We remain committed to finding ways to partner with you, even if the answers aren’t obvious or easy.

WTO engagement and reform

We appreciated many Members’ recognition of our strong record on transparency, which is a mark of trustworthiness and a fundamental expression of our commitment to fair play, to constructive engagement with partners large and small, and to the objectives of the multilateral trading system.

We heard wide support for our deep and productive involvement in various joint statement initiatives. Today, I’m pleased to announce that the United States will begin to participate in the JSI on MSMEs.

We were gratified to hear many Members welcome our record of leadership and continued strong interest in WTO reform, across all pillars of the organization. We heard many Members express appreciation for the discussions we are hosting on dispute settlement reform. We do not prejudge what a reformed system would look like, and we likewise ask other Members to approach these conversations with an open mind. We believe that working collectively toward a system that meets the needs of all Members provides the greatest chance of achieving durable, lasting reform. We look forward to advancing these important conversations.

Agriculture

Several Members noted their concern that US domestic support in agriculture had increased in recent years, primarily due to the Market Facilitation Program and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. I would like to note that the food assistance program was a temporary program designed to minimize the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 on US agriculture, while the market access program was a temporary program designed to help assist producers with meeting the additional costs associated with disrupted markets for commodities targeted by retaliatory tariffs. In both cases, a specific amount of funding was authorized for these programs. That funding is no longer available and as previously stated, both programs are no longer in effect.

Trade remedies

A number of Members raised concerns about the continued usage of US trade remedy procedures. I would like to make a few brief observations. First, our system is petitioner-led, not government-led. Therefore, an increase or decrease in petitioners’ requests is not determined by the government. Second, the size of the US market, coupled with relatively low tariffs, make us a more attractive target for others to dump their goods on our market.

Third, a few Members continue to confound US trade remedies with a deeper and more worrying problem that the remedies aim to address – namely, injurious dumping and subsidization by others. It is important to maintain some perspective. While the United States accounted for nearly 20 percent of all initiated antidumping investigations from July 2019 to July 2022, 25 percent of all such investigations – one quarter- were initiated in response to trade from one Member – China.

National security

Several members commented on the United States’ position on the essential security exception in Article XXI(b) of the GATT 1994. One Member even said – without irony – that we are abusing the concept of national security, disregarding WTO rules, and destroying the multilateral trading system. But I wish to remind Members: the negotiating history of Article XXI(b) confirms the drafters intended this provision to be self-judging, and that the available remedy for such measures is a non-violation claim.

As I said in my opening statement, we don’t need to agree with each other on everything. But it is in our collective interest to forge a WTO fit for the times. To that end, the United States will work with any Member that is committed, as we are, to the principles and foundational objectives that brought us here many decades ago.

Chair, the United States approaches the end of this review with sincere appreciation for the serious engagement of most Members during this week, and we are grateful for the role of the secretariat, the chair, and our discussant in shepherding us through this process.

I must confess that the discussion about “destroyers” during the meeting on Wednesday reminded me of a band I used to listen to during my college years – George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. One of their hits was “Bad to the Bone”, which seems to fit with the theme of someone’s intervention on Wednesday. They also had a mean rendition of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” Don’t worry, not asking. By the way, I just found out they are going on tour next year.

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