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World Trade Organisation (Accession of Yemen)

Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 18 December 2013

My noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Livingston, has today made the following statement:

The WTO ministerial conference took place in Nusa Dua, Bali from 3 to 6 December 2013. The Trade Foreign Affairs Council meeting was held in the margins of the conference. My predecessor Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint represented the UK at both and acted as a vice-chair at the WTO ministerial conference.

The Trade Foreign Affairs Council was held in the margins of the WTO conference to allow any essential business pertaining to the conference to be finalised and only dealt with issues directly relating to the WTO summit.

The conference was a success with an agreement on Government’s objectives. The conference resulted in:

Political agreement on the text of an ambitious and legally binding trade facilitation agreement worth $100 billion annually to the global economy and $1.5 billion annually to the UK.

Agreement on a limited number of agricultural issues which would be of benefit to developing and least developed countries.

A monitoring mechanism for special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries.

WTO ministerial decisions of interest to least developed countries (LDCs): the operationalisation of the services waiver—preferential rules of origin and cotton;

Extension of the moratorium on charging customs duties on electronic transmissions and the extension of the moratorium on bringing non-violation and situation complaints under the trade related aspects of intellectual property agreement.

The accession of Yemen to the WTO.

UK JHA opt-in to Council Decision relating to the Accession of Yemen to the WTO

I also wish to inform the House that the Government have opted in to the Council decision relating to the accession of Yemen to the World Trade Organisation. Opting in will help to achieve the Government’s trade policy objectives of expanding the WTO’s membership.

The Government have supported the accession of least developed countries (LDCs) such as Yemen to the WTO. Becoming a Member of the WTO will allow Yemen to benefit from WTO market access and global trading rules and the transparency of the WTO trading system. It will also be able to use the WTO dispute settlement mechanism to solve its differences with other members and fully participate in the ongoing negotiations to design the trade rules of the future.

The accession of Yemen (and therefore the Council decision) extends the geographical scope of the EU’s commitments in mode 4 (the temporary movement of persons who supply services across national borders). These commitments are an integral part of our trade commitments at the WTO. It is the presence of these commitments which triggers the UK Justice and Home Affairs opt-in.

In the case of the decision on the accession of Yemen, I regret that it was not possible to allow the normal eight weeks for parliamentary scrutiny. This was due to the late conclusion of the negotiations and the consequent late presentation by the Commission of the relevant draft Council decision, while we still needed to agree positions in Council ahead of the WTO ministerial on 3 to 6 December.