How severe is the food security challenge?

The lead story in the New York Times on May 24, 2022 had the following headline — Live Updates: World Leaders Call for Action to Free Trapped Ukrainian Food. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/05/24/world/russia-ukraine-war (“Russia’s blockade of seaports and attacks on grain warehouses have choked off one of the world’s breadbaskets. Western officials are accusing Russia of using food as a weapon.”). The article reviews presentations made at the World Economic Forum this week by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UN World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley.

EC President von der Leyen’s statement at Davos is copied in part below (section dealing with food security) and includes both the EU view on the challenges being faced as well as steps the EU is taking to try to reduce the severity of the food insecurity crisis. See European Commission, Special Address by President von der Leyen at the World Economic Forum, Davos, 24 May 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_22_3282.

“We are witnessing how Russia is weaponising its energy supplies. And indeed, this is having global repercussions. Unfortunately, we are seeing the same pattern emerging in food security. Ukraine is one of the world’s most fertile countries. Even its flag symbolises the most common Ukrainian landscape: a yellow field of grain under a blue sky. Now, those fields of grain have been scorched. In Russian-occupied Ukraine, the Kremlin’s army is confiscating grain stocks and machinery. For some, this brought back memories from a dark past – the times of the Soviet crop seizures and the devastating famine of the 1930s. Today, Russia’s artillery is bombarding grain warehouses in Ukraine – deliberately. And Russian warships in the Black Sea are blockading Ukrainian ships full of wheat and sunflower seeds. The consequences of these shameful acts are there for everyone to see. Global wheat prices are skyrocketing. And it is the fragile countries and vulnerable populations that suffer most. Bread prices in Lebanon have increased by 70%, and food shipments from Odessa could not reach Somalia. And on top of this, Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail – holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support. This is: using hunger and grain to wield power.

“And again, our answer is and must be to mobilise greater collaboration and support at the European and global level. First, Europe is working hard to get grain to global markets, out of Ukraine. You must know that there are currently 20 million tons of wheat stuck in Ukraine. The usual export was 5 million tons of wheat per month. Now, it is down to 200,000 to 1 million tons. By getting it out, we can provide Ukrainians with the needed revenues, and the World Food Programme with supplies it so badly needs. To do this, we are opening solidarity lanes, we are linking Ukraine’s borders to our ports, we are financing different modes of transportation so that Ukraine’s grain can reach the most vulnerable countries in the world. Second, we are stepping up our own production to ease pressure on global food markets. And we are working with the World Food Programme so that available stocks and additional products can reach vulnerable countries at affordable prices. Global cooperation is the antidote against Russia’s blackmail.

“Third, we are supporting Africa in becoming less dependent on food imports. Only 50 years ago, Africa produced all the food it needed. For centuries, countries like Egypt were the granaries of the world. Then climate change made water scarce, and the desert swallowed hundreds of kilometres of fertile land, year after year. Today, Africa is heavily dependent on food imports, and this makes it vulnerable. Therefore, an initiative to boost Africa’s own production capacity will be critical to strengthen the continent’s resilience. The challenge is to adapt farming to a warmer and drier age. Innovative technologies will be crucial to leapfrog. Companies around the world are already testing high-tech solutions for climate-smart agriculture. For example, precision irrigation operating on power from renewable; or vertical farming; or nanotechnologies, which can cut the use of fossil fuels when producing fertilisers.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

“The signs of a growing food crisis are obvious. We have to act urgently. But there are also solutions, today and on the horizon.

“This is why – again, an example of cooperation – I am working with President El-Sisi to address the repercussions of the war with an event on food security and the solutions coming from Europe and the region. It is time to end the unhealthy dependencies. It is time to create new connections. It is time to replace the old chains with new bonds. Let us overcome these huge challenges in cooperation, and that is in the Davos spirit.”

The New York Times article provides excerpts from Mr. Beasley’s comments. “’It’s a perfect storm within a perfect storm,’ said David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. ‘If we don’t get the port of Odesa open, it will compound our problems.’ Calling the situation ‘absolutely critical,’ he warned, ‘We will have famines around the world.’”

The UN World Food Programme has a press release on its webcite that addresses the food security crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. See UN World Food Programme, Failing to open Ukrainian ports means declaring war on global food security, WFP Chief warns UN Security Council, 19 May 2022, https://www.wfp.org/news/failing-open-ukrainian-ports-means-declaring-war-global-food-security-wfp-chief-warns-un. The release is copied below.

“NEW YORK – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, addressed the United Nations Security Council today on the impact of the war in Ukraine on global food security. Here are selected highlights from his remarks:

“’We truly are in an unprecedented crisis. Food pricing is our number one problem right now, as a result of all this perfect storm for 2022. But by 2023 it very well will be a food availability problem. When a country like Ukraine that grows enough food for 400 million people is out of the market, it creates market volatility, which we are now seeing.

“’In 2007 and 2008, we all witnessed what happened when pricing gets out of control. There were over 40 nations with political unrest, riots and protests. We’re already seeing riots and protesting taking place as we speak. Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Pakistan, Peru… We’ve seen destabilizing dynamics already in the Sahel from Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad… these are only signs of things to come. And we have enough historical experience to understand the consequences when we failed to act. When a nation that is the breadbasket of the world becomes a nation with the longest bread lines of the world, we know we have a problem.

“’As the Secretary General clearly spoke, we’re now reaching about 4 million people inside Ukraine. In fact, we’re scaling up to 900,000 on cash-based transfers as we speak. That will put liquidity back into the marketplace, but that does not solve the problem outside of Ukraine. That’s why we’ve got to get these ports running. We’ve got to empty the silos so that we can help stabilize the food crisis that we’re facing around the world.

“’Truly, failure to open those ports in Odesa region will be a declaration of war on global food security. And it will result in famine and destabilization and mass migration around the world.

“’Leaders of the world, it’s time that we do every possible thing that we can to bring the markets to stability because things will get worse, but I do have hope. We averted famine. We averted destabilization over the past many years because many of you in this room stepped up and we delivered. And we can do that again. But we’ve got things that have to happen. Getting the ports open, stabilizing the markets, increasing production around the world. We’ll get through this storm, but we must act and we must act with urgency.’”

See also, reliefweb, War in Ukraine: WFP renews call to open Black Sea ports amid fears for global hunger, originally posted on May 20, 2022, updated May 22, 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/war-ukraine-wfp-renews-call-open-black-sea-ports-amid-fears-global-hunger#:~:text=The%20World%20Food%20Programme%20(WFP,of%20lives%20%E2%80%93%20around%20the%20world (“In impassioned pleas to the specially convened ‘call to action’ group on 18 May, attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Beasley added: ‘The silos are full. Why are the silos full? Because the ports are not operating … It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open because this is not just about Ukraine, this is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak’”.).

As reviewed in earlier posts, there are production issues on grains in a number of other countries flowing from heat or draught or low inventories. Challenges in other countries are complicating the ability to substitute products from other countries for the large volumes not being shipped from Ukraine. See May 16, 2022:  Wheat prices spike following Indian export ban, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/05/16/wheat-prices-spike-following-indian-export-ban/; May 15, 2022:  India bans exports of wheat, complicating efforts to address global food security problems posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/05/15/india-bans-exports-of-wheat-complicating-efforts-to-address-global-food-security-problems-posed-by-russias-war-in-ukraine/; April 19, 2022:  Recent estimates of global effects from Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/19/recent-estimates-of-global-effects-from-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/; April 19, 2022:  Recent estimates of global effects from Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/19/recent-estimates-of-global-effects-from-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/.

While many countries are expressing the desire to help out in the crisis and while the WTO and other multilateral organizations are taking or talking about some actions that are available to them, the crisis is likely to significantly worsen in the coming months as there is little likelihood that Russia will permit the reopening of the Black Sea ports to Ukrainian wheat and other products. The crisis will likely exceed the level of the challenges from the 2007-2008 period and will reduce global GDP growth, including forcing some areas into recession, will increase starvation and malnurishment and result in increased political instability in a number of countries around the world. Expect larger parts of the global community to view Russia as a pariah state. While trade is an important part of the answer, the war started by Russia is not controllable by global trade rules in fact. We are in for a challenging period with much of the harm born by those least able to handle the harm being inflicted.

“The Future of the World Trade Organization” a virtual event by the Bipartisan Policy Center, discussion of dispute settlement

Last week on May 12, 2022, the Bipartisan Policy Center presented a program on the Future of the World Trade Organization. See https://bipartisanpolicy.org/event/the-future-of-the-world-trade-organization/. The program was structured with two segments. The opening segment was a discussion between the moderator of the program, Amb. Dennis Shea (former U.S. Ambassador to the WTO in the Trump Administration) and Roberto Azevedo (former Director-General of the WTO and a former Brazilian Ambassador to the WTO). The second segment was a panel discussion consisting of Thomas Graham (a former WTO Appellate Body member and former Chair of the Appellate Body), William Reinsch (currently a Senior Advisor and Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies), and Nazak Nikakhar (former Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce during the Trump Administration).

The discussion with the former DG of the WTO was wide ranging and pointed up the near impossibility of achieving consensus among the 164 WTO Members as there is no common vision of the organization’s mission and a widely split view of Members on whether reform is needed and even whether some Members prefer a non-functioning organization. Much of the discussion with former DG Azevedo is summarized in an Inside U.S. Trade article from May 13. Inside U.S. Trade’s World Trade Online, Former WTO director-general: Finding consensus largely ‘impossible’, May 13, 2022, https://insidetrade.com/daily-news/former-wto-director-general-finding-consensus-largely-%E2%80%98impossible%E2%80%99.

The moderator asked Azevedo about the Appellate Body and the topic of dispute settlement reform was taken up in the second segment with the lead being taken by the former AB member Thomas Graham.

Today’s post looks at the discussion of dispute settlement and what implications the views presented may have for meaningful progress at the 12th Ministerial Conference in terms of agreeing on a work program for dispute settlement reform.

In the discussion with former Director-General Roberto Azevedo, the topic of dispute settlement came up in two contexts. The first had to do with a discussion of the need for reform including the U.S. perceived need for tools to address Chinese distortions from their economic system . Azevedo noted that reform would be difficult on a consensus basis in general and dealing with China’s practices specifically. Azevedo mentioned the Appellate Body had complicated the operation of the WTO as they had “legislated too much” in his view. He noted that the Appellate Body should have had “greater circumspection” and limited their decision to the minimum needed. In his view, the actions of the Appellate Body did not facilitate the ability of Members to achieve a political bargain.

The second context in which dispute settlement arose was in the discussion of the 12th Ministerial Conference which starts in Geneva on June 12th. While Mr. Azevedo didn’t view the outcome of the 12th Ministerial as a “make or break” moment for the WTO, he did view whether dispute settlement is addressed meaningfully as suggesting “success” or continued problems. For him, getting dispute settlement moving was the important element regardless of the specifics that are to be worked out by Members.

I have in prior posts noted the likelihood that if there is a WTO reform work program, it is likely that the U.S. would agree to having dispute settlement included in such a work program even though the lack of movement by other Members to address underlying U.S. concerns raised questions about the likelihood of a successful process. April 28, 2022:  WTO Reform and the 12th Ministerial Conference — What Is likely on Dispute Settlement?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/28/wto-reform-and-the-12th-ministerial-conference-what-is-likely-on-dispute-settlement/. As I stated in that post,

“The Biden Administration, like the Trump Administration, believes that the operation of the dispute settlement system is in need of significant reform. The Trump Administration characterized the challenge as getting Members to explore why the Appellate Body felt at liberty to disregard the clear limitations on its authority in the Dispute Settlement Understanding and why Members had not moved earlier to ensure the limited role for the Appellate Body was respected. The Trump Administration also expressed concern that the dispute settlement system was not permitting Members to address the massive distortions caused to the global trading system from state-directed economies such as China. The Trump Administration was also not committed to a two-tier review system in light of the problems with the Appellate Body.

“The Biden Administration has expressed similar concerns although Amb. Pagán’s comments appear to change the focus from why did the Appellate Body view itself as permitted to deviate from its limited role to a review of what Members “real interests” are. It is unclear if the different language reflects a change in focus or just a rearticulation of the need to find reforms that will deliver a dispute settlement system that is limited to and achieves the objectives Members have articulated.”

In last week’s program, Thomas Graham gave a forceful argument for why blocking appointment of new Appellate Body members was correct in both 2017 and in 2022. As he notes, “the blockage was meant to force a discussion among Members of the U.S. critique that has been building for 20 years and is deeply bipartisan and, at a minimum, solidly sound on the text and the negotiating history. The discussion was badly needed and it still hasn’t occurred.”

Mr. Graham views the critique provided by the U.S. as not widely understood. Basically it is that “the Appellate Body was negotiated and authorized only to be a modest check on occasional egregious errors by panels in applying the specific rules. And it made itself into an international court issuing broad interpretations and requiring adherence to precedence. That coincides incidentally with what former Director-General Azevedo said in his critique which I wanted to applaud of the Appellate Body. By doing this, the Appellate Body altered the rights and obligations negotiated by Member governments and expressed in the Agreements without any way to check or reign them in.”

“As an aside, there is all the talk about restarting the dispute settlement system. There is a dispute settlement system – panels. And if people don’t like it, they can go to arbitration under Article 25, or they can go to other arbitration, or they can use the good offices of the Director-General which is within the Dispute Settlement Understanding. So there is a live question which Dennis you’ve raised yourself on several occasions on whether a second tier is actually even needed.”

Mr. Graham reviewed that during 2019, the last year of the Appellate Body’s operation, at each monthly Dispute Settlement Body meeting, Amb. Shea sought to have Members discuss the how and why of the Appellate Body deviating so much from its limited role. The only response was the Amb. Walker (NZ; Chair of the DSB) process. “The only thing that could be agreed upon by most but not all Members, still not even unanimous, were procedural things (conclude cases in 90 days and hortatory words (don’t overreach). That simply demonstrated actually the accuracy of the U.S. critique. That is consistent with what I observed inside the Appellate Body as well. The U.S. critique, for lack of a better way to put it, was treated with disdain and dismissed. It was frequently said they’re just mad about zeroing; they’re just mad about a few cases. To which I would reply, you are right that they are mad about that and other things because of what it shows about how the Appellate Body is operating. Real reform of the dispute settlement system would require starting from scratch and confronting the kinds of questions that Dennis and the U.S. and a few others have been asking. Does the WTO really need a second tier of dispute settlement? And if so, what should be the purpose and what should it be? And until those discussions start, nothing is going to happen. I am not even optimistic that some path to dispute settlement can come out of the Ministerial because if one is not going to go to those fundamentals on the dispute settlement system, then the rules become important and need to be more express because you can’t stand on the dispute settlement system to interpret the rules as they are correctly. They are going to have to be done together.”

William Reinsch expressed the view that it was important to restart the appointment of Appellate Body members on the theory that the problem with the AB was one of personnel which arguably the U.S. could handle through the appointment process versus structural and hence requiring reexamination of the dispute settlement process. In the alternative, he would support a system where panel decisions are binding. The key in his view is a binding system of dispute settlement. Nazak Nikakhar took the position that a second tier of review was needed because of the possibility of erroneously decided panel cases citing a panel decision involving Russia and Ukraine and limiting the authority of Members to take action for national security reasons without WTO review.

With less than four weeks to the start of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial, WTO Members are struggling to see what deliverables are possible. WTO reform is one of the core topics needing some definition. While dispute settlement reform will likely be part of the reform package (if one is agreed) what that means and whether a meaningful work program can be envisioned and developed are open questions.

Wheat prices spike following Indian export ban

In yesterday’s post, I reviewed India’s decision to restrict exports of wheat last Friday. May 15, 2022:  India bans exports of wheat, complicating efforts to address global food security problems posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/05/15/india-bans-exports-of-wheat-complicating-efforts-to-address-global-food-security-problems-posed-by-russias-war-in-ukraine/. Despite India’s efforts to walk back the extent of the export ban on Saturday, world market prices for wheat shot up on May 16. See, e.g., Financial Times, Wheat prices rise almost 6% as India export ban shakes markets, May 16, 2022, https://www.ft.com/content/226f3f09-33ff-40c8-b439-08a36c515aba (“Wheat prices rose by the maximum amount allowed on Monday after India imposed a ban on exports, stoking pressure on food costs as tight global supplies roiled international markets. Futures traded in Chicago rose as much as 5.9 per cent to $12.47 a bushel, their highest level in two months.”); Bloomberg, Wheat Soars in Risk to Food Inflation as India Restricts Exports, May 15, 2022 updated May 16, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-15/world-s-food-problems-piling-up-as-india-restricts-wheat-exports (“Wheat jumped by the exchange limit to near a record high after India’s move to restrict exports, exposing just how tight global supplies are during the war in Ukraine and threatening to drive up food prices even more.”); Market Watch,  Wheat prices surge to highest in more than 2 months following India’s ban on exports, May 16, 2022, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/wheat-prices-surge-to-highest-in-more-than-two-months-following-indias-ban-on-exports-11652683058 (“India’s Commerce Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam told reporters on Sunday that the country’s wheat production has dropped by 3 million tons from 106 million tons last year. Prices have surged 20% to 40% in India. However, India also said Sunday that it would continue to export to needy nations — the country mainly provides wheat to Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India consumes most of what it produces, exporting 7 million tons of wheat last year out of 109 million tons produced, said Subrahmanyam.”); Quartz India, India’s wheat export ban is another reality check for its lofty soft power goals, May 16, 2022, https://qz.com/india/2165965/indias-wheat-export-ban-sends-global-prices-soaring/ (“A few weeks ago, it [India] claimed it could feed the world should the World Trade Organization allow it. Later, on May 4, prime minister Narendra Modi reiterated his desire to “save the world from hunger.” After all, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, India had got the perfect window to become a major wheat exporter. On May 14, however, India banned the export of wheat, largely owing to a record high domestic food inflation. Lower yield due to intense heat waves piled on the country’s agony.”).

Based on the price spike today being capped by daily exchange rate increase limits, India’s action will likely result in even higher prices in the coming days.

The U.S., EU and others are looking at ways to reduce the food insecurity flowing from the Russian war in Ukraine including looking to help Ukraine export its agricultural products through western Europe. U.S. Secretary of State Anton Blinken was in Berlin this past weekend and at a press conference noted efforts that will take place in New York this week. See U.S. Department of State, Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability, Berlin, May 15, 2022, https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-at-a-press-availability-18/ (excerpts copied below).

“We’ve marshaled a robust transatlantic response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war – more than 6 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland.  They’ve been welcomed in countries across Europe and across the Atlantic.  The United States has provided millions of dollars in assistance to countries taking in Ukrainian citizens to help provide essential support and services.  Our countries are also coming together to address some of the broader consequences that are flowing from Russia’s aggression, like the global food shortages and rising food prices that we’re seeing.  Ukraine supplies a great deal of the world’s corn, its wheat, its oil seeds for cooking oil.

“Russia is blocking Ukraine’s ports; it’s destroying its farmland, warehouses, roads, equipment.  That’s not only striking a major blow to Ukraine’s economy, but it’s also designed to inflict pain on the rest of the world to weaken support to the Ukrainian people.  Later this week in New York, we will be convening an emergency session of the UN Security Council and also the foreign ministers to focus on the steps that we can take together to address the immediate challenges for food and to address food insecurity, as well as to look at some of the medium-term and longer-term answers to food insecurity.”

While the WTO Director-General and a significant number of WTO Members are looking for action at the WTO’s 12 Ministerial Conference starting on June 12th not only on a WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also on addressing the problem of rising food insecurity, a number of major countries are having trouble not restricting agricultural exports and hence are exacerbating the challenges of food insecurity which have been worsened by the Russian war in Ukraine. Actions like that taken by India will complicate the global response to food insecurity and cause even higher world prices for core agricultural commodities.

India bans exports of wheat, complicating efforts to address global food security problems posed by Russia’s war in Ukraine

While the WTO permits countries to restrict exports of agricultural products in certain circumstances, history is replete with examples of price swings being exacerbated by the imposition of export restraints on food. As reviewed in a recent post, Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused already high food prices to spike to all time highs in products like wheat where Ukraine and Russia are major exporters. April 19, 2022:  Recent estimates of global effects from Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/19/recent-estimates-of-global-effects-from-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/; March 30, 2022:  Food security challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/30/food-security-challenges-posed-by-the-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/.

While many WTO Members are urging the WTO membership to avoid imposition of export restraints at the present time to reduce food insecurity, a number of countries have shut down exports to protect their domestic consumers. India, which is the world’s second largest producer of wheat and had been looked to to help reduce the challenges in Africa and Asia from Ukraine’s inability to get grain harvested or exported, has faced very high temperatures this spring. In the last days, it has reversed its position of increasing exports to help countries in need to the position of shutting off exports immediately with the exception of volumes under contract and with a possible willingness to work with countries with food security issues. See Reuters, India bans wheat exports as heat wave hurts crop, domestic prices soar, May 15, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/india-prohibits-wheat-exports-with-immediate-effect-2022-05-14/ (“India banned wheat exports on Saturday days after saying it was targeting record shipments this year, as a scorching heat wave curtailed output and domestic prices hit a record high. The government said it would still allow exports backed by already issued letters of credit and to countries that request supplies ‘to meet their food security needs’.”); Washington Post, India bans wheat exports amid soaring global prices, May 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/14/india-wheat-ban-ukraine/ (“In a Commerce Ministry order, Indian officials said they made the decision after considering India’s own needs and those of neighboring countries. India’s food security was ‘at risk’ because of surging international prices, the ministry said. The announcement was an abrupt reversal weeks after Indian officials and international analysts talked up the possibility of India’s significantly ratcheting up exports to fill the gap created partly by the war in Ukraine. International food prices have soared to record highs in recent months, putting pressure on billions of people, particularly the world’s poorest, officials at the United Nations have warned.”); ABC News, India open to exporting wheat to needy nations despite ban, May 15, 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/india-open-exporting-wheat-needy-nations-ban-84728532 (“India on Sunday said it would keep a window open to export wheat to food-deficit countries at the government level despite restrictions announced two days earlier. India’s Commerce Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam told reporters the government will also allow private companies to meet previous commitments to export nearly 4.3 million tons of wheat until July. India exported 1 million tons of wheat in April.”); The Times of India, Explained: Why India has banned wheat exports despite big trade plans, May 14, 2022, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/explained-why-did-india-ban-wheat-exports-despite-big-trade-plans/articleshow/91565703.cms; Hindustan Times, G7 criticises India decision to stop wheat exports: Germany, May 14, 2022, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/g7-criticises-india-decision-to-stop-wheat-exports-germany-101652533657311.html (“‘If everyone starts to impose export restrictions or to close markets, that would worsen the crisis,’ German agriculture minister Cem Ozdemir said at a press conference in Stuttgart.”).

Press accounts indicate that China’s wheat production for this year is uncertain because of weather considerations as well. See New York Times, War and Weather Sent Food Prices Soaring. Now, China’s Harvest Is Uncertain, May 12, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/11/business/china-wheat-food-prices-inflation.html (“Ukraine’s wheat exports have been mostly halted since Russia’s invasion, while drought has damaged crops in India and the United States. China’s upcoming harvest is another concern..”).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture develops periodic forecasts for production and consumption of major agricultural crops. USDA released its latest global forecast for various crops for 2022-2023 including wheat on May 12, 2022. See USDA, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, May 12, 2022, https://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/wasde0522.pdf. The description of wheat supply and demand is copied below.

“WHEAT: The outlook for 2022/23 U.S. wheat is for reduced supplies, exports, domestic use stocks,
and higher prices. U.S. 2022/23 wheat supplies are projected down 3 percent, as lower beginning
stocks more than offset a larger harvest. All wheat production for 2022/23 is projected at 1,729
million bushels, up 83 million from last year, as higher yields more than offset a slight decrease in
harvested area. The all wheat yield, projected at 46.6 bushels per acre, is up 2.3 bushels from last
year. The first survey-based forecast for 2022/23 winter wheat production is down 8 percent from last
year as lower Hard Red Winter and Soft Red Winter production more than offset an increase in White
Wheat production. Abandonment for Winter Wheat is the highest since 2002 with the highest levels in
Texas and Oklahoma. Spring Wheat production for 2022/23 is projected to rebound significantly from
last year’s drought-reduced Hard Red Spring and Durum crops primarily on return-to-trend yields.

“Total 2022/23 domestic use is projected down 1 percent on lower feed and residual use more than
offsetting higher food use. Exports are projected at 775 million bushels, down from revised 2021/22
exports and would be the lowest since 1971/72. Projected 2022/23 ending stocks are 6 percent
lower than last year at 619 million bushels, the lowest level in nine years. The projected 2022/23
season-average farm price (SAFP) is a record $10.75 per bushel, up $3.05 from last year’s revised
SAFP. Wheat cash and futures prices are expected to remain sharply elevated through the first part
of the marketing year when the largest proportion of U.S. wheat is marketed.

“The global wheat outlook for 2022/23 is for lower supplies and consumption, increased trade, and
lower ending stocks. Global production is forecast at 774.8 million tons, 4.5 million lower than in
2021/22. Reduced production in Ukraine, Australia, and Morocco is only partly offset by increases in
Canada, Russia, and the United States. Production in Ukraine is forecast at 21.5 million tons in
2022/23, 11.5 million lower than 2021/22 due to the ongoing war. Canada’s production is forecast to
rebound to 33.0 million tons in 2022/23, up significantly from last year’s drought-affected crop.

“Projected 2022/23 world use is slightly lower at 787.5 million tons, as increases for food use are more
than offset by declining feed and residual use. The largest feed and residual use reductions are in
China, the European Union, and Australia as well as a sizeable decline in food use in India.
Projected 2022/23 global trade is a record 204.9 million tons, up 5.0 million from last year. Imports
are projected to rise on increased exportable supplies from Russia and Canada more than offsetting
reductions for Ukraine and Australia. Russia is projected as the leading 2022/23 wheat exporter at
39.0 million tons, followed by the European Union, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Ukraine’s 2022/23 export forecast is 10.0 million tons, down sharply from last year on reduced
production and significant logistical constraints for exports. India is expected to remain a significant
wheat exporter in 2022/23. Projected 2022/23 world ending stocks are reduced 5 percent to 267.0
million tons and would be the lowest level in six years. The largest change is for India, where stocks
are forecast to decline to 16.4 million tons, a five-year low.”

With likely reduced availability of product globally and with reduced stocks of wheat on hand, tThe G7, led by the EU and US, are working to find ways to help Ukraine move its wheat production to export despite Russia’s closure of the Black Sea. Such efforts if successful will reduce the global damage done on food security on products like wheat. As reviewed in my last post,

“The EU is working to facilitate movement of Ukrainian agricultural products by land through EU member states. But the main challenges are the blockage of Black Sea ports by Russia and the reported theft of agricultural products and equipment from Ukrainian farms and depots. See, e.g., CNN, Russians steal vast amounts of Ukrainian grain and equipment, threatening this year’s harvest, May 5, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/05/europe/russia-ukraine-grain-theft-cmd-intl/index.html; Voice of America, Russian Blockade of Ukrainian Sea Ports Sends Food Prices Soaring, May 7, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/russian-blockade-of-ukrainian-sea-ports-sends-food-prices-soaring/6561914.html; Politico, EU plans to help Ukraine’s food exports dodge Black Sea blockade, EU farm chief warns Russia wants to portray itself as feeding the poor, while it destroys Ukraine’s farmland. May 10, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-plans-to-boost-ukraines-food-exports-black-sea-blockade/.”

May 11, 2022:  Less than five weeks to the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference — what are likely deliverables?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/05/11/less-than-five-weeks-to-the-wtos-12th-ministerial-conference-what-are-likely-deliverables/.

Hopefully, India will in fact work to facilitate exports to many of the nations dependent on wheat from Ukraine in the coming months to help reduce the food insecurity flowing from Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the announcement on Friday of banning exports is a concerning signal and will likely lead to even higher prices for wheat in the coming weeks and months.

Less than five weeks to the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference — what are likely deliverables?

On May 9-10, the WTO held a General Council meeting which followed an informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegation meeting from May 4. The meetings resulted in a series of news releases from the WTO focusing on the Director-General’s views on areas for focus for the upcoming Ministerial as well as initial reactions from Members to the paper put forward following negotiations between the European Union, United States, India and South Africa on what, if any, modifications to TRIPS obligations were needed to help WTO Members address the COVID-19 pandemic. See WTO News Release, General Council, Members welcome Quad document as basis for text-based negotiations on pandemic IP response, 10 May, 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/gc_10may22_e.htm; WTO News Release, General Council, DG Okonjo-Iweala urges WTO members to “meet the many challenges of our time”, 9 May 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/gc_09may22_e.htm; WTO News Release, Trade Negotiations Committee, DG Okonjo-Iweala: Members can deliver results at MC12 despite challenging circumstances, 4 May 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/tnc_04may22_e.htm.

The Director-General highlighted at the May 4 informal TNC and Heads of Delegation meeting a possible list of achievables by the 12th Ministerial Conference in the difficult political and economic environment that Members find themselves in.

“One potential MC12 deliverable is a WTO response to the current and future pandemics, including intellectual property issues, where members will discuss possible elements of a compromise at a time to be determined by the Chair of the TRIPS Council, the DG said. Other potential deliverables include concluding an agreement on fisheries subsidies, achieving outcomes on agriculture and making progress on reforming the WTO in addition to various initiatives members are taking forward, she added.

“The Director-General pointed to the threat of a global crisis in food security, with prices for food, fertilizer and energy rising sharply from already high levels.  She suggested members could use MC12 as a platform to take actions on these issues separately from the ongoing agriculture negotiations.”

A WTO Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The WTO achieving a response to the COVID-19 pandemic became more likely with the release of the draft text from the EU, US, India and China. I reviewed the main changes from the earlier draft in a recent post. May 4, 2022:  Access to vaccines – the public release of the text from the U.S., EU, India and South Africa to the full WTO Membership for consideration by the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/05/04/access-to-vaccines-the-public-release-of-the-text-from-the-u-s-eu-india-and-south-africa-to-the-full-wto-membership-for-consideration-by-the-council-for-trade-related-aspects-of-intellectual-prop/. While Members were not ready to sign off on the draft language and were awaiting instructions from capitals on positions to take, it is clear that the text will be the basis for negotiations. Moreover, as reflected in the WTO press release on the May 10 General Council session, China indicated it would not avail itself of the flexibilities on vaccines in the proposal. As reviewed in my May 4th post, China’s action will facilitate agreement on the text as it will permit adoption of language that makes the provisions available to all developing countries but encourages countries with strong export capabilities to not avail themselves of the provisions. China has self-identified itself as a developing country, but has been the largest manufacturer and exporter of COVID-19 vaccines, The U.S. and EU had drafted language that would have excluded China’s eligibility (as the only developing countries with exports of more than 10% of global totals in 2021). China’s position permits broader eligibility, hence avoiding what China would view as discriminatory language aimed at it. The implicit quid pro quo for using the broader language was China indicating it would not utilize the provisions.

However, there are remaining issues needing resolution in the draft text including whether diagnostics and therapeutics will be included in the provisions immediately versus subject to a separate determination to include within six months. And there is the broader set of issues including transparency, export restrictions, trade facilitation important to many countries as part of any WTO response to the pandemic. The European Union reviewed its views on the broader issues during the General Council meeting. See European Union interventions at the General Council, 09-10 May 2022, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/world-trade-organization-wto/european-union-interventions-general-council-09-10-may_en?s=69,

Item 4. A. WTO RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC – REPORT BY THE CHAIR

“The European Union thanks the Facilitator for his report.

“The European Union has been a strong proponent of the WTO response to the pandemic from the onset of discussions that members had in this forum. We argued for a holistic approach, which would encompass all the necessary elements of the response, including intellectual property.

Now that we have made a substantial step forward in the TRIPS Council, it is high time we had a fresh look at other elements of the pandemic, such as transparency, export restrictions, or trade facilitation. The “strategic pause” allowed us to reflect deeper on how to move the process forward and arrive at a multilateral outcome demonstrating that the WTO can meaningfully contribute to a response to the crisis and learn from it. In that regard, we also note the statement of Brazil in document WT/GC/W/845 on various aspects of the response to the pandemic.

“The European Union and the United States have invested great efforts into allowing progress towards a credible outcome. We have reached a common understanding on the minimum or the landing zone that could be the final outcome in a number of areas, acknowledging that other Members have additional issues of interest that they would like to see reflected in the text. Our new compromise paper presents the essentials of the Walker text, which we value the most, in a condensed format. We are encouraged by the positive feedback we have received so far and we will take account of the comments received.

The new paper attempts to propose a balance that would be acceptable to all members. Even if slightly shorter on ambition than the Walker text, we believe that it still maintains the credibility of the WTO.

“As MC12 will start in a month time, we do not have the luxury of time. Our collective interest is to engage in a spirit of self-restraint and in a consensus-oriented mode.

We are hopeful that all members will be able to engage constructively so that we could all resume and promptly finalize the negotiating process before Ministers arrive in Geneva.

To get to a final agreement on a WTO response to the pandemic will require significant effort, but is looking hopeful at the moment.

Agriculture negotiations

While there has been a large agenda of items being discussed in agriculture, there are several possible deliverables besides a work program going forward. First, there has been agreement on tariff rate quota administration. See WTO News Release, General Council, General Council endorses final decision on Bali tariff rate quota underfill mechanism, 31 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/gc_31mar22_e.htm; WTO Committee on Agriculture, REVIEW OF THE OPERATION OF THE BALI DECISION ON TRQ ADMINISTRATION REPORT BY THE CHAIRPERSON TO THE GENERAL COUNCIL, Addendum, G/AG/32/Add.1 (29 March 2022). G/AG/32/Add.1 is enclosed below.

32A1

It is unlikely that other aspects of the agriculture reform program will have concrete results by the 12th Ministerial with the possible exception of not blocking exports of agricultural goods to the UN World Food Programme. See WTO News Release, Agriculture Committee, MC12 outcome must help end hunger, improve food security, says chair, 27 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/agng_02may22_e.htm; WTO, State of Play 13 December 2021, Agriculture negotiations, https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/minist_e/mc12_e/briefing_notes_e/bfagric_e.htm (topics include Public stockholding for food security purposes, Domestic support, Cotton, Market access, Special safeguard mechanism, Export prohibitions or restrictions, Export competition, Transparency).

Specifically, it is not clear that much progress has been made in 2022 on any of the topics being pursued. The last draft text from the Chair that has been released publicly dates from November 2021. COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE IN SPECIAL SESSION, REPORT BY THE CHAIRPERSON, H.E. MS GLORIA ABRAHAM PERALTA, TO THE TRADE NEGOTIATIONS COMMITTEE, TN/AG/50 (23 November 2021). The document is embedded below and basically lays out a work program on each topic going forward with an annex exempting food purchases by the UN World Food Programme from any export restrictions. Presumably some modified version of the November 2021 draft text will be presented to Ministers at the `2th Ministerial Conference.

50

Food security flowing from Russian invasion of Ukraine

As reviewed in prior posts and reflected in the various WTO news releases, there is a current food security crisis flowing from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. See, e.g., April 19, 2022:  Recent estimates of global effects from Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/19/recent-estimates-of-global-effects-from-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/; March 30, 2022:  Food security challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/30/food-security-challenges-posed-by-the-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/; WTO News Release, Agriculture Committee, MC12 outcome must help end hunger, improve food security, says chair, 27 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/agng_02may22_e.htm. Multilateral organizations have been calling for swift action to address the food security concerns. WTO News Release, WTO and other organizations, World Bank, IMF, WFP and WTO call for urgent coordinated action on food security, 13 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/igo_13apr22_e.htm.

At this week’s General Council meeting there were two agenda items that addressed the food security issue. Item 8 and item 12. See WTO General Council, Proposed Agenda, WT/GC/W/846, 6 May 2022. Item 8 dealt with a document entitled “Joint Statement on Open and Predictable Trade in Agricultural and Food Products” and was presented by the United Kingdom. Signatories to the document included Albania; Australia; Canada; Chile; Costa Rica; European Union; Georgia; Iceland; Israel; Japan; Republic of Korea; Liechtenstein; Mexico; Republic of Moldova; Montenegro; New Zealand; North Macedonia; Norway; Paraguay; Singapore; Switzerland; The Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Ukraine; United Kingdom and United States (51 WTO Members). The document is embedded below.

248

A number of countries have imposed export restrictions which worsen the pricing spikes being experienced on key agricultural commodities where Ukraine is a major exporter. The action by the 51 WTO Members is an important step whether or not it will generate a consensus document by the 12th Ministerial Conference meeting or not.

The EU’s comments on item 8 are likely representative of those supporting maintaining open markets for agricultural products at the present time.

“Item 8 – JOINT STATEMENT ON OPEN AND PREDICTABLE TRADE IN AGRICULTURAL AND FOOD PRODUCTS – REQUEST FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM

The European Union would like to thank the United Kingdom and other co-sponsors for their support in raising attention in the WTO to the global food security crisis that we see emerging.

The crisis triggered by Russia’s unprovoked, illegal and unjustified aggression against Ukraine, is not only a dramatic humanitarian crisis for Ukraine. It has increased food insecurity in many developing countries around the world.

We are witnessing a dramatic surge in food, fertilizer and energy prices, which exceed the levels reached during the last major food crisis in 2011, as well as risks to supply of staple commodities with immediate impacts on world food security and nutrition.

Let me be clear that any negative impact on agricultural production in Ukraine, and therefore on global food security, prices or availability of commodities on the world market is a result of the destabilising effects of the Russian aggression and military activities on Ukrainian soil.

The EU considers that the emerging food security challenges should be addressed as a priority at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference.

We hope this plurilateral statement may help in focussing attention on the crucial importance of responding to these challenges.

The discussions in the recent food security seminar, including contributions from FAO, WFP and other organisations, were also useful.   

The plurilateral statement is also a  response to the call of  Director-General Okonjo-Iweala for coordinated actions in areas like export restrictions on food, and transparency, including transparency of stocks.

We call for unanimous support for a decision exempting World Food Programme humanitarian purchases from export restrictions. This would facilitate sourcing supplies by the WFP in these critical times. The EU expects the WTO and its members to act at this critical moment in order to help ensure open trade, strong rules, resilient markets, and less trade distortions.

The EU will remain engaged in negotiations towards MC12 for outcomes, which will provide a tangible response to the food security challenges.

European Union interventions at the General Council, 09-10 May 2022, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/world-trade-organization-wto/european-union-interventions-general-council-09-10-may_en?s=69

Item 12 was a topic raised by the Russian Federation in its submission of 16 March 2022 (WT/GC/245) in which it alleges that the food security and other supply chain problems flow from sanctions imposed on Russia by various WTO members. See COMMUNICATION FROM THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, WT/GC/245 (16 March 2022). The document is embedded below.

WTGC245

The countries imposing sanctions on Russia strongly disagree with Russia’s characterization of the causes for the food security challenge as the EU’s intervention at the General Council meeting makes clear.

Item 12 – TRADE-DISRUPTIVE PRACTICES OF CERTAIN MEMBERS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WTO – COMMUNICATION FROM THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (WT/GC/245)

Let us be clear from the outset: it is the Russian army that has invaded the Ukrainian territory. We strongly condemn the illegal, unprovoked, unjustifiable aggression of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, which has brought catastrophic loss of life and human suffering in Ukraine and poses a direct threat to the European and international security order.

The Russian Federation’s hostile act is a blatant violation of international law and the rules-based international order, the consequences of which have already extended well beyond Ukraine’s borders.

We are greatly concerned about the global trade consequences of the aggression; in particular as regards the supply of a number of commodities, including oil and gas, staple foods, and critical minerals.

The European Union also strongly specifically condemns Russia’s actions targeting Ukraine’s food supply and production. Credible reports highlighted that Russian forces are attacking and plundering grain silos in Ukraine as well as damaging and removing Ukrainian farm equipment. Furthermore, the closure of the Black Sea by Russian armed forces effectively blocks the exports of grains via Ukrainian seaports.

The food security situation is already dramatic for those directly involved in Ukraine. The impact of the Russian aggression is however not just restricted to Ukraine and its citizens but is seriously challenging food availability in some vulnerable net food-importing countries in particular. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is thus jeopardizing the food supply to some of the most vulnerable parts of the world, particularly in developing countries, and pushing millions of people into food insecurity.

The Russian Federation has now embarked on a further campaign of disinformation in the context of the WTO. In the face of this, the European Union, alongside our partners, deems it important to set the record straight for the benefit of the membership.

In a transparent manner, the European Union have issued a Joint Statement together with partners in relation to the trade measures that the European Union and other members are adopting towards Russia, including measures that deny the Russian Federation the benefits which the WTO Agreement provides, such as the benefit of the most-favoured nation treatment. The measures include export restrictions and import restrictions targeting the Russian Federation.

The European Union considers these actions necessary to protect its essential security interests within the meaning of the applicable security exceptions of the WTO Agreement. The purpose of these measures is to restore peace and security, in full respect of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders. Therefore, these measures are fully consistent with WTO rules.

The European Union would like to underline that the EU’s sanctions do not target the agricultural sector of the Russian Federation. The sanctions are primarily directed at the Russian Government, the financial sector and the economic elites. They target the ability to finance the Russian aggression against Ukraine and its people.

Therefore, the European Union, alongside our partners, strongly condemns Russia’s attempts at putting the blame on international sanctions for the global food security crisis that is directly caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its people.

“In this context, we are committed to helping Ukraine cope with the trade consequences of the aggression. We will seek to facilitate access and transit for imports from Ukraine to our markets and encourage Members to do likewise – including by eliminating tariffs and other restrictions to imports, facilitating the use of infrastructure and facilitating customs procedures in a manner commensurate with their capacity and consistently with WTO rules.

The European Union will continue to provide humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian civilians by securing their access to basic goods and services, notably food. The European Union will also help Ukrainian farmers to continue planting and growing cereals and oilseeds, much needed for themselves and for the world, and to facilitate their exports.

We call on the Russian Federation to immediately stop its military aggression in Ukraine, which is also the only way to stop the humanitarian and food security crisis.

European Union interventions at the General Council, 09-10 May 2022, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/world-trade-organization-wto/european-union-interventions-general-council-09-10-may_en?s=69.

A number of WTO Members are providing temporary duty free treatment to goods from Ukraine besides the EU — Canada and U.K.. The U.S. has removed Section 232 tariffs on steel from Ukraine for the next year as well.

The EU is working to facilitate movement of Ukrainian agricultural products by land through EU member states. But the main challenges are the blockage of Black Sea ports by Russia and the reported theft of agricultural products and equipment from Ukrainian farms and depots. See, e.g., CNN, Russians steal vast amounts of Ukrainian grain and equipment, threatening this year’s harvest, May 5, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/05/europe/russia-ukraine-grain-theft-cmd-intl/index.html; Voice of America, Russian Blockade of Ukrainian Sea Ports Sends Food Prices Soaring, May 7, 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/russian-blockade-of-ukrainian-sea-ports-sends-food-prices-soaring/6561914.html; Politico, EU plans to help Ukraine’s food exports dodge Black Sea blockade, EU farm chief warns Russia wants to portray itself as feeding the poor, while it destroys Ukraine’s farmland. May 10, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-plans-to-boost-ukraines-food-exports-black-sea-blockade/.

While many WTO Members will push for a WTO decision to bolster food security, it is unlikely that Russia and those engaging in export restraints will permit a consensus decision.

Fisheries Subsidies

While many Members and the WTO Director-General talk about delivering an agreement on fisheries subsidies, there has not been a lot of progress in recent months according to WTO news releases on meetings to review the issues. See, e.g., WTO News Release, Negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies, Chair of fisheries subsidies negotiations reports on consultations with members, 15 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/fish_15feb22_e.htm.

After more than 21 years of negotiations, there is obviously a feeling that Members need to reach agreement. However, considering the entrenched positions of some and the current geopolitical situation, any agreement is likely to be modest in actual effect. I have reviewed developments in the negotiations in prior posts. See, e.g., https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/fish_15feb22_e.htm.

WTO Reform

Much has been written on WTO reform in recent years. What is important to WTO Members varies although most support the need for reform. Changes to reinvigorate the negotiating function, improving transparency, agricultural reform, addressing dispute settlement concerns of the U.S. and others, addressing industrial subsidies (and subsidies more broadly), state-owned and state-invested enterprises, problems of global excess capacity in various industries, special and differential treatment, compatability of state-directed economies with WTO rules are just a handful of issues important to some Members. I have addressed some of these topics in prior posts. See, e.g., April 28, 2022:  WTO Reform and the 12th Ministerial Conference — What Is likely on Dispute Settlement?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/28/wto-reform-and-the-12th-ministerial-conference-what-is-likely-on-dispute-settlement/; April 23, 2022:  The WTO’s upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva the week of June 13, 2022 — What can be expected in the current geopolitical environment?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/23/the-wtos-upcoming-12th-ministerial-conference-to-be-held-in-geneva-the-week-of-june-13-2022-what-can-be-expected-in-the-current-geopolitical-environment/; February 14, 2022:  Dispute Settlement Reform at the WTO — What Needs to Precede Negotiations?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/14/dispute-settlement-reform-at-the-wto-what-needs-to-precede-negotiations/.

There will likely be a document identifying some areas for future negotiations with a timeline of the 13th Ministerial as the target date for completion of the analysis. The level of ambition agreed up is not likely to be high in the current environment. Certainly, there won’t be agreement on tackling core issues such as the need for convergence of economic systems. While I would expect dispute settlement to be included, there has been no real movement by Members to come to grips with underlying U.S. concerns. Without that happening, there will likely be little chance of an agreed reform package by the 13th Ministerial.

There could also be a decision on transparency at the 12th Ministerial. See, e.g., General Council agenda item 9 and JOB/GC/204/Rev.9 (document from 50 Members). The latest version of the proposed decision is embedded below. The key to movement is eliminating any “penalties” for noncompliance and addressing concerns of some developing countries and LDCs on the challenges they face (capacity building, assistance, etc.). Those seem to be addressed in the latest draft, so hopefully agreement can be reached in the coming weeks.

JobsGC204R9

Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs)

As reviewed in prior posts, there has been good progress in a number of the JSIs which are essentially open plurilaterals. A few have results which will be presented at the 12th Ministerial. Others have ambitions to be concluded in the next year or so. See, e.g., April 23, 2022:  The WTO’s upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva the week of June 13, 2022 — What can be expected in the current geopolitical environment?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/23/the-wtos-upcoming-12th-ministerial-conference-to-be-held-in-geneva-the-week-of-june-13-2022-what-can-be-expected-in-the-current-geopolitical-environment/ (“There are a host of Joint Statement Initiatives that are at various stages of progress on a plurilateral basis, with India and South Africa raising objections to plurilateral agreements being part of the WTO without consensus agreement. See, e.g., April 14, 2022:  Challenging China’s Trade Practices — What Role for the WTO?,  https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/14/challenging-chinas-trade-practices-what-role-for-the-wto/ (“Ongoing JSI include those on electronic commerce, investment facilitation for development, plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade, services domestic regulation, informal working group on MSMEs, and trade and environmental sustainability.  The WTO issues periodic press releases on developments in the talks.  See, e.g., JOINT INITIATIVE ON E-COMMERCE, E-commerce negotiators seek to find common ground, revisit text proposals, 21 February 2022,  https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/jsec_23feb22_e.htm (hoping to have convergence on majority of issues by end of 2022)(86 WTO Members participating accounting for 90% of e-commerce trade including China, U.S. and most other major countries);  INVESTMENT FACILITATION FOR DEVELOPMENT, Investment facilitation negotiators take steps to assess needs of developing countries, 15 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/infac_23feb22_e.htm (looking to complete by end of 2022)(over 100 WTO Members participate including China and most developed countries, but not the U.S.); INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE, Plastics dialogue emphasizes need for international collaboration, cooperation, 30 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/ppesp_31mar22_e.htm  (70 Members participate including China and most major developed countries but not the U.S.); Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, Negotiations on services domestic regulation conclude successfully in Geneva, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/jssdr_02dec21_e.htm (67 Members participated including China, the U.S. and other major developed countries); . MICRO, SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES (MSMES), Working group on small business welcomes three more members, 8 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/msmes_08feb22_e.htm (94 participants including China and most major developed countries but not the U.S.).”).

India, Namibia and South Africa have raised issues with whether such plurilateral agreements can be made part of the WTO body of agreements without consensus. See THE LEGAL STATUS OF ‘JOINT STATEMENT INITIATIVES’ AND THEIR NEGOTIATED OUTCOMES, Revision, WT/GC/W/819/Rev.1 (30 April 2021). While that question will not likely be resolved at the 12th Ministerial Conference, important progress is being made on the JSIs.

Moratorium on Imposing Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions

During prior Ministerial Conferences there was agreement both on Members holding off on non-violation nullification and impairment cases under the TRIPS Agreement and also agreement to extend the moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. WTO Members have already agreed to extend til the 13th Ministerial the ban on non-violation TRIPS cases. But a number of developing countries are seeking to end the moratorium on customs duties citing studies on loss of government revenue from the moratorium and the increased importance of electronic commerce.

Some Members have also expressed concern about the JSI on e-commerce in light of the ongoing work program on e-commerce within the WTO.

In the briefing note on e-commerce on the WTO webpage from January 11, 2022, the following is a discussion of activities in 2020 and 2021 on the topics.

“In summer 2020, WTO members put forward proposals on the implications of the moratorium, its scope, the definition of electronic transmissions and the implication of the moratorium on revenue loss for developing countries. This discussion is part of the broader developmental aspect of e-commerce: developing and least-developed countries face various challenges related to e-commerce, such as connectivity, infrastructure and capacity to implement policies related to e-commerce.

“The General Council continued to review progress in the Work Programme based on reports submitted by the chairs of the relevant WTO bodies. The General Council Chair convened a Structured Discussion under the Work Programme in July 2021. The discussion focused on three themes: electronic transmissions, imposition of internal non-discriminatory taxes on electronic transmissions, and e-commerce challenges and opportunities particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In a subsequent submission in November 2021, some members outlined that it is necessary to have more clarity on the definition of electronic transmissions, consensus on the scope of the moratorium and an understanding of the impact of the moratorium in order to enable the WTO members to take an informed decision at MC12 on whether or not to extend the moratorium on customs duties.

“In November 2021, a group of WTO members put forward a proposal that contains draft ministerial text for possible adoption by ministers at MC12 for the extension of the moratorium and continuing the reinvigoration of the work programme. Views of members vary and consultations led by the General Council chair continued ahead of the conference scheduled to start on 30 November.”

It is likely that the moratorium will be extended to the 13th Ministerial but it will likely be a late agreed topic and will be coupled with a “reinvigorated” WTO work program on e-commerce and a likely lack of agreement on the role of plurilaterals moving forward.

Conclusion

At a time of tremendous trade challenges globally, the WTO continues to struggle to demonstrate its relevance to addressing current issues. The large number of Members, the very different perspectives on what they look to the WTO to provide, the emergence of economically important Members with economic systems not really compatible with existing WTO rules, the consensus based system and many other factors make restoring relevance for many of the current challenges a daunting task. The geopolitical crisis flowing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has both expanded the challenges and made resolution through the WTO more difficult.

The WTO Director-General is urging Members to achieve results at the 12th Ministerial even if less ambitious than might have been possible in a different environment. As the above review suggests, a modest package is possible but not at all certain. There is very little time to close the gaps and get a meaningful package ready. Let’s hope that Members can rise to the occasion.

Latest round of sanctions against Russia and Belarus for unprovoked war against Ukraine

The G-7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union) released a joint statement on May 8, 2022 emphasizing their continued solidarity with Ukraine and announcing new sanctions being put in place or finalized by member countries. See White House Briefing Room, G7 Leaders’ Statement, May 8, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/08/g7-leaders-statement-2/. Paragraph 12 of the statement reviews the new sanctions G-7 members are pursuing.

“12. Our unprecedented package of coordinated sanctions has already significantly hindered Russia’s war of aggression by limiting access to financial channels and ability to pursue their objectives. These restrictive measures are already having a significant impact on all Russian economic sectors – financial, trade, defence, technology, and energy – and will intensify pressure on Russia over time. We will continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on President Putin’s regime for this unjustifiable war. We collectively commit to taking the following measures, consistent with our respective legal authorities and processes:

“a. First, we commit to phase out our dependency on Russian energy, including by phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil. We will ensure that we do so in a timely and orderly fashion, and in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative supplies. As we do so, we will work together and with our partners to ensure stable and sustainable global energy supplies and affordable prices for consumers, including by accelerating reduction of our overall reliance on fossil fuels and our transition to clean energy in accordance with our climate objectives.

“b. Second, we will take measures to prohibit or otherwise prevent the provision of key services on which Russia depends. This will reinforce Russia’s isolation across all sectors of its economy.

“c. Third, we will continue to take action against Russian banks connected to the global economy and systemically critical to the Russian financial system. We have already severely impaired Russia’s ability to finance its war of aggression by targeting its Central Bank and its largest financial institutions.

“d. Fourth, we will continue our efforts to fight off the Russian regime’s attempts to spread its propaganda. Respectable private companies should not provide revenue to the Russian regime or to its affiliates feeding the Russian war machine.

“e. Fifth, we will continue and elevate our campaign against the financial elites and family members, who support President Putin in his war effort and squander the resources of the Russian people. Consistent with our national authorities, we will impose sanctions on additional individuals.”

The U.S. released a fact sheet on its new sanctions. See White House Briefing Room, FACT SHEET: United
States and G7 Partners Impose Severe Costs for Putin’s War Against Ukraine, May 8, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/08/fact-sheet-united-states-and-g7-partners-impose-severe-costs-for-putins-war-against-ukraine/. In the fact sheet, the U.S. outlines the sanctions it is imposing in this latest round.

Targeting State-Controlled Media Within Russia That Bolster Putin’s War. The United States will sanction three of Russia’s most highly-viewed directly or indirectly state-controlled television stations in Russia – Joint Stock Company Channel One Russia, Television Station Russia-1, and Joint Stock Company NTV Broadcasting Company. All three stations have been among the largest recipients of foreign revenue, which feeds back to the Russian State’s revenue.

Banning Services that Help Finance Putin’s War and Aid Sanctions Evasion. The United States will prohibit U.S. persons from providing accounting, trust and corporate formation, and management consulting services to any person in the Russian Federation. These services are key to Russian companies and elites building wealth, thereby generating revenue for Putin’s war machine, and to trying to hide that wealth and evade sanctions. This action builds on previous prohibitions to restrict the export of goods related to aerospace, marine, electronics, technology, and defense and related materiel sectors of the Russian economy.

Cutting off Imports of Russian Oil and Reducing Dependence on Russian Energy. The United States has already banned the import of Russian oil, gas, and coal. Today, the entire G7 committed to phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil. This will hit hard at the main artery of Putin’s economy and deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war. The G7 also committed to work together to ensure stable global energy supplies, while accelerating our efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Impose further export controls and sanctions to degrade Russia’s war efforts.  The United States will issue a new rule that imposes additional restrictions on Russia’s industrial sector, including a broad range of inputs and products including wood products, industrial engines, boilers, motors, fans, and ventilation equipment, bulldozers, and many other items with industrial and commercial applications. These new controls will further limit Russia’s access to items and revenue that could support its military capabilities. The United States also sanctioned Limited Liability Company Promtekhnologiya, which produces rifles and other weapons that have been used in military operations in Ukraine; seven shipping companies, which own or operate 69 vessels; and one marine towing company. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will also suspend general licenses for exports of source material, special nuclear material, byproduct material, and deuterium to Russia.

Impose Sanctions on Russian Elites and their Family Members and Visa Restrictions on Russian and Belarusian Officials Undermining the Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, or Political Independence of Ukraine. The United States imposed approximately 2,600 visa restrictions on Russian and Belarusian officials in response to their ongoing efforts to undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of Ukraine. Additionally, the United States issued a new visa restriction policy that applies to Russian Federation military officials and Russia-backed or Russia-installed purported authorities who are believed to have been involved in human rights abuses, violations of international humanitarian law, or public corruption in Ukraine. The United States also sanctioned eight executives from Sberbank– the largest financial institution in Russia and uniquely important to the Russian economy, holding about a third of all bank assets in Russia; twenty-seven executives from Gazprombank – a prominent Russian bank facilitating business by Russia’s Gazprom, one of the largest natural gas exporters in the world; and Moscow Industrial Bank and its ten subsidiaries.”

Canada’s Prime Minister was in Kyiv on May 8th and met with the Ukrainian President. Canada also announced new sanctions. See Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister visits Kyiv, Ukraine, May 8, 2022, https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2022/05/08/prime-minister-visits-kyiv-ukraine; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service, Canadian Prime Minister Announces New Military Aid, Sanctions After Meeting In Kyiv With Zelenskiy, May 8, 2022, https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-zelenskiy-trudeau-weapons-equipment-canada/31840100.html (“‘Today, I’m announcing more military assistance, drone cameras, satellite imagery, small arms, ammunition, and other support, including funding for demining operations,’ Trudeau said. ‘And we’re bringing forward new sanctions on 40 Russian individuals and five entities, oligarchs, and close associates of the regime in the defense sector, all of them complicit in Putin’s war,’ in a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.”). Canada is also granting duty free treatment to Ukrainian goods for the next year. Canada was the first G-7 country to announce a ban on energy imports from Russia.

The United Kingdom similarly announced additional sanctions and duty free treatment for Ukrainian imports under the U.K.-Ukraine FTA. See Government of the United Kingdom, Press release
UK punishes Putin with new round ofsanctions on £1.7 billion of goods, May 8, 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-punishes-putin-with-new-round-of-sanctions-on-17-billion-of-goods. A section of the press release is copied below.

“The UK is today announcing a new package of sanctions on Russia and Belarus targeting £1.7 billion worth of trade in a move designed to further weaken Putin’s war machine.

“It will bring the total value of products subjected to full or partial import and export sanctions since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine began to more than £4 billion.

“The sanctions announced today by the International Trade Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer include import tariffs and export bans.

“The new import tariffs will cover £1.4 billion worth of goods – including platinum and palladium – hampering Putin’s ability to fund his war effort.

“Russia is one of the leading platinum and palladium producing countries and is highly dependent on the UK for exports of platinum and palladium products.

“Meanwhile, the planned export bans intend to hit more than £250 million worth of goods in sectors of the Russian economy most dependent on UK goods, targeting key materials such as chemicals, plastics, rubber, and machinery.”

The European Commission has proposed phasing out imports of Russian crude oil within six months and all refined oil products by the end of 2022 with some possible exceptions. The European Parliament and European Council still have the proposal under consideration. See EC Press Release, Speech by President von der Leyen at the EP Plenary on the social and economic consequences for the EU of the Russian war in Ukraine – reinforcing the EU’s capacity to act, Strasbourg, 4 May 2022, file:///C:/Users/tps/Downloads/Speech_by_President_von_der_Leyen_at_the_EP_Plenary_on_the_social_and_economic_consequences_for_the_EU_of_the_Russian_war_in_Ukraine___reinforcing_the_EU_s_capacity_to_act%20(1).pdf. EC President von der Leyen’s proposal on sanctions is copied below.

“Today, we are presenting the sixth package of sanctions. First, we are listing high-ranking military officers
and other individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha and who are responsible for the inhuman siege of the city of Mariupol. This sends another important signal to all perpetrators of the Kremlin’s war: We know who you are, and you will be held accountable. Second, we de-SWIFT Sberbank – by far Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks. By that, we hit banks that are systemically critical to the Russian financial system and Putin’s ability to wage destruction. This will solidify the complete isolation of the Russian financial sector from the global system. Third, we are banning three big Russian state-owned broadcasters from our airwaves. They will not be allowed to distribute their content anymore in the EU, in whatever shape or form, be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone apps. We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively. We should not give them a stage anymore to spread these lies. Moreover, the Kremlin relies on accountants, consultants and spin doctors from Europe. And this will now stop. We are banning those services from being provided to Russian companies.

“My final point on sanction: When the Leaders met in Versailles, they agreed to phase out our dependency on Russian energy. In the last sanction package, we started with coal. Now we are addressing our dependency on Russian oil. Let us be clear: it will not be easy. Some Member States are strongly dependent on Russian oil. But we simply have to work on it. We now propose a ban on Russian oil. This will be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined. We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimises the impact on global markets. This is why we will phase out Russian supply of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year. Thus, we maximise pressure on Russia, while at the same time minimising collateral damage to us and our partners around the globe. Because to help Ukraine, our own economy has to remain strong.”

The unprovoked war has created major challenges for the global trading system as reviewed in earlier posts particularly in food security for many countries, and in energy and fertilizers. The countries imposing sanctions and providing security and economic assistance to Ukraine are attempting to secure the multinational order that has preserved peace in Europe and many other parts of the world for the last 70+ years. Imposing costs on the Russian Federation and Belarus for their conduct and the unmentionable atrocities will continue and will likely increase as the brutal war started by Russia likely will last for some time yet.

Access to vaccines – the public release of the text from the U.S., EU, India and South Africa to the full WTO Membership for consideration by the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights

In a post from March 17, 2022, I had reviewed a draft of language under consideration by the U.S., EU, India and South Africa meant to be reviewed by the full WTO Membership once agreement was reached by the four WTO Members. March 17, 2022:  Possible Compromise on Access to Vaccines — draft understanding between EU, US, South Africa and India, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/17/possible-compromise-on-access-to-vaccines-draft-understanding-between-eu-us-south-africa-and-india/.

On May 3, 2022, the WTO’s Director-General forwarded to the Chair of the TRIPS Council the text (including brackets) as forwarded by the four Members for consideration by the full Membership through the TRIPS Council. The Trips Council held an informal meeting on May 3. The Chair of the TRIPS Council released the text to the membership in a public document. See Communication from the Chairperson, IP/C/W/688 (3 May 2022). The document (including note from the Director-General and the two page document (“TRIPS COVID-19)) is embedded below.

W688

There are only two changes from the draft document reviewed in mid-March. The first is the most important and concerns the definition of “an eligible member” contained in footnote 1. Originally, footnote 1 consisted of the following – “For the purpose of this Decision, developing country Members who exported more than 10 percent of world exports of COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2022 are not eligible Members.” From public data, this language would have excluded China from being an eligible Member. In the footnote 1 forwarded to the Membership on May 3, there are two bracketed sentences, the second of which is what was in the earlier draft. The other bracketed option would make all developing countries “eligible Members” — “[For the purpose of this Decision, all developing country Members are eligible Members. Developing country Members with capacity to export vaccines are encouraged to opt out from this Decision.]” Should China opt out of the Decision, the resulting potentially eligible countries would be the same. The opt out language could also arguably get additional Members who have significant vaccine producing and exporting capacity to voluntarily opt out as well (e.g., India).

The second change is the bracketing of paragraph 3.(a) with an additional footnote indicating that “This paragraph is under further consideration as to whether to keep or delete.” The paragraph (which is unchanged from the earlier draft other than the addition of brackets) reads,

“(a) [With respect to Article 31(a), an eligible Member may issue a single authorization to use the subject matter of multiple patents necessary for the production or supply of a COVID-19 vaccine. The authorization shall list all patents covered. In the determination of the relevant patents, an eligible member may be assisted by WIPO’s patent landscaping work, including on underlying technologies on COVID-19 vaccines, and by other relevant sources. An eligible Member may update the authorization to include other patents.]”

It was reported that China was pushing to be included in the small group discussions and took exception to the footnote 1 language which would exclude only it. Presumably the alternative bracketed language in footnote 1 is designed to address China’s concerns. However, it is less likely that the U.S. will accept a final package if China doesn’t opt out of the decision.

Consistent with the earlier draft, the Decision, if adopted would remain in effect for either three or five years (numbers are braketed alternatives).

Many NGOs have raised concerns about the lack of immediate coverage of therapeutics and diagnostics. Paragraph 8 continues to read, “No later than six months from the date of this Decision, Members will decide on its extension to cover the production and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.” Thus, a decision on coverage of therapeutics and diagnostics will occur, absent a change in language in the text, by the end of 2022, if the decision is adopted.

If the text is accepted by the WTO membership (or modified in ways acceptable to all), then there should be an agreed WTO response to the pandemic at the 12th Ministerial. For reasons noted in recent posts, the value of such a response will be more in the other aspects of the response (keeping markets open, limits on export restraints, transparency, etc.) than on the document dealing with access to vaccines via TRIPS actions. See, e.g., May 1, 2022:  Financial Times article from May 1, 2022 reaffirms current excess capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/05/01/financial-times-article-from-may-1-2022-reaffirms-current-excess-capacity-for-covid-19-vaccines/; April 30, 2022:  World Trade Organization 12th Ministerial Conference — the possible response to the COVID-19 pandemic amid the declining demand for vaccines, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/30/world-trade-organization-12th-ministerial-conference-the-possible-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-amid-the-declining-demand-for-vaccines/. Nonetheless, an agreed response, including the vaccine TRIPS provisions, would be an important accomplishment in the current times.

Aiding Ukraine economically — EU’s efforts to suspend all tariffs and antidumping duties for a year on imports from Ukraine; will others make similar efforts?

The unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars of destruction across the country of Ukraine in terms of destroyed infrastructure, factories, buildings and more. With the Black Sea not accessible for Ukrainian exports and with the war seriously disrupting both agriculture and manufacturing, Ukraine has been dependent on assistance from countries and multilateral organizations for funds to keep the country functioning. The United States, European Union, IMF, World Bank and others have been providing billions in economic assistance and will likely need to continue to do so for many months to come.

On April 27, 2022, the European Commission proposed a one year suspension of customs duties and antidumping and safeguard duties on imports from Ukraine to bolster Ukraine’s economy. The European Commission’s press release is embedded below.

EU_takes_steps_to_suspend_all_duties_on_imports_from_Ukraine

The draft regulation forwarded to the European Parliamant and European Council is embedded below.

COM2022195_0

A summary of what is proposed is shown on page 1 of the draft regulation and is copied below.

“Therefore, the Commission is proposing a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council introducing trade-liberalising measures in the form of the three following measures, which should apply for a period of one year:

“– Temporary suspension of all outstanding tariffs under Title IV of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Association Agreement’)1 establishing a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA). This concerns three categories of products:

“ industrial products subject to duty phase out by the end of 2022;

“ fruits and vegetables subject to the entry-price system;

“ agricultural products and processed agricultural products subject to tariff-rate quotas.

“– Temporary non-collection of anti-dumping duties on imports originating in Ukraine as of the date of entry into force of this Regulation; and

“– Temporary suspension of the application of the common rules for imports (safeguard)2 with respect of imports originating in Ukraine.

“These temporary and exceptional measures will contribute to supporting and fostering the existing trade flows from Ukraine to the Union. This is in line with one of the main objectives of the Association Agreement, which is to establish conditions for enhanced economic and trade relations leading towards Ukraine’s gradual integration in the EU Internal Market.”

This type of trade assistance is obviously important to help keep Ukrainian businesses operating where possible and is appreciated by Ukraine during the challenging times they are living through. See, e.g., Reuters, EU to suspend tariffs on Ukraine imports for one year, Kyiv grateful, April 27, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/eu-suspend-tariffs-ukraine-imports-one-year-2022-04-27/ (“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had discussed the proposal with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday and expressed his gratitude. ‘Right now this will allow us to maintain economic activity in Ukraine, our national production, as much as possible. But this decision needs to be considered not only in the Ukrainian context,’ he said in a late-night video address. ‘Sufficient export of our products to European and global markets will be a significant tool against crises.'”).

For the European Union, the temporary suspension of remaining tariffs and existing antidumping and safeaguard duties on Ukrainian goods would be done under the cover of a 2016 Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine (Associate Agreement). It is unclear what level of increased exports Ukraine is capable of sending to the EU in light of the massive destruction of assets within Ukraine. But hopefully if the proposal is adopted, it will facilitate improved economic performance in Ukraine on some products.

While many other trading partners don’t have FTAs with Ukraine, expedited consideration of what temporary trade liberalization measures could be taken on Ukrainian imports could be important additional assistance to Ukraine in the months ahead.

For example, the United States has limited imports from Ukraine – just $1.856 billion in 2021. Much of the imports are in categories that are duty free (unless subject to trade remedies). For example, HS 72 iron and steel mill products accounted for $1.021 billion. HS 73 articles of iron and steel accounted for $137.8 million in 2021. HS 72 is largely duty free in the U.S. and most of HS 73 is duty free as well although there are eight antidumping duty orders in place as well as Section 232 tariffs of 25% on steel products. While it is unlikely that the U.S. would eliminate antidumping duties and would likely need to limit quantities of steel to avoid the 25% 232 tariffs on Ukrainian imports, a temporary suspension of ordinary customs duties and agreement to limit steel imports as a way of voiding the 25% 232 duties would be helpful to Ukraine and would cost the U.S. very little. Indeed, customs duties reported on the US International Trade Commission dataweb page for 2021 for all imports of goods from Ukraine were $52.4 million ($35.8 million on imports of HS 72 and 73 products). Perhaps a temporary modification of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences to add Ukraine would be an approach that could be pursued by the Biden Administration and the Congress.

Helping Ukraine keep its trade flowing is an important step many countries can take in 2022. Let’s hope that the European Commission’s proposal is adopted by the European Parliament and European Council quickly and used for inspiration by the U.S. and many others in the very near term.

Financial Times article from May 1, 2022 reaffirms current excess capacity for COVID-19 vaccines.

In yesterday’s post, I reviewed current information showing that the WTO’s efforts to develop a response to the COVID-19 pandemic was facing a situation where demand for vaccines was falling far behind production capacity resulting in reduced production and the closing of some facilities. April 30, 2022:  World Trade Organization 12th Ministerial Conference — the possible response to the COVID-19 pandemic amid the declining demand for vaccines, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/30/world-trade-organization-12th-ministerial-conference-the-possible-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic-amid-the-declining-demand-for-vaccines/.

Today’s Financial Times article updates challenges at a major vaccine factory in South Africa. Financial Times, Africa’s top Covid vaccine plant faces uncertain future after production halted, May 1, 2022, https://www.ft.com/content/ffaaff95-1c1d-41df-b02e-f7c31acdcadf. The articles states, in part, that

“Production at Africa’s largest Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing plant has been halted for the past
month because of a collapse in demand, putting its future in doubt and threatening to undermine
efforts to build a homegrown vaccine industry on the continent.

“Executives at Aspen Pharmacare, a South Africa-based pharmaceutical company that has produced
about 180mn doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, fear they will have to permanently shut
their two Covid jab production lines, unless a new order comes in shortly.”

The need globally to achieve WHO objectives of 70% vaccination rates by this summer which focus on low-income and lower middle-income countries which have low vaccination rates are not related in 2022 to capacity or availability of vaccines but rather the low uptake rate in many countries. Joint efforts of multilateral organizations like the WHO, IMF, World Bank and WTO are important as are national efforts to increase assistance on addressing health infrastructure. On vaccines, changes to intellectual property will not solve the vaccination situation in 2022.

World Trade Organization 12th Ministerial Conference — the possible response to the COVID-19 pandemic amid the declining demand for vaccines

One of the hoped for outcomes from the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva June 12-15, 2022 is a possible agreed outcome on the WTO’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic including some action on intellectual property issues. See, e.g., WTO News Release, DG Okonjo-Iweala concludes US mission, 28 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/dgno_28apr22b_e.htm (“Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala met on 28 April with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai to discuss prospects for the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference, the WTO’s response to the pandemic including intellectual property, reform of the organization, the looming food shortage crisis and disruptions to global supply chains.”).

I have previously reviewed the possible elements of the response to the pandemic and a not finalized draft intellectual property document among the European Union, United States, India and South Africa. See, e.g., March 17, 2022:  Possible Compromise on Access to Vaccines — draft understanding between EU, US, South Africa and India, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/17/possible-compromise-on-access-to-vaccines-draft-understanding-between-eu-us-south-africa-and-india/; November 22, 2021:  Trade and Health at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/11/22/trade-and-health-at-the-wtos-12th-ministerial-conference/.

Equitable access to vaccines has been a matter of concern to many countries and the focus of the effort by India and South Africa to obtain a waiver from TRIPS obligations for vaccines, therapeutics and more for a period of years to address the pandemic.

There has been dramatic increases in production capacity for existing vaccines with significant efforts to expand production in developing countries including low income countries. See, e.g., February 21, 2022:  The EU – AU Summit and the promise of a resolution to the WTO pandemic response package, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/21/the-eu-au-summit-and-the-promise-of-a-resolution-to-the-wto-pandemic-response-package/; February 16, 2022:  Building Vaccine Capacity in Africa – Exciting News from BioNTech, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/16/building-vaccine-capacity-in-africa-exciting-news-from-biontech/.

The WHO has set the objective of getting 70% of the world’s population vaccinated by this summer, a goal that should be achievable based on production capacity. Unfortunately, it is clear that for low income countries generally and for Africa as a continent, the 70% target will not be met. It is also not likely that lower middle income countries will reach the target either. The WTO-IMF vaccine information available from the WTO webpage is currently updated through the end of March 2022. See WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker, Last updated: 28 April 2022, Table 6, https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/covid19_e/vaccine_trade_tracker_e.htm. Specifically when examined on an income level basis (World Bank definition), low income countries have only 12.0% of their population fully vaccinated (15.2% with at least one dose); lower middle income countries have 48.4% of their population fully vaccinated (57.3% with at least one dose). These rates compare to 72.6% of Upper middle income countries’ populations being fully vaccinated and 73.2% of high income countries’ populations. On a continent-wide basis, Africa has only 15.3% of its population fully vaccinated; Oceania is at 62.3%; North America is at 62.7%; Europe is 65.1%;, Asia is 67.8%; and South America is 73.0%.

Shockingly, data on a monthly basis show total supply declining in each of the first three months of 2022 compared to December 2021 and, in fact, below every month since June 2021. March 2022 appears to be roughly 1/3 of supply from December 2021. WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker, at Table 4. This decline in volume is despite new vaccine producers of vaccines being approved and UNICEF’s tracking of capacity showing 2022 ranging from 16.8-20.9 billion doses versus the 2021 rate of 11.5 billion. UNICEF, COVID-19 Vaccine Market Dashboard, accessed 4-30-2022, https://www.unicef.org/supply/covid-19-vaccine-market-dashboard.

Since last fall, there have been news stories about countries with low vaccination rates not being able to accept all deliveries scheduled. See, e.g., Reuters exclusively reports South Africa delays COVID vaccine deliveries as inoculations slow, November 24, 2021, ttps://www.reutersagency.com/en/reutersbest/article/reuters-exclusively-reports-south-africa-delays-covid-vaccine-deliveries-as-inoculations-slow/ (“Reuters exclusively reported that South Africa has asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay delivery of COVID-19 vaccines because it now has too much stock, as vaccine hesitancy slows an inoculation campaign. About 35% of South Africans are fully vaccinated, higher than in most other African nations, but half the government’s year-end target. It has averaged 106,000 doses a day in the past 15 days in a nation of 60 million people.”).

The causes can vary from vaccine hesitancy (which can be higher in countries with low death rates such as much of Africa), to challenges with distribution (particularly to rural parts of countries), to weak health care infrastructure and more.

Moderna, one of the major mRNA vaccine producers, had its annual shareholders meeting on April 28, 2022. One of the shareholder initiatives voted on was whether the company should generate a Report on Feasibility of Transferring Intellectual Property. The proposal was rejected by over 3/4th of the votes. But in a document released by the company, there is a description of the large volume of production that has not been accepted or delayed and the resulting reduction of production that Moderna is going through because of a lack of demand. See Moderna, Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines, April 28, 2022, https://s29.q4cdn.com/435878511/files/doc_news/2022/04/Access-Statement_4.28_817am.pdf. A section of the document pertaining to COVAX and the Africa Union is copied below.

Committing Vaccines to COVAX and the African Union

“Beginning in the summer of 2020, the Moderna team was engaged with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on behalf of the COVAX Facility, hoping to secure a commitment from them to procure a significant number of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. An agreement was not reached until April 2021, though we were pleased to commit up to 500 million doses to COVAX – a number that was subsequently increased to 650 million doses. Similarly, we were proud to reach an agreement with the African Union to supply 110 million doses, which we were prepared to start delivering as early as the fourth quarter of 2021. In each case, we offered these vaccines at our lowest price, and in the latest agreements the price for each of these organizations was $7 per 100 μg dose.

“Despite our efforts, ultimately COVAX and the African Union deferred or declined hundreds of millions of doses of Moderna’s vaccine. While we were prepared to deliver tens of millions of doses to the African Union in December 2021, they asked us to delay delivery, noting that they did not have the means of distributing them. They also declined to exercise an option for 60 million doses that were available to them in the second quarter of this year.

“Similarly, COVAX has declined options for over 320 million doses that Moderna was prepared to deliver in 2022, noting that they have ample access to vaccines. And even for those doses where COVAX submitted a firm order covering the first and second quarters, they have asked to defer delivery. As a result, Moderna is incurring significant costs as it winds down relationships with outside manufacturers who were engaged to produce these declined doses.

“Asking Moderna to transfer intellectual property to local manufacturers—as the Oxfam America proposal suggested—when hundreds of millions of doses are being declined and already operating manufacturing plants are being idled will do nothing to accelerate the end of the pandemic. It would also require diverting Moderna personnel already engaged in manufacturing with other partners, or who are working on other initiatives, including the company’s Global Health strategy as described below.

The document in its entirety is embedded below.

Access-Statement_4.28_817am-1

The WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker in its table 4 on total supply shows that supply by all or nearly all major COVID vaccine producers has declined on a monthly basis since December 2022 including for Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Moderna, J&J, Sputnik and other. Thus, the reduction in production is not limited to mRNA products or to just Moderna. The table from the current WTO-IMF Vaccine Trade Tracker is copied below.

So the challenges of vaccinating the world against the COVID-19 pandemic continue but are not driven in 2022 by availability of the vaccine or even access to the vaccine. Neither waiver of TRIPS obligations nor easier compulsory licensing of the COVID-19 vaccines will solve the underlying ongoing issue of vaccinations.

The draft intellectual property document being worked on by the EU, U.S., India and South Africa that when signed off on by those four will need to be considered by the WTO Membership as a whole, is limited to vaccines, with therapeutics and other elements of goods needed to address the pandemic potentially addressable in six months after an agreement. If the draft agreement among the four (actual language has not been finalized and reportedly has not been signed off on by the U.S., India and South Africa) is the intellectual property part of the WTO’s response to the pandemic, its relevance, if any, will be how Members might look at future pandemics and actions by WTO Members. Its utility for the COVID-19 pandemic is at the most very limited with more capacity than demand in 2022 and with the major drivers of nonvaccination this year not being availability of vaccines. This means that while there will be potentially symbolic relevance to the IP portion of the package, the meat of the response will be in the areas of keeping markets open, limiting export restraints, improved transparency, etc.

WTO Reform and the 12th Ministerial Conference — What Is likely on Dispute Settlement?

With the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference now set for June 12-15, 2022 in Geneva, the WTO Members have a limited amount of remaining time to achieve progress on pending matters and to decide how to move forward with WTO reform (and what such reform might cover). For many Members, the issue of dispute settlement — whether restoration of the Appellate Body through starting selecting new AB members or reform of the system — is an important component of any WTO reform agenda.

Earlier this week on April 27, the Dispute Settlement Body held its monthly meeting. As has been true for several years, the agenda included the question of Appellate Body vacancies/appointments. WTO, Dispute Settlement Body, 27 April 2022, Proposed Agenda, WT/DSB/W/697 (Agenda item 3). While the WTO’s news release on the meeting is titled “Members commit to engagement on dispute settlement reform”, the summary of the discussion that followed sounds virtually identical to the summaries of dozens of prior Dispute Settlement Body meetings on the same topic. Compare WTO News Release, Members commit to engagement on dispute settlement reform, 27 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/dsb_27apr22_e.htm (Appellate Body appointments section) with WTO News Release, WTO panels to review Russian procurement measures, Dominican duties, 20 December 2021, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/dsb_20dec21_e.htm (Appellate Body appointments section) and WTO News Release, Members pledge flexible arrangements in WTO dispute proceedings during COVID pandemic, 18 December 2020, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news20_e/dsb_18dec20_e.htm (Appellate Body appointments). Moreover the full statement of the U.S. on the topic is quite similar to earlier statements. See USTR, Statements by the United States at the Meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, Geneva, April 27, 2022, https://uploads.mwp.mprod.getusinfo.com/uploads/sites/25/2022/04/Apr27.DSB_.Stmt_.as_.deliv_.fin_.pdf (agenda item 3, Statement by Ambassador Maria Pagán.

While Members will likely agree to include dispute settlement reform in any WTO reform agenda agreed to at the 12th Ministerial, the difference in positions reflected in the WTO news release among Members suggest a continued yawning gap between the needs of the United States and the positions of many other WTO Members.

Below is the summary of the discussion contained in the April 27, 2022 WTO News Release.

“Appellate Body appointments

“Mexico, speaking on behalf of 123 members, introduced for the 53rd time the group’s proposal to start the selection processes for filling vacancies on the Appellate Body. The extensive number of members submitting the proposal reflects a common concern over the current situation in the Appellate Body which is seriously affecting the overall WTO dispute settlement system against the best interest of members, Mexico said for the group.

“The United States said that its longstanding concerns with WTO dispute settlement remain unaddressed, and that it does not support the proposed decision to commence the appointment of Appellate Body members.  Many members share US concerns with the functioning of the system and its negative impact on the WTO’s negotiating and monitoring functions, it said.

“The US added that it wants to be clear it supports WTO dispute settlement reform and that it is prepared for continued and deepened engagement with members on the basis that such discussions should aim to ensure that WTO dispute settlement reflects the real interests of members and not prejudge what a reformed system would look like.

“More than 20 delegations (including the European Union for its 27 members, Nigeria for the African Group and St Vincent and the Grenadines for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) took the floor to reiterate the importance of the WTO’s two-tiered dispute settlement system to the stability and predictability of the multilateral trading system.  They called on all members to engage in constructive discussions in order to restore a fully functioning dispute settlement system, which some cited as a top priority for reform of the organization.

“For the 123 members, Mexico again came back to say the fact a member may have concerns about certain aspects of the functioning of the Appellate Body cannot serve as pretext to impair and disrupt the work of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) and dispute settlement in general, and that there was no legal justification for the current blocking of the selection processes, which is causing concrete nullification and impairment of rights for many members.

“The DSB chair, Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, said she hoped members would be able to find a solution to this matter.”

The statement of the new Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva, Amb. Maria Pagán, is copied below.

“Statement by Ambassador Maria Pagán

“• Thank you, Chair. This is my first DSB meeting since arriving in Geneva, and I am pleased to be here. The United States values the work of Members in the DSB, and I look forward to supporting you as Chair in this important body.

“• Members are aware of the longstanding U.S. concerns with WTO dispute settlement. Those concerns remain unaddressed, and the United States does not support the proposed decision.

“• But let me be clear: The United States supports WTO dispute settlement reform. Like Ambassador Tai, I have personally participated in various dispute settlement proceedings, and I can appreciate the benefits of a system that effectively meets the needs of Members.

“• WTO dispute settlement currently fails in this regard – for many years it has not met the needs of Members, including the United States, for example, due to its complexity, delays, lack of transparency, and interpretive overreach. We know well that many Members share U.S. concerns with the functioning of the system and its negative impact on the WTO’s negotiating and monitoring functions.

“• This fact underscores the importance of understanding better the interests of all Members, and not just ‘what does the United States want’. A true reform discussion should aim to ensure that WTO dispute settlement reflects the real interests of Members, and not prejudge what a reformed system would look like.

“• My delegation has been, and will continue to be, hard at work meeting with Members to better understand the interests of all Members. This important first step provides us with the greatest chance of achieving durable, lasting reform. That is the goal of the United States and we are prepared for continued and deepened engagement with Members on that basis.”

The Biden Administration, like the Trump Administration, believes that the operation of the dispute settlement system is in need of significant reform. The Trump Administration characterized the challenge as getting Members to explore why the Appellate Body felt at liberty to disregard the clear limitations on its authority in the Dispute Settlement Understanding and why Members had not moved earlier to ensure the limited role for the Appellate Body was respected. The Trump Administration also expressed concern that the dispute settlement system was not permitting Members to address the massive distortions caused to the global trading system from state-directed economies such as China. The Trump Administration was also not committed to a two-tier review system in light of the problems with the Appellate Body.

The Biden Administration has expressed similar concerns although Amb. Pagán’s comments appear to change the focus from why did the Appellate Body view itself as permitted to deviate from its limited role to a review of what Members “real interests” are. It is unclear if the different language reflects a change in focus or just a rearticulation of the need to find reforms that will deliver a dispute settlement system that is limited to and achieves the objectives Members have articulated.

With the major efforts of the U.S. and EU to work together on a host of trade and non-trade issues under the Biden Administration’s time and knowing the importance the EU has always placed on reobtaining binding dispute settlement, it is clear that the U.S. will agree to have dispute settlement reform as part of the WTO reform agenda as in indicated by Amb. Pagán’s statement. That doesn’t mean there is an obvious path to reform or that a two year time period (to the 13th Ministerial Conference) in the current circumstances will permit reform in all areas needing to be addressed. Nor is there any indication that Members are willing to consider corrections to the errant Appellate Body decisions to restore rights Members had when the WTO was launched.

But at a time where the ability of the WTO Members to deliver meaningful outcomes is even more limited than usual because of the Russian war in Ukraine, agreeing on an agenda for WTO reform topics may hold out the best hope for achieving a promise of a better future for Members at the upcoming 12th Ministerial.

The WTO’s upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva the week of June 13, 2022 — What can be expected in the current geopolitical environment?

The COVID-19 pandemic has twice delayed the 12th Ministerial Conference from its original date in June 2020. Assuming the Ministerial Conference in fact takes place the week of June 13, 2022 (and isn’t delayed by a new surge in COVID-19 infrections or by other complications), there will have been a four and a half year delay from the 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires in late 2017. Ministerial conferences are intended to be held every two years. Considering the challenges facing the World Trade Organization, many will be looking to see if this year’s Ministerial can help restore the WTO’s relevancy. The effort to get positive results at the 12th Ministerial Conference has been complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The list of challenging issues is long. Fisheries Subsidies is the only new multilateral agreement under discussion. While it is nearing the finish line, negotiations have been ongoing for more than twenty years, and it is unclear the level of ambition that will be agreed to if negotiations are concluded.

There are a range of agriculture issues that have been under discussion for years. The topics under discussion include public stockholding for food security purposes, domestic support (subsidies other than export subsidies), cotton, market access, special safeguard mechanism, export prohibitions or restrictions, export competition and transparency, See WTO Briefing Note, Agriculture Negotiations, State of Play 13 December 2021, https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/minist_e/mc12_e/briefing_notes_e/bfagric_e.htm. In the most recent WTO press notice on the agriculture negotiations is from March 23, 2022 and notes the challenges from the Russian invasion. See WTO, Agriculture negotiators chart path towards MC12, 23 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/agng_21mar22_e.htm (“WTO agriculture negotiators met on 21 March to discuss the way forward ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which is now scheduled to take place the week of 13 June. The chair of the agriculture negotiating group, Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta (Costa Rica), noted the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on global food markets and the agriculture negotiation environment. She asked members to prepare for intensive negotiations and use the remaining time wisely so as to achieve pragmatic, meaningful outcomes at MC12.”).

The WTO Members have also been seeking to reach agreement on a response package to the COVID-19 pandemic, including on whether some form of waiver or other action is needed on intellectual property rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. See, e.g., March 17, 2022:  Possible Compromise on Access to Vaccines — draft understanding between EU, US, South Africa and India, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/17/possible-compromise-on-access-to-vaccines-draft-understanding-between-eu-us-south-africa-and-india/; February 21, 2022:  The EU – AU Summit and the promise of a resolution to the WTO pandemic response package, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/21/the-eu-au-summit-and-the-promise-of-a-resolution-to-the-wto-pandemic-response-package/; February 16, 2022:  Building Vaccine Capacity in Africa – Exciting News from BioNTech, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/16/building-vaccine-capacity-in-africa-exciting-news-from-biontech/.

There are a host of Joint Statement Initiatives that are at various stages of progress on a plurilateral basis, with India and South Africa raising objections to plurilateral agreements being part of the WTO without consensus agreement. See, e.g., April 14, 2022:  Challenging China’s Trade Practices — What Role for the WTO?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/04/14/challenging-chinas-trade-practices-what-role-for-the-wto/ (“Ongoing JSI include those on electronic commerce, investment facilitation for development, plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade, services domestic regulation, informal working group on MSMEs, and trade and environmental sustainability.  The WTO issues periodic press releases on developments in the talks.  See, e.g., JOINT INITIATIVE ON E-COMMERCE, E-commerce negotiators seek to find common ground, revisit text proposals, 21 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/jsec_23feb22_e.htm (hoping to have convergence on majority of issues by end of 2022)(86 WTO Members participating accounting for 90% of e-commerce trade including China, U.S. and most other major countries);  INVESTMENT FACILITATION FOR DEVELOPMENT, Investment facilitation negotiators take steps to assess needs of developing countries, 15 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/infac_23feb22_e.htm (looking to complete by end of 2022)(over 100 WTO Members participate including China and most developed countries, but not the U.S.); INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE, Plastics dialogue emphasizes need for international collaboration, cooperation, 30 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/ppesp_31mar22_e.htm  (70 Members participate including China and most major developed countries but not the U.S.); Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, Negotiations on services domestic regulation conclude successfully in Geneva, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/jssdr_02dec21_e.htm (67 Members participated including China, the U.S. and other major developed countries); . MICRO, SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES (MSMES), Working group on small business welcomes three more members, 8 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/msmes_08feb22_e.htm (94 participants including China and most major developed countries but not the U.S.).”).

There are many issues that have been raised as potential subjects for WTO reform including dispute settlement, industrial subsidies, state-owned and state-invested enterprises, excess capacity, transparency and many others.

With the U.S., EU, U.K., Japan, Canada and others seeking to reduce the role the Russian Federation can play in multilateral and plurilateral organizations while its war against Ukraine continues, it is unclear what progress will be made on the trade agenda at the WTO ahead of the 12th Ministerial. For example, G7 countries, the EU and others have suspended most favored nation status on goods and services from the Russian Federation. March 20, 2022:  Banned imports, higher tariffs, other actions by trading partners as Russia and Belarus lose most favored nation treatment by G-7 countries and EU during the conflict in Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/20/banned-imports-higher-tariffs-other-actions-by-trading-partners-as-russia-and-belarus-lose-most-faovered-nation-treatment-by-g-7-countries-and-eu-during-the-conflict-in-ukraine/.

They have also announced that they are removing the Russian Federation from the WTO Developed Countries Coordinating Group. See March 5, 2022:  Joint letter from European Union and United States on removing the Russian Federation from the WTO Developed Countries Coordinating Group, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/05/joint-letter-from-european-union-and-united-states-on-removing-the-russian-federation-from-the-wto-developed-countries-coordinating-group/.

Russia’s President Putin has indicated that he wants a revised WTO strategy by June 1 to deal with sanctions imposed by western countries. See Reuters, Russia to update its strategy in World Trade Organization amid sanctions, says Putin, April 20, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/russia-update-its-strategy-world-trade-organization-amid-sanctions-says-putin-2022-04-20/ (“Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that ‘illegal’ restrictions on Russian companies by Western states ran counter to World Trade Organization rules and told his government to update Russia’s strategy in the WTO by June 1. Speaking at a government meeting on the country’s metals industry, Putin said that Western countries had banned Russia from buying components needed to produce rolled metal, steel sheets and other products.”). It is unclear if that “revised strategy” will include blocking consensus in the WTO on topics being negotiated/discussed for the 12th Ministerial Meeting. Western countries have also opted to walk out of meetings when Russian delegates are participating/speaking. See, e.g., NPR, Janet Yellen and other finance ministers walk out of G20 meeting as Russia speaks, April 20, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/04/20/1093841174/janet-yellen-crystia-freeland-canada-rishi-sunak-uk-g20-walk-out-russia (“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other global financial leaders walked out of a G20 session as Russian officials were speaking on Wednesday in an effort to underscore Moscow’s isolation following the invasion of Ukraine.”).

Thus, the atmosphere for moving trade talks forward is clouded at best at the present time.

As prior Director-Generals have done for prior Ministerial Confernces, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been traveling the world seeking support from major countries to a successful Ministerial Conference. See, e.g., WTO news release, DG calls on Brazil’s support in preventing food crisis, seeks leadership towards MC12, 19 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/dgno_19apr22_e.htm (” Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala concluded a two-day trip to Brazil on 18-19 April, her first to Latin America as head of the WTO, meeting government officials, parliamentarians and businesspeople. She thanked Brazil for its constructive role in the WTO, highlighted the country’s potential role in alleviating risks of a food security crisis linked to the conflict in Ukraine and acknowledged the government’s concerns about the difficulties in securing fertilizers. She also sought Brazil’s continued and strong support for multilateralism and a fruitful 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12).”). The Director-General will be in Washington the week of April 25, 2022. See, e.g., Inside U.S. Trade’s World Trade Online, WTO director-general to visit Washington next week in lead-up to MC12, April 20, 2022, https://insidetrade.com/daily-news/wto-director-general-visit-washington-next-week-lead-mc12. The Inside U.S. Trade article reviews the tensions caused by the Russian invasion and the resulting uncertainty about what, if any, outcomes are possible for the 12th Ministerial Conference.

“Her conversations in Washington are likely to focus significantly on the waiver and on the upcoming 12th ministerial conference, set for the week of June 13 in Geneva. If all went according to plan, the ministerial gathering was to be the venue for delivering a long-awaited agreement on fisheries subsidies, a step forward on agriculture and a pandemic response package, including a compromise IP waiver.

“But the twice-postponed gathering is poised to be derailed once again – if not actually rescheduled – by political and diplomatic tensions arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Whether WTO members will be able to produce deals at MC12 is in doubt as the WTO has had to adapt to conducting its negotiations around the tensions. Okonjo-Iweala said last week that plenary meetings of the full membership have become more difficult to hold, with members opting instead for small-group or bilateral meetings.”

There have also been efforts to develop a factual background to support some elements of a possible WTO reform agenda. The U.S., EU and Japan have been working over the last few years on potential modifications to the current Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement to address some of the major distortions in industrial goods trade caused by China’s state-directed economy — industrial subsidies, state-owned and state-invested enterprises, global excess capacity. China has indicated a willingness to discuss subsidies if all subsidies (including agricultural subsidies) are included. On April 22, 2022, a report prepared by the staff of the IMF, OECD, World Bank and WTO was released. See IMF, OECD, World Bank and WTO, Subsidies, Trade, and International Cooperation, April 22, 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/igo_22apr22_e.pdf; WTO news release, Greater international cooperation needed on subsidies data, analysis and reform — report, 22 April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/igo_22apr22_e.htm. The Executive Summary of the report (pages 3-4) is copied below.

“Dealing constructively with subsidies in global commerce is central to G20 leaders’ goal of reforming and
strengthening the multilateral trading system. The growing use of distortive subsidies alters trade and
investment flows, detracts from the value of tariff bindings and other market access commitments, and
undercuts public support for open trade. Sharp differences over subsidies are contributing to global trade
tensions that are harming growth and living standards.

“There are good reasons why this issue, which has challenged policymakers for decades, should be addressed now. Among them: distinguishing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ subsidies is analytically and politically fraught, while the unilateral responses available to trading partners (such as ‘trade defense’ measures) are a limited deterrent. The renewed drive toward industrial policies to promote ‘strategic’ sectors may distort international competition, especially against smaller, fiscally constrained developing countries. With the frequency and complexity of distortive subsidies increasing, even as the need grows for active policies to address climate, health, food, and other emergencies, subsidies and the subsidies debate have brought significant discord to the trading system. The issue demands global attention and cooperation.

“Subsidies are common in all sectors, used by countries at all stages of development, take many forms, and affect all countries. Despite important gaps in our information about subsidies, the broad landscape is clear. Most merchandise trade occurs in products and markets in which at least one subsidized firm operates. National and sub-national entities provide subsidies through—to name a few forms—direct grants, tax incentives, and favorable terms for financing, energy, land, or other inputs. Many subsidies are explicitly aimed at the important task of correcting market failures and may do this well. Many others, however, are designed in ways that do little to advance their stated objective, or do so at high domestic cost or with harmful effects on the global commons and on other countries, notably the poorest and most vulnerable countries. International cooperation can reduce the overall use of subsidies and improve their design.

“Existing international rules provide a strong basis for regulating subsidies. International subsidy disciplines were progressively strengthened, notably in 1995 with the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and
Countervailing Measures and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, although the agenda to negotiate
detailed subsidy rules for services has been largely set aside. Many major countries also adhere to the
disciplines of the OECD Export Credit Arrangement. Some recent free trade agreements have also gone
beyond WTO rules, containing, for instance, provisions disciplining the behavior of state-owned enterprises and more extensive lists of prohibited subsidies.

“Still, both longstanding and recently-exposed gaps remain in these international rules. Extensive trade distorting domestic farm subsidies are still allowed in many cases, and WTO members have yet to agree
special disciplines for harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing. The recognition of gaps is
shaped by such developments as the emergence of global value chains; digital markets and related network concentration effects; the global importance of economies in which the state plays a central role,
and of international SOEs; the urgent challenge of climate change; and the recognition that well-crafted
subsidies can be an important part of the public response to economic and health emergencies. These
developments make the issue of subsidies in the trading system both more complex and more urgent.
Investment incentives are widespread, often at sub-national levels where they can be hard to monitor.
Much of this debate occurs in the context of the industrial sector. This paper does not advocate particular
outcomes. However, international cooperation that delivers improved subsidy disciplines, improves
business certainty, and reduces trade frictions would be superior to unilateral actions and should be
expected to reduce their use.

“In many of these areas, better information, more extensive objective analysis, and regular dialogue can
help governments accelerate reform of their own subsidies and expedite negotiations toward improved
international disciplines. Careful, high-quality economic analysis is needed to understand not only how well current subsidy programs meet domestic policy objectives, and at what cost, but also how they spill over onto international markets and how they interact with international policy goals, like climate mitigation. That effort must improve the information available on existing subsidy programs and their effects, especially on trading partners. It should feed into a structured inter-governmental dialogue, informed by analysis, and lead to a more common perspective on the appropriate roles of subsidies that, in turn, facilitates the development of updated norms and standards. Improved transparency and analysis, more robust intergovernmental consultation, and strengthened international rules can be expected to reduce the use of harmful subsidies and to improve their design—leading to better outcomes with fewer negative effects at home or abroad.

“The international organizations (IOs) authoring this report can strengthen their individual and joint work to support governments in this endeavor. While the brunt of this work lies with finance ministries, trade
ministries, and sectoral and specialized agencies of national governments, international organizations have key roles to play. The four authoring institutions are examining ways to help, individually and jointly, such as by collecting, organizing, and sharing data, coordinating analytical work agendas to develop methodologies to assess the cross-border effects of different forms of subsidies, and supporting inter-governmental dialogues. This will involve reaching out to and working with other international institutions as well.”

The report also contains a list of some recent international reports relating to subsidies (Box 1 on page 6, copied below).

Box 1. Selected Recent International Reports Relating to Subsidies

“Noting that COVID-19 caused severe stress for tourism industries in the region and around the world, the Asian Development Bank’s Asian Economic Integration Report (ADB, 2021) examined measures to support tourism in selected ADB developing members. It draws positive lessons to help governments maintain critical levels of tourism infrastructure and to facilitate a rapid rebound in a sector that is key to many economies.

“Global Trade Alert set out to inventory subsidies of the “major players”—China, the EU, and the United States (Evenett and Fritz, 2021). It finds that in 2019, more than three-fifths of global goods trade was in products and on trade routes in which one or more subsidized Chinese, EU, or U.S. firms compete. When a major player introduces a new subsidy, the others usually respond within six months with their own subsidy.

“The 2021 FAO, UNDP, and UNEP report, A Multi-Billion-Dollar Opportunity: Repurposing Agricultural Support to Transform Food Systems, finds that some forms of support to agricultural producers are distortive and socially and environmentally harmful. It sets out a six-step guide for repurposing the provision of public goods and services for agriculture.

“The World Resources Institute 2021 report, Repurposing Agriculture Subsidies to Restore Farmland and Grow Rural Prosperity, likewise argues that public agricultural subsidies failed to achieve their stated objectives but that smart agricultural subsidies can restore degraded land and rural economies.\

“IMF (2020) advises governments on raising efficiency and managing other challenges related to SOEs—frequent recipients or providers of subsidies. It calls for global principles for multinational SOEs, noting that SOEs account for 20 percent of assets of the world’s largest 2,000 firms. Some IMF Article IV country reports have called for specific reforms of farm subsidies or industrial subsidies.

“As part of its ongoing work on agricultural support, OECD (2021a) provides country-comparable data and information and analyzes whether current support is helping to meet the triple challenge facing food systems (food security and nutrition, environmental sustainability, and livelihoods). OECD (2019a) and OECD (2019b) examine support received by the largest firms in the aluminum and semiconductor value chains; these reports shed light in particular on support provided through the financial system; current work also explores the environmental harm that can arise from subsidies.

“The case for international cooperation on subsidy disciplines was previously reviewed in WTO (2006), which also examined existing WTO subsidy disciplines. A recent World Trade Report (WTO, 2020) showed that international cooperation can shape the pursuit of digital development more effectively, while minimizing cross-border spillovers from national policies. WTO Trade Policy Reviews have triggered extensive discussions of subsidy policies in individual WTO members.

“Noting the growing role of the state in the context of COVID-19 and climate change, WEF (2021) calls for
international cooperation to tackle these global challenges and to address cross-border spillovers from state intervention. It outlines the current state of play and proposes ways forward across subsidies, state ownership and control, government procurement, investment screening, and trade remedies.”

The report from the four organizations was supported by a paper published from former WTO Deputy Director-General Alan Wm. Wolff last week, part of a forthcoming book World Trade Governance: The Future of the Multilateral Trading System. See Peterson Institute for International Economics, Working Paper 22-6 WTO 2025, Alan Wm. Wolff, Enhancing Global Trade Intelligence, April 2022, https://www.piie.com/sites/default/files/documents/wp22-6.pdf.

At most the staff report and the paper from former DDG Wolff support the need for reexamining subsidy disciplines. Any such reexamination will take years to complete but could be part of an announced package of WTO reform topics to be addressed going forward if there is agreement on such a list. See also November 24, 2020:  Responding to a comment received on yesterday’s post, WTO subsidy disciplines – an update and coordination across areas is long overdue, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/11/24/responding-to-a-comment-received-on-yesterdays-post-wto-subsidy-disciplines-an-update-and-coordination-across-areas-is-long-overdue/; November 23, 2020:  WTO subsidy disciplines – an update and coordination across areas is long overdue, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/11/23/wto-subsidy-disciplines-an-update-and-coordination-across-areas-is-long-overdue/.

The week of June 13, 2022 and the 12th Ministerial Conference is just eight weeks away. It is unclear what, if any, package of documents will be ready for adoption/release during the 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva. In a member driven organization with a consensus system being the norm outcomes among 164 Members with dramatically different interests are hard to achieve. Thus, there has been limited progress in the past Ministerials. The Russian war in Ukraine adds a layer of uncertainty to what can be achieved at the Ministerial Conference in June this year.

Recent estimates of global effects from Russian invasion of Ukraine

As Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine moves through its eighth week, a variety of reports from multilateral organizations explain the severe global fallout from the war as well as the crippling effects on the Ukrainian economy.

On April 13, 2022, the World Bank, IMF, the UN World Food Program and WTO issued a joint statement which is copied below.

“WASHINGTON, 13 April 2022— The Heads of the World Bank Group (WBG), International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and World Trade Organization (WTO) today called for urgent action on food security. World Bank Group President David Malpass, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, WFP Executive Director David Beasley and WTO Director General Ngozi Okonjo-
Iweala issued the following joint statement ahead of the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank Group next week:

“‘The world is shaken by compounding crises. The fallout of the war in Ukraine is adding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that now enters its third year, while climate change and increased fragility and conflict pose persistent harm to people around the globe. Sharply higher prices for staples and supply shortages are increasing pressure on households worldwide and pushing millions more into poverty. The threat is highest for the poorest countries with a large share of consumption from food imports, but vulnerability is increasing rapidly in middle-income countries, which host the majority of the world’s poor. World Bank estimates warn that for each one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people are thrown into extreme poverty worldwide.’

“‘The rise in food prices is exacerbated by a dramatic increase in the cost of natural gas, a key ingredient of nitrogenous fertilizer. Surging fertilizer prices along with significant cuts in global supplies have important implications for food production in most countries, including major producers and exporters, who rely heavily on fertilizer imports. The increase in food prices and supply shocks can fuel social tensions in many of the affected countries, especially those that are already fragile or affected by conflict.’

“‘We call on the international community to urgently support vulnerable countries through coordinated actions ranging from provision of emergency food supplies, financial support, increased agricultural production, and open trade. We are committed to combining our expertise and financing to quickly step up our policy and financial support to help vulnerable countries and households as well as to increase domestic agricultural production in, and supply to, impacted countries. We can mitigate balance of payments pressures and work with all countries to keep trade flows open. In addition, we will further reinforce our monitoring of food vulnerabilities and are quickly expanding our multi-faceted policy advice to affected countries guided by the comparative advantages of our respective institutions.’

“‘We also urge the international community to help support urgent financing needs, including through grants. This should include financing of immediate food supplies, safety nets to address the needs of the poor, and for small farmers facing higher input prices. We also urge all countries to keep trade open and avoid restrictive measures such as export bans on food or fertilizer that further exacerbate the suffering of the most vulnerable people. It is especially important not to impose export restrictions on humanitarian food purchases by the UN’s World Food Program.’

“‘It is critical to quickly provide support for food insecure countries in a coordinated manner. We stand ready to work together with our multilateral and bilateral partners to help countries address this urgent crisis.’”

Joint Statement: The Heads of the World Bank Group, IMF, WFP, and WTO Call for Urgent Coordinated Action on Food Security, April 13, 2022, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/statement/2022/04/13/joint-statement-the-heads-of-the-world-bank-group-imf-wfp-and-wto-call-for-urgent-coordinated-action-on-food-security

The World Bank has estimated that the Ukrainian economy will decline by 45% or more because of the war. Reuters, War to slash Ukraine’s GDP output by over 45%, World Bank forecasts, April 10, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/war-slash-ukraines-gdp-output-by-over-45-world-bank-forecasts-2022-04-10/. Effects in other countries are a combination of the war’s effects on prices of a number of agricultural and non-agricultural goods where Russia, Ukraine and/or Belarus are important global suppliers, supply chain disruptions that have continued from the pandemic and other inflationary pressures. So for example, the OECD has estimated the first year effects of the war and other challenges will reduce global GDP and will add to global inflation though the effects will vary by geographic area. OECD Economic Outlook, Interim Report, Economic and Social Impacts and Policy Implications of the War in Ukraine, MARCH 2022, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/4181d61b-en.pdf. Figure 5 from page 7 of the OECD paper provides estimates of the impact on GDP and on inflation for the Euro area, OECD countries in total, United States, World and World excluding Russia.

Similarly, Figure 3 from page 5 of the report shows the price increases for products where Russia and Ukraine are important sources of global trade.

The World Bank looks at various regions of the world in their Spring reports which show varying effects from the war. See World Bank, Reality Check: Forecasting Growth in the Middle East and North Africa in Times of Uncertainty, April 2022, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/37246/9781464818653.pdf (per capita GDP, “11 out of 17 MENA economies may not recover to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022″); World Bank, Africa’s Pulse, An Analysis of Issues Shaping Africa’s Economic Future, Boosting Resilience: The Future of Social Protection in Africa, April 2022 (Vol. 25), https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/37281/9781464818714.pdf (Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to decelerate from 4% to 3.6% in 2022, and estimated at 3.9% or 4.2% in 2023 and 2024 respectively. The growth deceleration in 2022 reflects several short-term headwinds, the slowdown in the global economy, lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, elevated inflation, rising financial risks owing to high public debts reaching unsustainable levels, continued supply disruptions, and the war in Ukraine.”); World Bank, South Asia Economic Focus, Reshaping Norms: A New Way Forward, Spring 2022, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/37121/9781464818578.pdf (“South Asian economies are emerging from the deep COVID-19 recession, burdened by high inflation, rising current account deficits, and deteriorated fiscal balances, which are exacerbated by the impact of war in Ukraine. Even as the impact of the pandemic on growth is subsiding, partly because of increases in vaccination rates, the economic scars left behind after two years of the pandemic are deep. Inflation and deficits in trade balances reflect supply bottlenecks, pent-up demand, and rising commodity prices in international markets. Support measures and reduced revenues have deteriorated fiscal balances. All these problems have become more pressing because of the immediate impact of the war in Ukraine, which has pushed up prices of oil and other commodities in international markets.”); World Bank, Europe and Central Asia Economic Update, War in the Region, Spring 2022, https://www.worldbank.org/en/region/eca/publication/europe-and-central-asia-economic-update (“The war is having a devastating impact on human life and causing economic destruction in both countries, and will lead to significant economic losses in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region and the rest of the world. It is the second major shock in two years to trigger an economic contraction in the region,
with output in 2022 forecast to contract 4.1 percent—twice as steep as the recession in 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic.”); World Bank, Semiannual Report for Latin America and the Caribbean, Consolidating the Recovery: Seizing Green Growth, April 2022, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/37244/9781464818677.pdf (“The Russian invasion of Ukraine in late-February 2022 has both imposed a drag on the regional recovery and injected vast uncertainty. Prices of wheat and energy soared in the immediate aftermath. Meanwhile, a new set of supply-chain disruptions—both arising from the war and from a new COVID lockdown in China—present
stagflationary forces that will complicate the job of monetary authorities. The direct depressive effects on global output may be modest, but the increased uncertainty and the sharp (even if short-term) rise in commodity prices will have first-order effects.”); World Bank, East Asia and the Pacific Economic Update, Braving the Storms, April 2022, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/37097/9781464818585.pdf (“At the beginning of 2022, the EAP countries appeared to be on the path of sustained recovery. The region had emerged from the difficult Delta wave and suffered relatively little from omicron wave. External trade and financial conditions remained benign, and governments were contemplating fiscal consolidation. since then, the acceleration in Us inflation prompted faster-than expected financial tightening, China saw a spike in CoViD-19 infections and continued strains on overleveraged real estate firms, and Russia invaded Ukraine. While some larger countries may be better equipped to weather these shocks, the repercussions of these events will dampen the growth prospects of most in the EAP region. Projections for regional growth in 2022 have therefore been reduced from 5.4 percent in the previous Update to 5 percent. In a low case scenario, if global conditions worsen and national policy responses are weak, growth could slow to 4 percent.”).

The World Trade Organization recently released a paper looking at the implications of the war in Ukraine on global trade and development. WTO, The Crisis in Ukraine, Implications of the war for global trade and development, April 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/res_e/booksp_e/imparctukraine422_e.pdf. The Executive Summary from the WTO paper is copied below.

“The crisis in Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions and has also dealt a severe blow to the global economy. The brunt of the suffering and destruction are being felt by the
people of Ukraine themselves but the costs in terms of reduced trade and output are likely to be felt by people around the world through higher food and energy prices and reduced availability of goods exported by Russia and Ukraine. Poorer countries are at high risk from the war, since they tend to spend a larger fraction of their incomes on food compared to richer countries. This could impact political stability.

From a macroeconomic perspective, higher prices for food and energy will reduce real incomes and depress global import demand. Sanctions will impose economic costs on not only Russia directly but also on its trading partners. Besides Russia and Ukraine, depressed gross domestic product (GDP) will probably be seen mostly in Europe given the region’s geographic proximity and its dependence on Russian energy. Trade costs will rise in the near term due to sanctions, export restrictions, higher energy costs and transport disruptions. As a result, the impact the war will have on world trade in 2022 could be greater than the impact on global GDP.

While shares of Russia and Ukraine in world trade and output are relatively small, they are important
suppliers of essential products, notably food and energy
. Both countries accounted for 2.5 per cent in
world merchandise trade and 1.9 per cent in world GDP in 2021. Yet they supplied around 25 per cent of wheat, 15 per cent of barley and 45 per cent of sunflower products exports in 2019.1 Russia alone accounted for 9.4 per cent of world trade in fuels, including a 20 per cent share in natural gas exports. Many countries are highly dependent on food imports from Russia and Ukraine. For example, more than half of wheat imports in Egypt, the Lebanese Republic and Tunisia come from Russia and Ukraine. Other countries are more dependent on imports of fuels from Russia, such as Finland (63 per cent) and Turkey (35 per cent).

Russia and Ukraine are also key providers of inputs into industrial value chains. Russia is one of the main suppliers globally of palladium and rhodium, key inputs in the production of catalytic converters in the automotive sector and the manufacture of semiconductors. Semiconductor production also depends
to a substantial extent on neon supplied by Ukraine, which further provides a number of low-tech products to the European automobile value chain, such as wire harnesses. Prolonged disruptions in the supply of these goods could harm the recovery of automobile manufacturing.

Sanctions are already having a strong impact on Russia’s economy, with possible medium to long-term consequences. Disconnecting Russian banks from the SWIFT settlement system and blocking Russia’s use of foreign exchange reserves have triggered a sharp depreciation of the rouble, reducing real incomes in the country. Many international firms are also abandoning the Russian market. Oil and gas exports have yet to be strongly affected by the sanctions, but the crisis could accelerate the global transition towards greener energy sources.

Longstanding economic relationships have been disrupted by the war and by the sanctions imposed in its wake. WTO economists have simulated various scenarios to illustrate the channels through which trade could be affected and to explore possible short-run and long-run effects. Global trade growth is projected to slow by up to 2.2 percentage points in 2022. Longer term impacts could also be large and consequential. There is a risk that trade could become more fragmented in terms of blocs based on geopolitics. Even if no formal blocs emerge, private actors might choose to minimize risk by reorienting
supply chains. This could reduce global GDP in the long run by about 5 per cent, notably by restricting
competition and stifling innovation.

“The WTO has an important role to play in mitigating the negative effects of the crisis and in rebuilding
a post-war global economy. Keeping markets open will be critical to ensure that economic opportunities remain open to all countries. This will be especially true in the post-war period, when businesses and families will need to repair their balance sheets and rebuild their lives. Through its importance for international trade and its monitoring, convening and other functions, the WTO is central to ensuring that international trade continues to serve billions of people across the world.”

Rising energy prices and reduced volumes of some basic agricultural products are receiving a lot of attention because of the increasing hunger, malnutrition, number of people suffering extreme poverty that flow from the challenges being experienced at the moment. For example, the FAO paper on April 8, 2022 (CL 169/3) reviews in detail the challenges for food security from the disruption in exports from Russia and Ukraine of many food products, spiking prices for fertilizers from Russia as well as rising energy costs. See FAO Council, 169th Session, 8 April 2022, Impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on global food security and related matters under the mandate of the Food and Agriculture Organization of
the United Nations (FAO), https://www.fao.org/3/ni734en/ni734en.pdf. The Executive Summary to the report is copied below.

“The war that began on 24 February 2022 has caused extensive damage and loss of life in key population centres, spread across rural areas, and sparked massive displacement. More than 3.6 million people had been forced to abandon their homes and flee across borders to safety. Millions more are internally displaced. It is clear that the war has resulted in a massive, and deteriorating, food security challenge and disrupted livelihoods during the agricultural growing season in Ukraine and has also affected global food security.

“Already prior to the war in Ukraine, international food prices had reached an all-time high. This was mostly due to market conditions, but also high prices of energy, fertilizers and all other agricultural services. In February 2022, the FAO Food Price Index reached a new historical record, 21 percent above its level a year earlier, and 2.2 percent higher than its previous peak in February 2011.

“The Russian Federation and Ukraine are prominent players in global trade of food and agricultural products. In 2021, wheat exports by the Russian Federation and Ukraine accounted for about 30 percent of the global market. Russia’s global maize export market share is comparatively limited, standing at 3 percent between 2016/17 and 2020/21. Ukraine’s maize export share over the same period was more significant, averaging 15 percent and conferring it the spot of the world’s 4th largest maize exporter. Combined, sunflower oil exports from both countries represented 55 percent of global supply. The Russian Federation is also a key exporter of fertilizers. In 2020, it ranked as the top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second leading supplier of potassium, and the third largest exporter of phosphorous fertilizer.

“Nearly 50 countries depend on the Russian Federation and Ukraine for at least 30 percent of their wheat import needs. Of these, 26 countries source over 50 percent of their wheat imports from these two countries. In that context, this war will have multiple implications for global markets and food security, representing a challenge for food security for many countries, and especially for low-income food import dependent countries and vulnerable population groups.

“Joint, coordinated actions and policy responses are needed to address the current challenges for the
people most in need and to mitigate the impact on food insecurity at global level.”

The heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in statements on April 14 and 12 respectively provide sobering summaries of the challenges facing the world, including the war in Ukraine, and the implications for food security, global growth (or contraction), and a range of critical issues needing global cooperation such as climate change. See IMF, Speech of Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director, “Facing Crisis Upon Crisis: How the World Can Respond,” April 14, 2022, https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2022/04/14/sp041422-curtain-raiser-sm2022; World Bank, Addressing Challenges to Growth, Security and Stability – Scene-Setter Speech by World Bank Group President David Malpass, April 12, 2022, https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/speech/2022/04/12/addressing-challenges-to-growth-security-and-stability-scene-setter-speech-by-world-bank-group-president-david-malpass. Some excerpts are provided below.

IMF Managing Director Georgieva:

“To put it simply: we are facing a crisis on top of a crisis.

“First, the pandemic: it turned our lives and economies upside down—and it is not over. The continued spread of the virus could give rise to even more contagious or worse, more lethal variants, prompting further disruptions—and further divergence between rich and poor countries.

‘Second, the war: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, devastating for the Ukrainian economy, is sending shockwaves throughout the globe.

“Above all is the human tragedy—the suffering of ordinary men, women, and children in Ukraine, among them over 11 million displaced people. Our hearts go out to them.

“The economic consequences from the war spread fast and far, to neighbors and beyond, hitting hardest the world’s most vulnerable people. Hundreds of millions of families were already struggling with lower incomes and higher energy and food prices. The war has made this much worse, and threatens to
further increase inequality.

“And for the first time in many years, inflation has become a clear and present danger for many countries around the world.

“This is a massive setback for the global recovery.

“In economic terms, growth is down and inflation is up. In human terms, people’s incomes are
down and hardship is up.

“These double crises—pandemic and war—and our ability to deal with them, are further complicated by another growing risk: fragmentation of the world economy into geopolitical blocs—with different trade and technology standards, payment systems, and reserve currencies.

“Such a tectonic shift would incur painful adjustment costs. Supply chains, R&D, and production networks would be broken and need to be rebuilt.

“Poor countries and poor people will bear the brunt of these dislocations.

“This fragmentation of global governance is perhaps the most serious challenge to the rules-based framework that has governed international and economic relations for more than 75 years, and helped deliver significant improvements in living standards across the globe.

“It is already impairing our capacity to work together on the two crises we face. And it could leave us wholly unable to meet other global challenges—such as the existential threat of climate change.

“It is a consequential moment for the international community.

“The actions we take now, together, will determine our future in fundamental ways. It reminds me of Bretton Woods in 1944 when, in the dark shadow of war, leaders came together to envision a brighter world. It was a moment of unprecedented courage and cooperation.

“We need that spirit today, as we face bigger challenges and more difficult choices.”

World Bank President Malpas:

“We are again living through a dangerous period of overlapping crises and conflicts with Poland near the center. I have been deeply shocked and horrified at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the atrocities committed against the civilian population, and the loss of life and livelihoods for millions of Ukrainians. The attacks on people and infrastructure are causing tremendous suffering, threatening international peace and security, and endangering the basic social and economic needs of people around the world.”

* * *

Overlapping Global Crises

“The violence is unfortunately not confined to Ukraine. Just over the last year, we have witnessed serious setbacks for development and security, including Afghanistan’s collapse, Lebanon’s crisis, and coups and violence across the Sahel, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen. Millions of Syrians are living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Inter-ethnic and inter-religious strife plagues Myanmar and other parts of Asia. And in Latin America and the Caribbean, levels of crime and violence are alarmingly high, with some urban and rural areas controlled by criminal gangs or drug cartels.

“The trend toward insecurity is deeply concerning. This year, 39 of the 189 member countries of the World Bank Group – 39 of 189 – are experiencing open conflict situations or remain worryingly fragile. The number of people living in conflict areas nearly doubled between 2007 and 2020. Today, in the Middle East and North Africa, one in every five people lives in an area affected by conflict. This unraveling of security has brought a surge in the number of refugees, which more than doubled over the last decade to exceed 30 million refugees in 2020. The war in Ukraine has already displaced an additional 10 million people from their homes, pushing more than 4 million people – primarily women and children – into neighboring countries, most of them to Poland and Romania.

“We recognize that each of the ongoing crises hits the vulnerable the hardest, often women and girls. And all the while, we are still suffering the health, economic, and social setbacks of a global pandemic and economic shutdowns. Millions of lives have been lost and millions more are suffering amid the massive reversals in development that hit the poor particularly hard.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, violence against women and girls has intensified. Global indicators on food, nutrition, and health have worsened. And children lost more than a year of education due to school closures, with 1.6 billion children out of school globally at the peak of lockdowns, reversing a full decade of gains in human capital.

“Never have so many countries experienced a recession at once, suffering lost capital, jobs, and livelihoods. At the same time, inflation continues to accelerate, reducing the real incomes of households around the world, especially the poor. The extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies that advanced economies have been implementing to boost their demand, combined with supply constraints and disruptions, have fueled price increases and have worsened inequality around the globe. One measure that captures the growing concern of inflation and inequality is the stagnation in real median income across much of the world. Another measure is the likelihood that poverty increases will continue in 2022 as inflation, currency depreciation, and high food prices hit home.

“The war in Ukraine and its consequences are also creating sudden shortages of energy, fertilizer, and food, pitting people against each other and their governments. Even people who are physically distant from this conflict are feeling its impacts.

“Food price spikes hit everyone and are devastating for the poorest and most vulnerable. For every one percentage point increase in food prices, 10 million people are expected to fall into extreme poverty. The rich can afford suddenly expensive staples, but the poor cannot. Malnutrition is expected to grow, and its effects will be the hardest to reverse in children.

“Trade disruptions have already sent grain and commodity prices soaring. Wheat exports from Black Sea ports have been sharply curtailed. And intense drought in South America is reducing global food production. Global food commodity markets are large and well-established, and – after a lag – they tend to self-adjust to disruptions in production. However, additional factors are making the current food supply problems more acute – namely the supply of fertilizers, energy prices, and self-imposed food export restrictions.

“Fertilizer prices are dependent on natural gas prices, which have surged. As LNG is shipped to Europe, LNG shortages are occurring elsewhere, reducing fertilizer production, and disrupting the sowing season and harvest productivity. Russia and Belarus are both large fertilizer producers, adding materially to the problem.

“The financial repercussions of the energy shock are intertwined with the global community’s efforts on climate change. Russia has been an important source for the world’s energy, including oil, coal, and gas – the latter supplying Europe through a network of pipelines. I’ve been pleased to see Europe follow a path toward diversifying its energy mix away from Russia and considering LNG imports and nuclear power for electricity baseload, but these take time. The rapid addition of major new energy production in Europe and other parts of the world will be a necessary ingredient for global recovery and energy security in Europe.

“The World Bank Group strongly supports the integration of climate and development goals. This recognizes the urgency of growth and development at the core of our mission of alleviating poverty and boosting shared prosperity; and the global community’s pledges to slow the growth in human-linked greenhouse gas emissions. These pledges for global public goods will require hundreds of complex, multi-decade projects that reduce emissions and are funded by the global community. We are working to tackle these challenges through analytical work, including our Country Climate and Development Reports and our Infrastructure Sector Assessment Programs. We are pleased to support Poland’s efforts to increase energy efficiency and continue its transition away from coal.

Weakening Economic Outlook

“On the economic front, trends are not encouraging. Prior to the war in Ukraine, the recovery in 2022 was already losing momentum due to rising inflation and lingering supply bottlenecks. While advanced economies were expected to return almost to their pre-pandemic growth rates in 2023, developing economies were lagging substantially behind.

“The war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 lockdowns in China are further reducing the recovery path. Of concern, the repercussions are worsening the inequality as the war affects commodity and financial markets, trade, and migration linkages, and investor and consumer confidence. Advanced economies with well-developed social protection systems are cushioning parts of their populations from the damage from inflation and trade blockages, but poorer countries have limited fiscal resources and weaker systems to support those in need. Currency depreciations and inflation are hitting the poor hard, causing fast increases in 2022 poverty rates. Adding to the burden, developing country debt has risen sharply to a 50-year high—at roughly 250 percent of government revenues. Debt vulnerabilities are particularly acute in low-income countries, where sixty percent are already experiencing or at high risk of debt distress.

“Most emerging market and developing economies are ill-prepared to face the coming debt shock. Exposures to financial sector risk are opaque at this point, but one measure, the cost of insuring against default in emerging markets, has reached its highest point since the onset of the pandemic.”

A few thoughts

While there has been improved cooperation among multilateral institutions in addressing some of the crises identified, including supporting Ukraine during this period of enormous challenge from Russia’s unprovoked war, solutions to some of the inflationary spikes appear more remote during the pendency of the war and are aggravated by China’s lockdown of areas of the country in pursuit of its zero-COVID policy.

It is clear that Europe, the United States and some of their close allies will be changing investment and trade flows to address the unacceptable dependence on countries which don’t support the global rule of law and respect for national sovereignty. There will likely be spillover effects for other countries unable or unwilling to distance themselves from the Russian Federation. It is hard to see such fragmentation ending even with the end of Russia’s war whenever that occurs.

The increase in food security concerns are at least partially addressable by joint action to keep markets open and not impose export restrictions and ensure funding for UN World Food Program purchases during a period of inflated food prices. While the WTO’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic have improved transparency on export and import actions on food and medicines, it is unclear what level of cooperation will occur from countries with a history of imposing export restraints on food during periods of rising food prices. As history shows, increased food insecurity often leads to increased social unrest, as was true in 2007-2008.

While the need to move from fossil fuel imports is apparent for European countries and hence can have positive effects on increased use of renewable energy sources, the current high prices for fossil fuels and the role of Russia in the global supply of such fuels has countries scrambling to increase production to address short-term demand needs. Such increased production of fossil fuels and reduced cooperation among many countries on some issues will likely hurt global efforts to address the existential issue of climate change.

Russia has reportedly started a new phase of its invasion of Ukraine in the east this week. See New York Times, Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Declares New Phase of War as Forces Clash in East, April 19, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/04/19/world/ukraine-russia-war-news. How long the conflict will go on is, of course, unknown. But the rest of 2022 is likely to be challenging for governments and people around the world addressing the fallout from the war and other crises.


Challenging China’s Trade Practices — What Role for the WTO?

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) is holding a hearing on April 14, 2022 looking at the following topic — Challenging China’s Trade Practices:  Promoting Interests of U.S. Workers, Farmers, Producers and Innovators. See U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Notice of Public Hearing, 87 Fed. Reg. 18,075 (March 29, 2022. I am participating on the fourth panel which looks at China and the WTO. I copy below my written testimony. Before that I provide a summary of my thoughts and some recommendations for U.S. action.

As is broadly recognized, the WTO is struggling to maintain relevance and develop updated rules for international trade that reflect the changing landscape on critical issues. The growth of the WTO in terms of membership and accession applications is notable but has resulted in an organization where progress on multilateral issues is nearly impossible and in any event too slow. China and other Members emulating China’s state-directed economic model have pushed the organization into a nonsustainable position as the current rules are premised on major Members having market economies. The clash between the economic systems has resulted in increasing tensions as market economies struggle to deal with distortions created by China and others, many of which distortions are not addressable by existing WTO rules. With a consensus based system for modifications to existing rules or for the creation of new rules, there are questions about the ability to move forward to address China’s massive distortions. Similarly, while there are important activities that the WTO can and sometimes does do in the Committee structure, the Committees are not generally effective and a lack of transparency in practices, particularly in areas such as subsidies by China and others, reduces the effectiveness of the Committee function. Dispute settlement, while important, has developed a range of problems that both harm Members’ maintenance of existing rights and which complicate the ability of Members to address state-directed economies distortions. This is not to say that there aren’t important efforts underway within the WTO, often on a plurilateral vs. multilateral basis, that can be useful in the U.S.-China relationship. Moreover, frequently the ability of the WTO to collect and disseminate of information on important issues such as import and export restrictions introduced during the pandemic and the recent work looking at the trade effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is important in helping Members understand current challenges and identify activities that may be useful in improving the global economy.

The Biden Administration has made it clear that it wants to work within multilateral organizations as possible while pursuing domestic tools where needed and making the investments in the country to improve U.S. competitiveness.

So within the WTO, the U.S. should continue to pursue reforms that would make the WTO better able to address the distortions that flow from state-directed economies like China. The work that has been underway with the EU and Japan on industrial subsidies, global excess capacity and state-owned/invested companies is an excellent example, although what can be achieved in the WTO is likely to be far less than what is needed.

Similarly, working to complete the fisheries subsidies negotiations (including the ban on forced labor) is an important multilateral undertaking.

There are a number of plurilateral negotiations that are ongoing (so-called Joint Initiative Statements) that deal with important issues like e-commerce and domestic regulation of services and a number of environmental and other issues. The U.S. is active in some but not all. It should be active in all of the JSIs.

On dispute settlement, there are fundamental reforms needed that I have outlined in earlier posts as well as changes to the trade defense agreements to restore rights. See, e.g., July 12, 2020:  WTO Appellate Body reform – revisiting thoughts on how to address U.S. concerns, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/07/12/wtos-appellate-body-reform-revisiting-thoughts-on-how-to-address-u-s-concerns/. But the U.S., EU, Japan and others could bring a broad based case against China focusing on the many ways in which China has not fulfilled its commitments under the protocol of accession. Such a case would permit an identification of the many failures of China to in fact implement the obligations it undertook in 2001 in joining the WTO. A panel report would help focus the WTO membership on the changes that need to be made by China to have an economic system that is compatible with the WTO or that will address Chinese distortions and can lead to more flexibilities in terms of WTO reform. Depending on the outcome of the challenges to U.S. Section 232 actions on steel and aluminum (national security claims), the U.S. may also need/want to obtain reforms in whether national security claims are reviewable and whether the standards contained within GATT 1994 Art. XXI need updating/revision.

Much of what needs to be done to address China’s trade practices will be handled through domestic legislation and regulation or through bilateral negotiations with China or through unilateral actions that may not be consistent with WTO requirements.

Getting better enforcement of the Phase I Agreement and pursuing a Phase II Agreement presumably are elements of bilateral talks. Making U.S. trade remedies more effective and less costly can be done through domestic legislation and agency regulations.

Beefing up transparency requirements for foreign owned companies listing on U.S. stock exchanges is important and needs to be fully implemented and enforced.

The U.S.-U.K. agreement on steel and aluminum contains an important requirement that Chinese owned companies in the U.K. in these sectors be audited to determine if there are subsidies provided from China.

Resources to permit aggressive implementation of the ban on forced labor imports from Xinjiang is also within the Congress’ purview.

Tighter oversight of Chinese investment (direct and indirect) in strategic sectors, as well as addressing investment needs in critical sectors domestically, improving the resiliency of supply chains and getting infrastructure modernized are all important actions – a number of which are already approved by the Congress or being pursued by the Administration.

Written Testimony Submitted to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Commission for April 14 Hearing

Since joining the WTO at the end of 2001, China has risen to become the world’s largest exporter and has generally outperformed the world economy becoming the world’s second largest economy.  China will likely overtake the United States in terms of national GDP in the coming years.  So WTO membership has been of enormous benefit to China including through encouraging foreign investment, transfer of technology, improved productivity and quality and higher living standards.  Indeed, hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty over the last decades.

When China was admitted to the WTO, the Chinese economy was not yet market oriented nor consistent with a wide range of WTO obligations.  The result was a Protocol of Accession and Working Party Report that were the most complicated in terms of additional efforts needed by China and a timeframe for making additional wide ranging modifications to its economic system.

While China adopted many of its obligations at the beginning of WTO membership in 2002 and worked for a number of years to implement further important structural changes, China has moved away from its efforts to reform its economy to be more market driven and has reembraced its state-directed economic model over the last decade or so. 

Because of the size of the Chinese economy and the enormity of the government’s involvement and distortions imposed on the functioning of the economy, the distortions caused to trading partners operating on market principles have been massive.  These have included massive excess capacity in many industries flowing from state plans and subsidies, restricted market access to foreign products, theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfer, and the creation of false market signals in terms of costs of production.  There have been many critiques of China’s WTO membership.  My reflections are contained in a recent post.  See December 11, 2021:  20 Years of China’s Membership in the WTO — a brief critique, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/12/11/20-years-of-chinas-membership-in-the-wto-a-brief-critique/.

Even without China, the WTO has struggled since its creation to update global trade rules.  The inability to have successful negotiations on a range of topics flows from a variety of reasons including the consensus based decision making, large differences in views of purpose of and direction for the WTO among Members, and a dispute settlement system that has often deviated from its limited role encouraging members to file disputes instead of negotiating.  The organization has struggled to maintain its relevance in a rapidly changing world.  For many market economies, the WTO is not viewed as able to adequately address the distortions created by a state-directed economy the size of China’s.  

From the beginning of China’s WTO membership, other Members have worked to help China conform its system to the WTO requirements.  For example, major trading partners of China, including the U.S., European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and others spent years working with Chinese agencies to help them bring laws into compliance with WTO obligations and worked bilaterally to resolve problems as they arose.  Such activity has not been unusual for WTO Members in the early years of membership to help new Members understand what additional changes are appropriate or to resolve practices of concern bilaterally.  

Where China was unable or unwilling to bring practices or laws/regulations into conformity, the U.S., EU and others have brought disputes at the WTO.  As of April 8, 2022, China is or has been a respondent in 49 WTO disputes.  It has also brought 22 cases against the U.S., EU and others and participated as a third party in 192 disputes.  Most of the cases that have brought against China consisted of situations where China’s actions were facially inconsistent with WTO obligations. Where cases weren’t resolved through consultations and China lost the dispute, China has typically implemented the loss although in a narrow fashion.  China has brought cases to address what it considered to be “discriminatory” provisions of its Protocol of Accession (country specific safeguard; continuation of treatment as a non-market economy after 15 years) or to attempt to weaken trade remedies of major trading parties like the United States and the EU.  Some of these efforts were unsuccessful.  However, China has been able to obtain weakening of trade remedy practices with reports by WTO panels and the Appellate Body viewed by the U.S. and others as changing the rights they had under the trade remedy agreements.

As the 2020 USTR report on the WTO Appellate Body made clear, dispute settlement at the WTO has had the unintended consequence of changing the bargain reached in the Uruguay Round for the United States.  See February 14, 2020: USTR’s Report on the WTO Appellate Body – An Impressive Critique of the Appellate Body’s Deviation from Its Proper Role, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/02/14/ustrs-report-on-the-wto-appellate-body-an-impressive-critique-of-the-appellate-bodys-deviation-from-its-proper-role/.

Moreover, as articulated by the prior Administration and the present Administration, the current WTO agreements and dispute settlement don’t adequately address the global distortions caused by the state-directed economy of China and those copying its practices.  See, e.g., December 14, 2020:  WTO December 14th Heads of Delegation meeting – parting comments of U.S. Ambassador Dennis Shea, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/12/14/wto-december-14th-heads-of-delegation-meeting-parting-comments-of-u-s-ambassador-dennis-shea/

There have been efforts by the U.S., EU and Japan to start an evaluation of possible modifications to the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement to address the massive industrial subsidies, global excess capacity and state-owned, state-invested enterprises that characterize some of the important ongoing distortions created by the Chinese state-directed economy.  While China has indicated it would be open to a reexamination of all subsidy practices, it is unclear what agreement could be reached within the WTO.  In any event, agreement on any changes will take years to accomplish and will almost certainly be less than what is needed because of the consensus approach to decision making at the WTO.  Presumably the first panel today reviewed the eforts at WTO reform on industrial subsidies, excess capacity and state-owned enterprises.  Several posts of mine have addressed some aspects of the issue. See, e.g., January 14, 2020: WTO Reform – Joint Statement of January 14, 2020 of Japan, the U.S. and the EU, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/01/14/wto-reform-joint-statement-of-january-14-2020-of-japan-the-u-s-and-the-eu/.

China has been viewed by many WTO Members as retaliating against WTO Members who bring disputes or who use trade remedies by bringing disputes themselves or bringing trade remedy cases.   They also resort to intimidation through wide ranging and often non-transparent actions to punish trading partners who take positions China strongly disagrees with.  China’s actions against Australia and more recently Lithuania are just two examples.   I have looked at both cases in posts in the last several years.  See January 27, 2022:  The European Union requests consultations with China at the WTO for restrictions on Lithuanian goods imposed by China,

https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/01/27/the-european-union-requests-consultations-with-china-at-the-wto-for-restrictions-on-lithuania-goods-imposed-by-china/; January 7, 2022:  China’s “bullying” of Lithuania — a repeating story inconsistent with WTO rules, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/01/07/chinas-bullying-of-lithuania-a-repeating-story-inconsistent-with-wto-rules/; December 22, 2020:  China’s trade war with Australia – unwarranted and at odds with China’s portrayal of itself as a strong supporter of the WTO, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/12/22/chinas-trade-war-with-australia-unwarranted-and-at-odds-with-chinas-portrayal-of-itself-as-a-strong-supporter-of-the-wto/.

The lack of transparency in the Chinese system permits a wide range of trade distortions to arise (e.g., when state, provincial or local governments ban imports without formal notice or explanation, when technology transfer is required to operate but not included in documents, etc.).  China’s submissions to the WTO in areas such as subsidies have been viewed by the U.S., EU and others as woefully incomplete and have led to counternotifications being made by the U.S.  See, e.g., USTR Press Release, United States Details China and India Subsidy Programs in Submission to WTO, October 6, 2011, https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2011/october/united-states-details-china-and-india-subsidy-prog; SUBSIDIES, Request from the UNITED STATES to CHINA, Pursuant to Article 25.10 of the Agreement,  G/SCM/Q2/CHN/42 (11 October 2011).

While China has long been cited as having major human rights problems, in recent years, the trade implications of forced labor and other human rights issues have led to increased activity in an effort to cut off imports into the U.S. of products made from forced labor (in part or total).  See, e.g., February 13, 2022:  February 10, 2022 release of ILO report and subsequent U.S. State Department press release on forced labor and other human rights issues in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/13/february-10-2022-release-of-ilo-report-and-subsequent-u-s-state-department-press-release-on-forced-labor-and-other-human-rights-issues-in-xinjiang-autonomous-region-of-china/; February 11, 2022:  Stopping imports made in whole or in part from forced labor — U.S. law and the looming challenge on goods made from cotton and polysilicon, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/11/stopping-imports-made-in-whole-or-in-part-from-forced-labor-u-s-law-and-the-looming-challenge-on-goods-made-from-cotton-and-polysilicon/; December 19, 2021:  Forced labor and trade — U.S. Congress passes legislation to address China’s treatment of Uyghurs, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/12/19/forced-labor-and-trade-u-s-congress-passes-legislation-to-address-chinas-treatment-of-uyghurs/; January 25, 2021:  Child labor and forced labor in cotton production — is there a current WTO mandate to identify and quantify the distortive effects?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/01/25/child-labor-and-forced-labor-in-cotton-production-is-there-a-current-wto-mandate-to-identify-and-quantify-the-distortive-effects/; January 24, 2021:  Forced labor and child labor – a continued major distortion in international trade for some products, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/01/24/forced-labor-and-child-labor-a-continued-major-distortion-in-international-trade-for-some-products/.

The array of inconsistencies with WTO norms are reviewed annually in the USTR Report to Congress on China’s Compliance with the WTO.  See, e.g., February 16, 2022:  USTR’s 2021 Report to Congress on China’s WTO Compliance — a recognition that all of China’s distortions to competition cannot be dealt with within the WTO, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/16/ustrs-2021-report-to-congress-on-chinas-wto-compliance-a-recognition-that-all-of-chinas-distortions-to-competition-cannot-be-dealt-with-within-the-wto/.

Prior Administrations have engaged both bilaterally with China and through disputes to get China to live up to its commitments under the WTO.  The Trump Administration sought to address global excess capacity in steel and aluminum through use of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act  of 1962, as amended on national security concerns and conducted a section 301 investigation on a range of Chinese practices in, inter alia, the intellectual property area which resulted in additional tariffs being imposed on most goods coming from China.  WTO challenges and court challenges in the U.S. have been testing the breadth of the U.S. national security law and the WTO consistency of such actions.

While some observers have called for excluding China from the WTO or forming a separate grouping that excludes China, the WTO has no identified process for removing countries from membership, although the current crisis caused by the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has shown the willingness of a number of major economies to remove most favored nation status on a Member for national security reasons.  See, e.g.,  January 16, 2022:  Is it time for a new approach to bilateral trade with China?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/01/16/is-it-time-for-a-new-approach-to-bilateral-trade-with-china/; March 2, 2022:  A former Appellate Body Chair argues WTO Members have the ability to remove the Russian Federation from WTO Membership; other proposals to strip MFN benefits from Russia and services restrictions, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/02/a-former-appellate-body-chair-argues-wto-members-have-the-ability-to-remove-the-russian-federation-from-wto-membership-other-proposals-to-strip-mfn-benefits-from-russia-and-services-restrictions/; March 20, 2022:  Banned imports, higher tariffs, other actions by trading partners as Russia and Belarus lose most favored nation treatment by G-7 countries and EU during the conflict in Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/20/banned-imports-higher-tariffs-other-actions-by-trading-partners-as-russia-and-belarus-lose-most-faovered-nation-treatment-by-g-7-countries-and-eu-during-the-conflict-in-ukraine/.

The Biden Administration has expressed the intention of working with allies to improve the WTO while looking at additional tools to address the distortions caused by the Chinese system.  See, e.g,. Testimony of Ambassador Katherine Tai Before the Senate Finance Committee Hearing on the President’s 2022 Trade Policy Agenda, https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/speeches-and-remarks/2022/march/testimony-ambassador-katherine-tai-senate-finance-committee-hearing-presidents-2022-trade-policy (March 31, 2022).  Thus, the Biden Administration will engage bilaterally with China, will focus on strengthening the U.S. economy (e.g., improved infrastructure, more resilient supply chains, more domestic production of key products, improved Buy America), explore new tools to address distortions (e.g., the U.S.-EU efforts on steel and aluminum to address excess capacity), and will work regionally and through the WTO to address issues of importance where possible.  

Questions of interest to the USCC for this panel

  1.  China has repeatedly refused to abide by the spirit of the World Trade Organization.  Is the WTO still relevant to addressing the challenges posed by China’s policies?

The fundamental problem posed by China in the WTO is its state-directed economic system which is fundamentally at odds with market economies.  Former Deputy Director-General of the WTO Alan Wolff has opined on a number of occasions that a core principle of the WTO is the need for convergence of economic systems of WTO Members.  Coexistence of different economic systems is not dealt with by the WTO Agreements and is not compatible with WTO rules.  See, e.g., November 10, 2020:  The values of the WTO – do Members and the final Director-General candidates endorse all of them?, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/11/10/the-values-of-the-wto-do-members-and-the-final-director-general-candidates-endorse-all-of-them/  August 19, 2020 [updated August 27]; August 19, 2020 [updated August 27]:   The race to become the next WTO Director-General – where the candidates stand on important issues:  convergence vs. coexistence of different economic systems; possible reform of rules to address distortions from such economic systems – Part 2, comments by the candidates, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/08/19/the-race-to-become-the-next-wto-director-general-where-the-candidates-stand-on-important-issues-convergence-vs-coexistence-of-different-economic-systems-possible-reform-of-rules-to-addre/; August 17, 2020:  The race to become the next WTO Director-General – where the candidates stand on important issues:  convergence vs. coexistence of different economic systems; possible reform of rules to address distortions from such economic systems – Part 1, background on issues, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/08/17/the-race-to-become-the-next-wto-director-general-where-the-candidates-stand-on-important-issues-convergence-vs-coexistence-of-different-economic-systems-possible-reform-of-rules-to-address-dist/.

While the U.S., EU and others have raised the need to address the myriad distortions caused by non-market economies (or state directed economies) as part of WTO reform, it is highly unlikely that WTO Members will agree to broad based changes, although some changes to the Subsidies Agreement may be accomplished over the medium term (5 years or more). 

  • Can the WTO meaningfully address the repeated problem of Chinese subsidies?  In particular, with subsidies emanating from state-owned companies, is it feasible to overcome the WTO’s definition of what constitutes a “public body”?  Was the WTO’s decision correctly decided based on negotiated commitments?

While the U.S. lost the dispute on “public bodies,” the U.S. has continued to pursue countervailing duty cases against imports from China, typically with large countervailable subsidies found.  Thus, U.S. countervailing duty law can likely still be effective in many cases despite the adverse public body decision.  That does not protect U.S. export interests both in China and in third countries.

The WTO adverse decision will almost certainly be part of the package of proposals for reform coming from the U.S., EU and Japan.  Because of China’s interest in maintaining the Appellate Body’s  reading of “public body”, it is unclear if revision at the WTO will be possible.

The United States identified the public body decision as one of the most egregious Appellate Body overreach decisions in its 2020 report on the Appellate Body.  See USTR,  REPORT ON THE APPELLATE BODY OF THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION, February 2020, https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/Report_on_the_Appellate_Body_of_the_World_Trade_Organization.pdf, pages 82-88 (“The Appellate Body’s Erroneous Interpretation of ‘Public Body’ Threatens the Ability of WTO Members to Counteract Trade-Distorting Subsidies Provided through SOEs, Undermining the Interests of All Market-Oriented Actors”).  I concur that the decision is inconsistent with the underlying WTO Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement.

The decision has been widely criticized, including by people who were actively involved in the negotiations (Jan Woznowski, Director of the Rules Division; Michael Cartland, Permanent Representative of Hong Kong who served as the Chair of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures negotiations, and Gerard DePayre, negotiator for the European Union on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures).  See Cartland, Michael, Depayre, Gérard &Woznowski, Jan. “Is Something Going Wrong in the WTO Dispute Settlement?” Journal of World Trade 46, no. 5 (2012): 979–1016, at 996.  USTR characterized the paper as follows in its 2020 Report (pages 86-87):

“Commentators have also criticized the Appellate Body’s interpretation. For example, in an article in the Journal of World Trade, Michael Cartland, Gérard Depayre, and Jan Woznowski – each of whom participated in the Negotiating Group on subsidies and countervailing measures in the Uruguay Round – present a detailed discussion of the Appellate Body report in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China) and raise a host of concerns with the Appellate Body’s interpretation of the term ‘public body,’ calling the analysis ‘internally contradictory’ and ‘disingenuous.’”

  • As national security becomes a higher priority for both the United States and China, how can the WTO remain relevant or useful in breaking down barriers to trade?

Since the GATT started in the late 1940s there has always been a national security exception to obligations assumed under the GATT and now under the WTO. GATT 1994 Article XXI reads:

Article XXI

Security Exceptions

Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed

  • to require any contracting party to furnish any information the disclosure of which it considers contrary to its essential security interests; or
  • to prevent any contracting party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests
  • relating to fissionable materials or the materials from which they are derived;
  • relating to the traffic in arms, ammunition and implements of war and to such traffic in other goods ad materials as is carried on directly or indirectly for the purpose of supplying a military establishment;
  • taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations; or
  • to prevent any contracting party from taking any action in pursuance of its obligations under the United Nations Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security. 

Similar provisions are in the Services and TRIPS Agreements.

The bulk of the actions taken by the United States against China have not been premised on national security.  Trade remedies (antidumping, countervailing duty, safeguard), Section 301 actions have not been premised on national security but other statutory bases. Section 232 actions, such as on steel and aluminum, have been based on national security concerns.

Similarly, U.S., EU, UK, Canada, Japan and others who have removed most favored nation treatment from the Russian Federation after its invasion of Ukraine have justified such action on national security (presumably GATT 1994 Art. XXI (b)(iii) for goods).

Many WTO Members, including China, the EU, Canada, Mexico and others, took unilateral action without WTO authorization when the U.S. imposed duties under Section 232, some claiming that such action was supported by the Safeguard Agreement where imports had not increased. Such actions by U.S. trading partners were not justified on national security grounds.

U.S. 232 action is currently subject to panel review at the WTO with panel reports currently due by the end of the first half of 2022. See, e.g., UNITED STATES – CERTAIN MEASURES ON STEEL AND ALUMINIUM PRODUCTS COMMUNICATION FROM THE PANEL, WT/DS544/12 (China as complainant)(10 December 2021).

The U.S. has long contended that when a Member claims national security as the basis for action, there is no role for the WTO dispute settlement system.  National security actions by other countries whether involving goods or TRIPS have been found by WTO panels and the Appellate Body as subject to review and permissible if in accordance with the provisions of GATT 1994 Article XXI (or comparable provisions in the TRIPS Agreement).  See, e.g.,  World Trade Institute Working Paper No. 03/2020,  Peter Van den Bossche and Sarah Akpofure, The Use and Abuse of the National Security Exception under Article XXI(b)(iii) of the GATT 1994, https://www.wti.org/media/filer_public/50/57/5057fb22-f949-4920-8bd1-e8ad352d22b2/wti_working_paper_03_2020.pdf.

If the panel report finds the U.S. not having complied with WTO obligations, the U.S. will have the option of seeking a resolution with the complainants or filing an appeal.

To the extent that the U.S. views an increased need to invoke national security justification for action contrary to other WTO obligations and such actions would not fall under the exceptions as construed by panels, the U.S. will be left with seeking modification of GATT Art. XXI (and the comparable GATS and TRIPS provisions) as part of WTO reform or can hold up reacceptance of binding dispute settlement, or can simply accept the retaliation likely to follow.

It is not my view that national security will be the major tool used going forward to address distortions from China.  

  • Katherine Tai recently posed the question of whether U.S. policy is aiming for a greater quantity of liberalized trade or “for smarter and more resilient trade.”  Is the WTO compatible with a latter vision?

The GATT and now WTO have always had provisions permitting members to deviate from obligations in certain circumstances and to adopt laws and regulations to address health, quality and other national concerns.  Thus, there is nothing in the WTO that prevents countries from engaging in smarter or more resilient trade.

The U.S. during the Trump Administration, had raised a series of issues concerning whether the existing system was sustainable as being tilted against the United States.  The issues included self-selection as a developing country (with entitlement to special and differential treatment), lack of transparency by some Members, the need to rebalance tariff commitments in light of current level of economic development, revised agreements to address distortions created by state-directed economies like China.  See, e.g., August 24, 2020:  USTR Lighthizer’s Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal – How to Set World Trade Straight, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/08/24/ustr-lighthizers-op-ed-in-the-wall-street-journal-how-to-set-world-trade-straight/.  These types of changes, if made to the WTO, would make the international trading system smarter and more resilient.  Most observers believe such changes are unlikely to be achievable.

The Biden Administration has been putting a push on trading partners to take action against forced labor within the ongoing negotiations on fisheries subsidies.  While it is unlikely that such provisions will be accepted by all WTO Members (particularly China) as part of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, such action is being pursued within USMCA countries and some others.  Eliminating trade based on forced labor would be smarter and more resilient trade.

The WTO and GATT before it have historically been reluctant to embrace labor and environmental issues, though there has been a trade and environment committee for many years and there are now a range of environmental plurilateral negotiations taking place.  Dealing with environmental issues and to the extent possible labor issues would make for smarter and more resilient trade.  The environmental negotiations are likely to be plurilateral but open to all to join.

In short, it should be possible for WTO Members to adopt at least many aspects of “smarter and more resilient trade” without running afoul of WTO obligations. 

  • What is the promise of other initiatives taking place in the WTO related to digital trade and what is the likelihood that they can change Chinese practices?

WTO Members launched a series of Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs) among the willing at the 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires in 2017.  While countries like India and South Africa have not joined any of the JSIs and have raised questions about the propriety of the WTO incorporating plurilateral agreements without consensus of all Members, there has been a lot of effort over the last four years on moving the negotiations forward, seeking some completions by the 12th Ministerial Conference this June. 

Ongoing JSI include those on electronic commerce, investment facilitation for development, plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade, services domestic regulation, informal working group on MSMEs, and trade and environmental sustainability.  The WTO issues periodic press releases on developments in the talks.  See, e.g., JOINT INITIATIVE ON E-COMMERCE, E-commerce negotiators seek to find common ground, revisit text proposals, 21 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/jsec_23feb22_e.htm (hoping to have convergence on majority of issues by end of 2022)(86 WTO Members participating accounting for 90% of e-commerce trade including China, U.S. and most other major countries);  INVESTMENT FACILITATION FOR DEVELOPMENT, Investment facilitation negotiators take steps to assess needs of developing countries, 15 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/infac_23feb22_e.htm (looking to complete by end of 2022)(over 100 WTO Members participate including China and most developed countries, but not the U.S.); INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE, Plastics dialogue emphasizes need for international collaboration, cooperation, 30 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/ppesp_31mar22_e.htm  (70 Members participate including China and most major developed countries but not the U.S.); Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, Negotiations on services domestic regulation conclude successfully in Geneva, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news21_e/jssdr_02dec21_e.htm (67 Members participated including China, the U.S. and other major developed countries); . MICRO, SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES (MSMES), Working group on small business welcomes three more members, 8 February 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/msmes_08feb22_e.htm (94 participants including China and most major developed countries but not the U.S.).

Since the Doha Development Agenda reached an impasse in 2008, U.S. Administrations have participated in WTO activities but have also pursued free trade agreements and other regional and plurilateral activities.  There is good progress being made in Geneva on the various JSIs, although the impact of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine may create challenges to forward movement in some talks.

The U.S. is obviously pursuing important topics like e-commerce in multiple fora.  While the WTO may result in a plurilateral agreement that is less robust than U.S provisions with Canada and Mexico or that get achieved with other trading partners, the plurilaterals at the WTO are an important effort to maintain relevance for the WTO in a rapidly changing world.

    .

.

Additional trade and financial sanctions imposed on Russian Federation as evidence of atrocities in Ukraine by Russian soldiers mounts

As the Russian troops withdrew from around Kyiv, images of dead civilians in the town of Bucha led to further outrage among many countries resulting in a new round of trade and financial sanctions being imposed by the U.S., EU, U.K., Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The atrocities also led to a vote at the U.N. to suspend the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council. See White House, Statement of President Joe Biden on the UN Vote Suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council, April 7, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/07/statement-of-president-joe-biden-on-the-un-vote-suspending-russia-from-the-human-rights-council/.

Keeping up with all sanctions being imposed is challenging in light of the expanding set of actions being taken although different organizations have compiled lists. For example, Reuters posts a time and country based list in Tracking sanctions against Russia, https://graphics.reuters.com/UKRAINE-CRISIS/SANCTIONS/byvrjenzmve/. The version I reviewed was updated on April 8, 2022 and shows actions through April 7. “Reuters is tracking government sanctions and actions against Russia taken by large companies and organisations around the world in the lead up to and following its invasion of Ukraine.” Reuters shows sanctions imposed by 41 governments (viewing the EU as 27) and 99 actions taken by large companies and organizations.

A fact sheet released by the White House on April 6 summarizes actions being taken by the United States in light of the continuing Russian aggression and atrocities. The White House, FACT SHEET: United States, G7 and EU Impose Severe and Immediate Costs on Russia, April 6, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/06/fact-sheet-united-states-g7-and-eu-impose-severe-and-immediate-costs-on-russia/. The fact sheet is copied below.

“Today, the United States, with the G7 and the European Union, will continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on the Putin regime for its atrocities in Ukraine, including in Bucha. We will document and share information on these atrocities and use all appropriate mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible. As one part of this effort, the United States is announcing devastating economic measures to ban new investment in Russia, and impose the most severe financial sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and several of its most critical state-owned enterprises and on Russian government officials and their family members. These sweeping financial sanctions follow our action earlier this week to cut off Russia’s frozen funds in the United States to make debt payments. Importantly, these measures are designed to reinforce each other to generate intensifying impact over time.

“The United States and more than 30 allies and partners across the world have levied the most impactful, coordinated, and wide-ranging economic restrictions in history. Experts predict Russia’s GDP will contract up to 15 percent this year, wiping out the last fifteen years of economic gains. Inflation is already spiking above 15 percent and forecast to accelerate higher. More than 600 private sector companies have already left the Russian market. Supply chains in Russia have been severely disrupted. Russia will very likely lose its status as a major economy, and it will continue a long descent into economic, financial, and technological isolation. Compared to last year, U.S. exports to Russia of items subject to our new export controls have decreased 99 percent by value – and the power of these restrictions will compound over time as Russia draws down any remaining stockpiles of spare parts for certain planes, tanks, and other resources needed for Putin’s war machine.

“As long as Russia continues its brutal assault on Ukraine, we will stand unified with our allies and partners in imposing additional costs on Russia for its actions. Today, the United States is announcing the following actions:

Full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank. This action will freeze any of Sberbank’s and Alfa Bank’s assets touching the U.S financial system and prohibit U.S. persons from doing business with them. Sberbank holds nearly one-third of the overall Russian banking sector’s assets and is systemically critical to the Russian economy. Alfa Bank is Russia’s largest privately-owned financial institution and Russia’s fourth largest financial institution overall.

Prohibiting new investment in the Russian Federation. President Biden will sign a new Executive Order (E.O.) that includes a prohibition on new investment in Russia by U.S. persons wherever located, which will further isolate Russia from the global economy. This action builds on the decision made by more than 600 multinational businesses to exit from Russia. The exodus of the private sector includes manufacturers, energy companies, large retailers, financial institutions, as well as other service providers such as law and consulting firms. Today’s E.O. will ensure the enduring weakening of the Russian Federation’s global competitiveness.

Full blocking sanctions on critical major Russian state-owned enterprises. This will prohibit any U.S. person from transacting with these entities and freeze any of their assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction, thereby damaging the Kremlin’s ability to use these entities it depends on to enable and fund its war in Ukraine. The Department of Treasury will announce these entities tomorrow.

Full blocking sanctions on Russian elites and their family members, including sanctions on: President Putin’s adult children, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and members of Russia’s Security Council including former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people.  Some of them are responsible for providing the support necessary to underpin Putin’s war on Ukraine. This action cuts them off from the U.S. financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States.

The U.S. Treasury prohibited Russia from making debt payments with funds subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Sanctions do not preclude payments on Russian sovereign debt at this time, provided Russia uses funds outside of U.S. jurisdiction. However, Russia is a global financial pariah — and it will now need to choose between draining its available funds to make debt payments or default. 

Commitment to supporting sectors essential to humanitarian activities. As we continue escalating our sanctions and other economic measures against Russia for its brutal war against Ukraine, we reiterate our commitment to exempting essential humanitarian and related activities that benefit the Russian people and people around the world: ensuring the availability of basic foodstuffs and agricultural commodities, safeguarding access to medicine and medical devices, and enabling telecommunications services to support the flow of information and access to the internet which provides outside perspectives to the Russian people. These activities are not the target of our efforts, and U.S. and Western companies can continue to operate in these sectors in Russia. When necessary, relevant departments and agencies will issue appropriate exemptions and carveouts to ensure such activity is not disrupted.”

Similarly, the European Commission announced proposed additional sanctions (fifth round) on April 5 and agreed sanctions were announced by the Council of the European Union on April 8. See Press statement by President von der Leyen on the fifth round of sanctions against Russia, Strasbourg, 5 April 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_22_2281; Council of the EU Press release, 8 April 2022, EU adopts fifth round of sanctions against Russia over its military aggression against
Ukraine, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/04/08/eu-adopts-fifth-round-of-sanctions-against-russia-over-its-military-aggression-against-ukraine/; Official Journal of the European Union, L111, 8 April 2022. The Council’s statement is copied below.

“In light of Russia’s continuing war of aggression against Ukraine, and the reported atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine, the Council decided today to impose a fifth package of economic and individual sanctions against Russia.

“The agreed package includes a series of measures intended to reinforce pressure on the Russian government and economy, and to limit the Kremlin’s resources for the aggression.

“‘These latest sanctions were adopted following the atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Bucha and other places under Russian occupation. The aim of our sanctions is to stop the reckless, inhuman and aggressive behaviour of the Russian troops and make clear to the decision makers in the Kremlin that their illegal aggression comes at a heavy cost.’ Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

“The package comprises:

“- a prohibition to purchase, import or transfer coal and other solid fossil fuels into the EU if they originate in Russia or are exported from Russia, as from August 2022. Imports of coal into the EU are currently worth EUR 8 billion per year.

“- a prohibition to provide access to EU ports to vessels registered under the flag of Russia. Derogations are granted for agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid, and energy.

“- a ban on any Russian and Belarusian road transport undertaking preventing them from transporting goods by road within the EU, including in transit. Derogations are nonetheless granted for a number of products, such as pharmaceutical, medical, agricultural and food products, including wheat, and for road transport for humanitarian purposes.

“- further export bans, targeting jet fuel and other goods such as quantum computers and advanced semiconductors, high-end electronics, software, sensitive machinery and transportation equipment, and new import bans on products such as: wood, cement, fertilisers, seafood and liquor. The agreed export and import bans only account for EUR 10 billion and EUR 5.5 billion respectively.

“- a series of targeted economic measures intended to strengthen existing measures and close loopholes, such as: a general EU ban on participation of Russian companies in public procurement in member states, the exclusion of all financial support to Russian public bodies. an extended prohibition on deposits to crypto-wallets, and on the sale of banknotes and transferrable securities denominated in any official currencies of the EU member states to Russia and Belarus, or to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Russia and Belarus,.

“Furthermore, the Council decided to sanction companies whose products or technology have played a role in the invasion, key oligarchs and businesspeople, high-ranking Kremlin officialsproponents of disinformation and information manipulation, systematically spreading the Kremlin’s narrative on Russia’s war aggression in Ukraine, as well as family members of already sanctioned individuals, in order to make sure that EU sanctions are not circumvented.

“Moreover a full transaction ban is imposed on four key Russian banks representing 23% of market share in the Russian banking sector. After being de-SWIFTed these banks will now be subject to an asset freeze, thereby being completely cut off from EU markets.

“In its conclusions of 24 March 2022, the European Council stated that the Union remains ready to close loopholes and target actual and possible circumvention of the restrictive measures already adopted, as well as to move quickly with further coordinated robust sanctions on Russia and Belarus to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians. Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law. The siege of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, and the denial of humanitarian access by Russian military forces are unacceptable. Russian forces must immediately provide for safe pathways to other parts of Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid to be delivered to Mariupol and other besieged cities.

“The European Council demands that Russia immediately stop its military aggression in the territory of Ukraine, immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.

“The relevant legal acts will soon be published in the Official Journal.”

As listed above, the Official Journal with the legal actions identified was published on April 8 (OJ L111).

The United Kingdom also took action on April 6 to expand sanctions. Government of the United Kingdom Press Release, UK imposes sweeping new sanctions to starve Putin’s war machine, 6 April 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-imposes-sweeping-new-sanctions-to-starve-putins-war-machine. The sanctions announced in the press release are listed below.

“Key sanctions announced today include:

“asset freezes against Sberbank and Credit Bank of Moscow. Sberbank is Russia’s largest bank and this freeze is being taken in co-ordination with the US

“an outright ban on all new outward investment to Russia. In 2020 UK investment in Russia was worth over £11 billion. This will be another major hit to the Russian economy and further limit their future capabilities

“by the end of 2022, the UK will end all dependency on Russian coal and oil, and end imports of gas as soon as possible thereafter. From next week, the export of key oil refining equipment and catalysts will also be banned, degrading Russia’s ability to produce and export oil – targeting not only the industry’s finances but its capabilities as a whole

“action against key Russian strategic industries and state owned enterprises. This includes a ban on imports of iron and steel products, a key source of revenue. Russia’s military ambitions are also being thwarted by new restrictions on its ability to acquire the UK’s world-renowned quantum and advanced material technologies

“and targeting a further eight oligarchs active in these industries, which Putin uses to prop up his war economy.”

Canada, Japan and Australia also announced additional sanctions. See Government of Canada, Canada announces it will impose additional sanctionson Russian and Belarusian regimes, April 4, 2022, https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2022/04/canada-announces-it-will-impose-additional-sanctions-on-russian-and-belarusian-regimes.html; Reuters, Japan bans Russian coal imports, expels eight diplomats, April 8, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-considers-restrictions-coal-imports-russia-jiji-2022-04-07/; The Japan Times, Japan to expel eight Russians, including diplomats, as Kishida announces new sanctions, 8 April 2022, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/04/08/national/japan-russia-expel-diplomats/ (“Kishida, however, announced a sweeping new round of sanctions, declaring that Japan will phase out imports of Russian coal, ban imports of Russian machinery, lumber and vodka, bar new investments in Russia and freeze assets held by major Russian lenders Sberbank and Alfa Bank. Japan will also freeze the assets of an additional 400 or so military personnel and lawmakers and some 20 military-related organizations, including state-run companies, Kishida said.”); Reuters, Australia to impose sanctions on 67 more Russians over Ukraine, April 7, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/australia-impose-sanctions-67-russians-over-ukraine-2022-04-07/; New Zealand to apply trade sanctions in response to Russian atrocities, April 6, 2022, https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-zealand-apply-trade-sanctions-response-russian-atrocities (“The Government have announced that they will apply 35% tariffs to all imports from Russia, and extend the existing export prohibitions to industrial products closely connected to strategic Russian industries. This is New Zealand’s most significant economic response to the Russian invasion to date. ‘The images and reports emerging of atrocities committed against civilians in Bucha and other regions of Ukraine is abhorrent and reprehensible, and New Zealand continues to respond to Putin’s mindless acts of aggression,’ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said. ‘Under the Russia Sanctions Act, New Zealand will apply tariffs across the board to all Russian imports, as well as ban the export of industrial products such as ICT equipment and engines, sending a clear message that New Zealand will not fund or support the Russia war machine,’ Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor said.”).

On April 8, President Biden also signed two Congressional bills into law, one suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus and one banning imports of oil, gas and coal from Russia (President Biden had already banned such imports). See White House, Bills Signed: H.R. 6968 and H.R. 7108, APRIL 08, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/legislation/2022/04/08/bills-signed-h-r-6968-and-h-r-7108/ (“On Friday, April 8, 2022, the President signed into law: H.R. 6968, the ‘Ending Importation of Russian Oil Act,’ which statutorily prohibits the importation of energy products from the Russian Federation; and H.R. 7108, the ‘Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act,’ which suspends normal trade relations with the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus and seeks to further leverage trade and human rights sanctions.”).

While major importing nations of Russian oil and gas have been unable or unwilling to date to cut off purchases of oil and gas, the level of economic and financial sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation and Belarus coupled with the withdrawal of major businesses (temporarily or permanently) from Russia are having significant negative effects on the Russian economy both short term and longer term. These effects coupled with the damage to the Ukrainian economy inflicted by the Russian war on Ukraine will have global effects. As reviewed in an earlier post, Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of various agricultural products. The war is both creating increased food insecurity and driving inflation on agricultural products which hurts all consumers but the poorest the hardest. See March 30, 2022:  Food security challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/30/food-security-challenges-posed-by-the-russian-invasion-of-ukraine/. Indeed, global food prices reached an all time high in March. UN News, Ukraine war drives international food prices to ‘new all-time high’, 8 April 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/04/1115852

The WTO’s Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has indicated that global trade growth will be nearly 50% lower than previously projected for 2022 (2.5% vs. 4.7%) flowing from the war in Ukraine and ongoing supply chain issues. Sunday Observer, Ukraine war to halve global trade growth – WTO, 10 April 2022, ww.sundayobserver.lk/2022/04/10/business/ukraine-war-halve-global-trade-growth-wto. The war and individual countries reactions to Russia’s aggression are also likely to have longer term effects on global integration and supply chains. One is already seeing significant reductions in foreign investment flows into China. China’s actions or inactions towards Russia’s aggression may reduce foreign investor confidence in the Chinese economy as a place for investment at least for exports. A return to isolation of some countries from the larger global community is certainly afoot. The only question is whether states besides Russia and Belarus will be in the ostracized group.

With Russia continuing its aggression against Ukraine and with apparent scorched earth tactics being pursued, it is likely that the latest round of sanctions will not be the last. The strains on the global economy are likely to worsen in the coming months.

WTO Dispute Settlement in 2022 — to date (April 5, 2022) European Union is only WTO Member to file new disputes

With 2022 more than one quarter over, the European Union remains the only WTO Member to file a new WTO dispute this year, and it has filed five requests for consultation. The United States has spent the first fifteen months of the Biden Administration seeking resolution to long-standing disputes but to date has filed no new cases (2021-2022). China had filed a number of disputes in 2021 and is the subject of various disputes filed in the 2021-2022 including two of the EU cases this year.

Two of the five cases filed in 2022 by the EU were against China and are reviewed in prior posts. See February 21, 2022:  The European Union’s February 18, 2022 request for consultations with China over China’s “anti-suit injunctions” in intellectual property disputes and its failure to publish decisions and respond to EU inquiries, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/21/the-european-unions-february-18-2022-request-for-consultations-with-china-over-chinas-anti-suit-injunctions-in-intellectual-property-disputes-and-its-failure-to-publish-decisions-and-respond/; January 27, 2022:  The European Union requests consultations with China at the WTO for restrictions on Lithuanian goods imposed by China, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/01/27/the-european-union-requests-consultations-with-china-at-the-wto-for-restrictions-on-lithuania-goods-imposed-by-china/. On the intellectual property dispute, Japan, United States and Canada have requested to join the consultations. On the EU’s challenge to China’s actions on goods from Lithuania, six other Members have sought to join the consultations — Australia, Taiwan, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

The other three requests for consultations filed by the EU this year include one filed with the Russian Federation (DS608) concerning the exportation of wood products, one with Egypt (D609) concerning registration requirements relating to the importation of certain products and the latest one with the United Kingdom (DS612) concerning measures relating to the allocation of contracts for difference in low carbon energy generation.

The case against the Russian Federation deals with the termination of tariff-rate quotas on exports of wood products, other increases in export duties on wood products, reduction of the number of border crossing points for the exportation of wood products and the introduction of export restrictions or prohibitions on certain wood products by the Eurasian Economic Union. WTO inconsistencies alleged by the EU include Art. I:1, II:1(a), XI:1, XIII:1 of GATT 1994 and Paragraph 2, second sentence, of the Protocol on the Accession of the Russian Federation in conjunction with paragraphs 638, 668, and 1450 of the Report of the Working Party. WT/DS608/1/Rev.1, G/L/1434/Rev.1 (27 February 2022).

The request for consultations with Egypt involves challenges to Egyptian measures that apply to EU companies wishing to export to Egypt where registration requirements exist (29 categories of goods “including agricultural and food products, cosmetics, toys, textiles, garments, household appliances, furniture and ceramic tiles.”). The requirements are alleged to burdensome, non-transparent, costly and time-consuming and some registration applications have not been processed even after years. The Egyptian measures of concern raise questions about consistency with WTO GATT 1994 Articles XI:1, VIII:1(c), VIII:3, X:1, X:3(a); Art. 4.2 of the Agriculture Agreement and Articles 1.2, 1.5 3.3, 3.5(e) and 3.5(f) of the Import Licensing Agreement. WT/DS609/1, G/L/1425 (27 January 2022). The Russian Federation has sought to join consultations. WT/DS609/2.

The most recent request for consultations with the United Kingdom involves local content requirements for incentivised low carbon electricity generation projects (e.g., offshore wind). “The measures at issue described above appear to be inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s obligations under the covered agreements, in particular Article III:4 of the GATT 1994, inasmuch as, by incentivising applicants to commit to and implement an ambitious percentage of Untied Kingdom content of the allocation of CfD, they accord less favourable treatment to imported goods than to like domestic goods.” WT/DS612/1, G/L/1428 (30 March 2022).

Of the five cases, the two against China are probably the most important systemically. The case about retaliation by China against Lithuania addresses a recurring problem with China punishing WTO Members who take positions with which China disagrees, The intellectual property case as described in a prior post is important to prevent China from blocking IP rights holders from obtaining the benefits of IP that the TRIPS Agreement safeguards.

The Russian Federation case may proceed but is overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed by many countries, including by the EU. That said, the case deals with what appear to be clear violations of WTO obligations by Russia.

The case against Turkey is typical of a range of disputes over the years against countries who adopt a series of barriers to access to the market to protect domestic industries. While there can always be potentially relevant standards issues or health/safety issues, the actions of Egypt sound as though they simply slow down, limit or block import trade.

Finally, the case against the United Kingdom deals with the efforts of many countries to speed up adoption of renewable energy and reflect the important systemic issue of the interface between domestic incentives and WTO obligations on national treatment.

At the last Dispute Settlement Body meeting (March 28, 2022), many WTO Members continued to seek the reestablishment of a two tier dispute settlement process which the United States continues to block. See WTO News Release, Members continue push to commence Appellate Body appointment process, 28 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/dsb_28mar22_e.htm. The statements made appear to be identical or similar to those made over the last several years. The WTO news release on the meeting and the issue of the Appellate Body is copied below in relevant part.

“Appellate Body appointments

“Mexico, speaking on behalf of 123 members, introduced for the 52nd time the group’s proposal to start the selection processes for filling vacancies on the Appellate Body. The extensive number of members submitting the proposal reflects a common concern over the current situation in the Appellate Body which is seriously affecting the overall WTO dispute settlement system against the best interest of members, Mexico said for the group.

“The United States reiterated it was not in a position to support the proposed decision.  The US continues to have systemic concerns with the Appellate Body, which it has explained and raised over the past 16 years and across multiple administrations.  The US said it believes that WTO members must undertake fundamental reform if the dispute settlement system is to remain viable and credible.  The dispute settlement system can and should better support the WTO’s negotiating and monitoring functions, the US said, adding that it looked forward to further discussions with members on these important issues.

“Around 20 delegations (including the EU for its 27 members and Nigeria for the African Group) took the floor to reiterate the importance of the WTO’s two-tiered dispute settlement system to the stability and predictability of the multilateral trading system.  Several cited this issue as the top priority for reform of the organization and said the continued impasse was causing both commercial harm to members and systemic harm to multilateral trade.

“For the 123 members, Mexico again came back to say the fact a member may have concerns about certain aspects of the functioning of the Appellate Body cannot serve as pretext to impair and disrupt the work of the DSB and dispute settlement in general, and that there was no legal justification for the current blocking of the selection processes, which is causing concrete nullification and impairment of rights for many members.

“The DSB chair, Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, noted the previous General Council chair has been working on the issue of restoring a fully functioning dispute settlement system within the context of preparations for the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference. She said she hoped members would be able to find a solution to this matter.”

I have reviewed in many prior posts the longstanding and well articulated concerns of the United States, concerns which have largely not been addressed in the process to date. See, e.g., February 14, 2020: USTR’s Report on the WTO Appellate Body – An Impressive Critique of the Appellate Body’s Deviation from Its Proper Role, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2020/02/14/ustrs-report-on-the-wto-appellate-body-an-impressive-critique-of-the-appellate-bodys-deviation-from-its-proper-role/

I have also in recent posts looked at individual disputes where the U.S. was the respondent and reviewed problems with the decisions. See, e.g., February 9, 2022:  The WTO Panel Report, UNITED STATES – SAFEGUARD MEASURE ON IMPORTS OF LARGE RESIDENTIAL WASHERS, WT/DS546/R (8 February 2022), https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/09/the-wto-panel-report-united-states-safeguard-measure-on-imports-of-large-residential-washers-wt-ds546-r-8-february-2022/; January 27, 2022:  WTO Arbitration Report on China’s challenge to U.S. countervailing duty investigations — while retaliation is much smaller than China sought, core problems with original Appellate Body decision flags challenge to restoring the Dispute Settlement binding process, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/01/27/wto-arbitration-report-on-chinas-challenge-to-u-s-countervailing-duty-investigations-while-retaliation-is-much-smaller-than-china-sought-core-problems-with-original-appellate-body-decision-flag/; December 29, 2021:  WTO Dispute Settlement — What the Recently Adopted Panel Report on United States – Antidumping and Countervailing Duties on Ripe Olives from Spain says about the existing dispute settlement system and about needed WTO reforms, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/12/29/wto-dispute-settlement-what-the-recently-adopted-panel-report-on-united-states-antidumping-and-countervailing-duties-on-ripe-olives-from-spain-says-about-the-existing-dispute-settlement-system-an/.

Thus, it is unlikely that the twice delayed 12th Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva June 13-15 this year will resolve the impasse on the Appellate Body. While it is possible that a process may be agreed to to examine the root problems and formulate possible solutions as part of the WTO reform agenda, even that may be optimistic in the current environment.

Existing disputes continue to proceed, with various resolutions possible in cases even among countries who have not signed up to the Agreement on the Interim Arbitration Process, although two dozen panel reports have been “appealed” but cannot be heard until/unless an Appellate Body is reconsituted. Such appeals have been taken by a number of Members including by Members who are parties to the interim process (e.g., EU on a panel report of a challenge to a trade remedy proceeding against the Russian Federation). See, e.g., WTO Dispute Settlement, Appellate Body, https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/appellate_body_e.htm (listing 24 cases where appeals are pending).

This Friday (April 8, 2022) , there is a Dispute Settlement Body meeting to consider a joint request by the Republic of Korea and the United States in the dispute involving UNITED STATES – SAFEGUARD MEASURE ON IMPORTS OF LARGE RESIDENTIAL WASHERS that would have the DSB adopt a decision that the panel report is adopted unless an appeal is filed by July 7, 2022 (essentially extending the time to appeal the panel report presumably to give the parties more time to consider a mutually acceptable resolution). WT/DS546/8 (29 March 2022).

So whether there is a resolution to the Appellate Body impasse or not, WTO Members have ongoing options to address trade concerns including through Committee work, bilateral interactions and disputes through the WTO or through FTAs.

.

Food security challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia are important exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. See, e.g., WTO Trade Profiles 2021 at 376 (Ukraine top three agricultural expoers were sunflower-seed, or cotton oil ($5.32 billion), corn ($4.885 billion) and wheat and meslin ($3.594 billion)) and 298 (Russian Federation, top two agricultural exports were wheat and meslin ($6.403 billion), sunflower seed or cotton oil ($2.206 billion). Ukraine’s exports in 2022 are certain to be disrupted by the Russian war in the country which is harming infrastructure, the ability of farmers to plant crops, increasing input costs and maritime costs. Effects on Russian exports are less clear but could be affected as well.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released an updated evaluation of risks on food security both for Ukrainians and for the world from the ongoing conflict last week (March 25), See FAO, Information Note, The importance of Ukraine and the Russian Federation for global agricultural markets and the risks associated with the current conflict, 25 March 2022 Update, https://www.fao.org/3/cb9236en/cb9236en.pdf. The Executive Summary (pages 1-4) is copied below.

“Executive Summary

“1. Market structure, trade profiles and recent price trends

“1.1 Market shares

“• The Russian Federation and Ukraine are among the most important producers of agricultural commodities in the world. Both countries are net exporters of agricultural products, and they both play leading supply roles in global markets of foodstuffs and fertilisers, where exportable supplies are often concentrated in a handful of countries. This concentration could expose these markets to increased vulnerability to shocks and volatility.

“• In 2021, either the Russian Federation or Ukraine (or both) ranked amongst the top three global exporters of wheat, maize, rapeseed, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, while the Russian Federation also stood as the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second leading supplier of potassium fertilizers and the third largest exporter of phosphorous fertilizers.

“1.2 Trade profiles

“• Many countries that are highly dependent on imported foodstuffs and fertilizers, including numerous that fall into the Least Developed Country (LDC) and Low-Income Food-Deficit Country (LIFDC) groups, rely on Ukrainian and Russian food supplies to meet their consumption needs. Many of these countries, already prior to the conflict, had been grappling with the negative effects of high international food and fertilizer prices.

“Risk analysis: Assessing the risks emanating from the conflict

“2.1 Trade risks

“• In Ukraine, the escalation of the conflict raises concerns on whether crops will be harvested and products exported. The war has already led to port closures, the suspension of oilseed crushing operations and the introduction of export licensing requirements for some products. All of these could take a toll on the country’s exports of grains and vegetable oils in the months ahead. Much uncertainty also surrounds Russian export prospects, given sales difficulties that may arise as a result of economic sanctions imposed on the country.

“2.2 Price risks

“• FAO’s simulations gauging the potential impacts of a sudden and steep reduction in grain and sunflower seed exports by the two countries indicate that these shortfalls might only be partially compensated by alternative sources during the 2022/23 marketing season. The capacity of many exporting countries to boost output and shipments may be limited by high production and input costs. Worryingly, the resulting global supply gap could raise international food and feed prices by 8 to 22 percent above their already elevated baseline levels.

“• If the conflict keeps crude oil prices at high levels and prolongs the two countries’ reduced global export participation beyond the 2022/23 season, a considerable supply gap would remain in global grain and sunflowerseed markets, even as alternative producing countries expand their output in response to the higher output prices. This would keep international prices elevated well above baseline levels.

“2.3 Logistical risks

“• In Ukraine, there are also concerns that the conflict may result in damages to inland transport infrastructure and seaports, as well as storage and processing infrastructure. This is all the more so given the limited capacity of alternatives, such as rail transport for seaports or smaller processing facilities for modern oilseeds crushing facilities, to compensate for their lack of operation.

“• More generally, apprehensions also exist regarding increasing insurance premia for vessels destined to berth in the Black Sea region, as these could exacerbate the already elevated costs of maritime transportation, compounding further the effects on the final costs of internationally sourced food paid by importers.

“2.4 Production risks

“• Although early production prospects for 2022/23 winter crops were favourable in both Ukraine and the
Russian Federation, in Ukraine, the conflict may prevent farmers from attending to their fields and harvesting and marketing their crops, while disruptions to essential public services could also negatively affect agricultural activities.

“• Current indications are that, as a result of the conflict, between 20 and 30 percent of areas sown to winter crops in Ukraine will remain unharvested during the 2022/23 season, with the yields of these crops also likely to be adversely affected. Furthermore, considerable uncertainties surround Ukrainian farmers’ capacity to plant crops during the fast approaching spring crop cycle.

“• The conflict is also likely to affect the ability of Ukraine to control its animal disease burden, significantly increasing the risk of proliferation of animal diseases, notably of African swine fever (ASF), within Ukraine and in neighbouring countries.

“• In the case of the Russian Federation, although no major disruption to crops already in the ground appears imminent, uncertainties exist over the impact that the international sanctions imposed on the country will have on food exports. Any loss of export markets could depress farmer incomes, thereby negatively affecting future planting decisions.

“• Economic sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation could also disrupt its imports of agricultural inputs, notably pesticides and seeds, on which the country is highly dependent. This could result in less plantings, lower yields and lower qualities, exposing the Russian agricultural sector and global food supplies, at large, to non-negligible risks.

“2.5 Humanitarian risks

“• The conflict is set to increase humanitarian needs in Ukraine, while deepening those of millions of people that prior to its escalation were already displaced or requiring assistance due to the more than eight-year conflict in the eastern part of the country. By directly constraining agricultural production, limiting economic activity and raising prices, the conflict will further undercut the purchasing power of local populations, with consequent increases in food insecurity and malnutrition.

“• Humanitarian needs in neighbouring countries, where displaced populations are seeking refuge, are also set to increase substantially.

“• Globally, if the conflict results in a sudden and prolonged reduction in food exports by Ukraine and the Russian Federation, it will exert additional upward pressure on international food commodity prices to the detriment of economically vulnerable countries, in particular. FAO’s simulations suggest that under such a scenario, the global number of undernourished people could increase by 8 to 13 million people in 2022/23, with the most pronounced increases taking place in Asia-Pacific, followed by sub-Saharan Africa, and the Near East and North Africa. If the war lasts, impacts will go well beyond 2022/23.

“2.6 Energy risks

“• The Russian Federation is a key player in the global energy market. As a highly energy-intensive industry, especially in developed regions, agriculture will inevitably be affected by the sharp increase in energy prices that has accompanied the conflict.

“• Agriculture absorbs high amounts of energy directly, through the use of fuel, gas and electricity, and indirectly, through the use of agri-chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides and lubricants.

“• With prices of fertilizers and other energy-intensive products rising as a consequence of the conflict, overall input prices are expected to experience a considerable boost. The higher prices of these inputs will first translate into higher production costs and eventually into higher food prices. They could also lead to lower input use levels, depressing yields and harvests in the 2022/23 season, thus giving further upside risk to the state of global food security in the coming years.

“• Higher energy prices also make agricultural feedstocks (especially maize, sugar and oilseeds/vegetable oils) competitive for the production of bio-energy and, given the large size of the energy market relative to the food market, this could pull food prices up to their energy parity equivalents.

“2.7 Exchange rate, debt, and growth risks

“• The Ukrainian hryvnia reached a record low against the United States dollar (USD) in early March 2022, with likely repercussions for Ukrainian agriculture, including a boost to its export competitiveness and curbs on its ability to import.

“• Although their extent remains unclear at this stage, conflict-induced damages to Ukraine’s productive capacity and infrastructure are expected to entail very high recovery and reconstruction costs.

“• The economic sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation have also led to a significant depreciation of the Russian rouble. Although this should make Russian exports of agricultural commodities more affordable, a lasting rouble depreciation would negatively affect investment and productivity growth prospects in the country.

“• Weakening economic activity and a depreciated rouble are also expected to have serious effects on countries in Central Asia through the reduction of remittance flows, as for many of these countries remittances constitute a significant part of gross domestic product (GDP)

“• The current conflict may also have global spillovers. While its impact on the global economy remains uncertain at this stage and will depend on several factors, the most vulnerable countries and populations are expected to be hit hard by slower economic growth and increased inflation, at a time when the world is still attempting to recover from the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“• Agriculture is the backbone of the economies of many developing countries, the majority of which rely on the United States dollar for their borrowing needs. As such, a lasting appreciation of the USD vis-à-vis other currencies may have negative significant economic consequences for these countries, including for their agrifood sectors. Moreover, the potential reduction of GDP growth in several parts of the world will affect global demand for agrifood products with negative consequences for global food security. Lower GDP growth will also likely reduce the availability of funds for development, especially if global military expenses increase.

“Policy recommendations

“• In order to prevent or limit the conflict’s detrimental impacts on the food and agricultural sectors of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, every effort should be made to keep international trade in food and fertilizers open to meet domestic and global demand. Supply chains should be kept fully operational, including by protecting standing crops, livestock, food processing infrastructure, and all logistical systems.

“• In order to absorb conflict-induced shocks and remain resilient, countries that depend on food imports from Ukraine and the Russian Federation will need to find alternative export suppliers for their food needs. They should also rely on existing food stocks and enhance the diversity of their domestic production bases.

“• The food security impacts of the conflict on vulnerable groups necessitate timely monitoring and well-targeted social protection interventions to alleviate the hardship caused by the conflict and to foster a fast recovery from it. To assist the internally displaced people, refugees and groups directly affected by the conflict, the reach of Ukraine’s national social protection system should be expanded by registering additional population groups within the Unified Social Information System.

“• In countries hosting refugees, access to existing social protection systems and job opportunities should also be eased by lifting legal access barriers and, where needed, by increasing the capacity of host countries’ social protection systems to absorb additional caseloads.

“• Countries affected by potential disruptions ensuing from the conflict must carefully weigh measures they put in place against their potentially detrimental effect on international markets including over the longer term. Particularly, export restrictions must be avoided. They exacerbate price volatility, limit the buffer capacity of the global market, and have negative impacts over the medium term.

“• The spread of African swine fever (ASF) and other animal diseases must be contained by improving biosecurity and good husbandry practices at all geographical levels, by taking steps to facilitate early detection, timely reporting and rapid disease containment, and by implementing measures that support virus detection, such as surveillance schemes and targeted sampling of animals.

“• Market transparency and policy dialogue should be strengthened, as they play key roles when agricultural commodity markets are under uncertainty and disruptions need to be minimised to ensure that international markets continue to function properly and that trade in food and agricultural products flows smoothly.”

Figure 15 of the paper (page 10) identifies countries largely dependent on Ukraine and Russia for wheat.

The FAO also released a separate paper on the food security challenges for the people of Ukraine on March 25, 2022. See FAO, Note on the impact of the war on food security in Ukraine, 25 March 2022, https://www.fao.org/3/cb9171en/cb9171en.pdf.

The FAO’s latest Food Price Index (released March 4, 2022, shows agricultural products already at all time highs. See FAO, The FAO Food Price Index rises to a new all-time high in February, Release date: 04/03/2022, https://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/foodpricesindex/en/#:~:text=Release%20date%3A%2004%2F03%2F,February%202011%20by%203.1%20points.

As reviewed in a prior post, countries imposing sanctions on Russia, including the G-7 and the EU, are working to minimize the food security issues. March 26, 2022:  Blockage of Accession of Belarus to WTO, additional sanctions on Russia and other recent developments, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/26/blockage-of-accession-of-belarus-to-wto-additional-sanctions-on-russia-and-other-recent-developments/ (“The G-7 Leaders’ Statement on March 24, 2022 outlined their efforts to address the potential food security issues caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. See G-7 Leaders’ Statement, March 24, 2022, paragraphs 17 and 18,  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/24/g7-leaders-statement/#:~:text=We%2C%20the%20Leaders%20of%20the,against%20independent%20and%20sovereign%20Ukraine. ’17. More immediately, President Putin’s war places global food security under increased pressure. We recall that the implementation of our sanctions against Russia takes into account the need to avoid impact on global agricultural trade. We remain determined to monitor the situation closely and do what is necessary to prevent and respond to the evolving global food security crisis. We will make coherent use of all instruments and funding mechanisms to address food security, and build resilience in the agriculture sector in line with climate and environment goals. We will address potential agricultural production and trade disruptions, in particular in vulnerable countries. We commit to provide a sustainable food supply in Ukraine and support continued Ukrainian production efforts. 18. We will work with and step up our collective contribution to relevant international institutions including the World Food Programme (WFP), in parallel with Multilateral Development Banks and International Financial Institutions, to provide support to countries with acute food insecurity. We call for an extraordinary session of the Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to address the consequences on world food security and agriculture arising from the Russian aggression against Ukraine. We call on all participants of the Agriculture Markets Information System (AMIS) to continue to share information and explore options to keep prices under control, including making stocks available, in particular to the WFP. We will avoid export bans and other trade-restrictive measures, maintain open and transparent markets, and call on others to do likewise, consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, including WTO notification requirements.’”).

The issue is taking center stage at the WTO as reviewed in a recent press notice from the WTO on the Director-General’s comments at an informal meeting of the General Council. See WTO news release, DG Okonjo-Iweala: “This is not the time to retreat inward,” 28 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/dgno_28mar22_e.htm. Some of the news release is copied below.

“’For dozens of poor countries and tens of millions of people, basic food security is in danger,” she warned. “These countries already have been some of the slowest economic recoveries from the pandemic, and international cooperation on trade is necessary to help mitigate risks of poverty, hunger, even famine and social unrest.’

“The Director-General noted that the UN Secretary-General has set up a three-tiered steering committee involving heads of government, heads of international organizations and technical experts to deal with the issue of surging energy and food prices. 

“The WTO is also expected to play a key role in finding solutions to the food crisis, the Director-General noted. The chair of the WTO’s agriculture negotiations, Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica, is planning a food security conference that will take place at the end of April.  WTO Secretariat staff have also been carrying out analysis on food security issues which will be shared with members shortly.

“’We at the WTO have a solid basis on which to consider workable solutions to the present crisis,” the DG declared.

“In the near-term, international cooperation on trade will be needed to minimize the impact of supply crunches for key commodities where prices are already high by historical standards and to keep markets functioning smoothly, the Director-General said. While only 12 members have imposed export restrictions on food to date, coordinated government action is needed to avoid a repeat of the cascading export restrictions that exacerbated the rise of food prices in the crisis of 2008-2010.

“In addition, countries with buffer stocks that can afford to share could coordinate the release of wheat, barley, other cereals and grains and oils into international markets, thereby alleviating the supply squeeze.  Countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and France could increase wheat cultivation while others such as China, Germany, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Nigeria could increase global supply of fertilizer. Africa, with plentiful land and other resources, can also take steps to produce more food itself by using more adaptable varieties of wheat, maize and other crops.

“Trade facilitation measures could also be brought into play to ease the free flow of goods, while efforts should be made to allow the UN’s World Food Programme full access to humanitarian purchases. Prompt notification and information sharing regarding food supplies and stockpiles can help the international community better manage the situation and keep markets functioning more smoothly.”

WTO Members have a poor track record of not retreating from sharing core commodities during periods of shortages, which actions result in increased price volatility and significant harm to food importing nations. The transparency exercise as part of the COVID-19 pandemic on actions on both medical goods and agricultural products has improved the ability to understand actions being taken. But to date, Members continue to take actions to restrict exports when internal food security concerns arise.

I have written with former colleagues a number of papers in the past looking at the food security problems during earlier periods in the last fifteen years and the risks of social unrest that arise for many countries when core commodities become unaffordable. They are imbedded below.

GDP

1-Stewar-Manaker

2-2015-Global-Hunger-and-the-WTO-how-the-International-Trade-Rules-Address-Food-Security

Let’s hope that the focus of the G-7, EU and agricultural exporting countries and the attention being given to the issue at the WTO will result in a minimization of increased food insecurity to people around the world in the coming months.

Blockage of Accession of Belarus to WTO, additional sanctions on Russia and other recent developments

Extensive trade and financial sanctions have been imposed by the G-7 countries and EU and others on Russia and Belarus for Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. The U.S., EU, United Kingdom, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others have imposed a series of actions. In meetings of the G-7, NATO and U.S.-EU this week, joint action to continue to pressure Russia and Belarus to cease hostilities in Ukraine was reviewed.

At the WTO, a number of Members notified the General Council that accession negotiations with Belarus would not continue. Belarus was described as “unfit” to be a Member. JOINT STATEMENT REGARDING THE APPLICATION FROM BELARUS FOR ACCESSION TO THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION, COMMUNICATION FROM ALBANIA; AUSTRALIA; CANADA; EUROPEAN UNION; ICELAND; JAPAN; REPUBLIC OF KOREA; MONTENEGRO; NEW ZEALAND; NORTH MACEDONIA; NORWAY; UKRAINE; UNITED KINGDOM AND UNITED STATES, 24 March 2022, WT/GC/246. The joint statement is embedded below.

246-1

While, as the joint statement notes, there has been no progress in the accession talks since 2000 based on events within Belarus, the joint statement makes clear that Belarus will not become a member of the WTO, certainly not in the foreseeable future.

The actions of Russia with the support from Belarus in invading Ukraine have led to a massive backlash and effort to remove or limit the role of Russia (and Belarus) in the global economy and in multilateral organizations. In previous posts, I have reviewed efforts by various countries to remove most favored nation treatment on Russia and Belarus. March 20, 2022:  Banned imports, higher tariffs, other actions by trading partners as Russia and Belarus lose most favored nation treatment by G-7 countries and EU during the conflict in Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/20/banned-imports-higher-tariffs-other-actions-by-trading-partners-as-russia-and-belarus-lose-most-faovered-nation-treatment-by-g-7-countries-and-eu-during-the-conflict-in-ukraine/. The G-7 and EU have limited access to funding for Russia from the IMF, World Bank and other institutions, are attempting to limit Russia’s role in the WTO. Additional sanctions were announced this week in Brussels. See FACT SHEET: United States and Allies and Partners Impose Additional Costs on Russia, March 24, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/24/fact-sheet-united-states-and-allies-and-partners-impose-additional-costs-on-russia/.

“Today’s actions include:

“Full blocking sanctions on more than 400 individuals and entities, including the Duma and its members,
additional Russian elites, and Russian defense companies that fuel Putin’s war machine.

“This includes:

“328 Duma members and sanctioning the Duma as an entity.

“Herman Gref, the head of Russia’s largest financial institution Sberbank and a Putin advisor since the 1990s.

“Russian elite Gennady Timchenko, his companies and his family members.

“17 board members of Russian financial institution Sovcombank.

“48 Large Russian defense state-owned enterprises that are part of Russia’s defense-industrial base and produce weapons that have been used in Russia’s assault against Ukraine’s people, infrastructure, and territory, including Russian Helicopters, Tactical Missiles Corporation, High Precision Systems, NPK Tekhmash OAO, Kronshtadt. We are targeting, and will continue to target, the suppliers of Russia’s war effort and, in turn, their supply chain.

“Establishment of an initiative focused on sanctions evasions.

“G7 leaders and the European Union today announced an initiative to share information about and coordinate responses related to evasive measures intended to undercut the effectiveness and impact of our joint sanctions actions. Together, we will not allow sanctions evasion or backfilling. As part of this effort, we will also engage other governments on adopting sanctions similar to those already imposed by the G7 and other partners.

“Continuing to blunt the Central Bank’s ability to deploy international reserves, including gold, to prop up the Russian economy and fund Putin’s brutal war.

“G7 leaders and the European Union will continue to work jointly to blunt Russia’s ability to deploy its international reserves to prop up Russia’s economy and fund Putin’s war, including by making clear that any transaction involving gold related to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation is covered by existing sanctions.”

This week President Biden noted the U.S. preference to have Russia removed from the G-20, although press accounts indicate such a move even if backed by the G-7 would be blocked by China and possibly others. See, e.g., Reuters, Russia’s G20 membership under fire from U.S., Western allies, March 22, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/poland-pushes-call-russia-be-excluded-g20-2022-03-22/; Reuters, Russia’s Putin gets Chinese backing to stay in G20, March 23, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russias-ambassador-indonesia-says-putin-plans-attend-g20-summit-2022-03-23/. If Russia is not excluded, it is unclear if G-7 Members and others might opt not to attend any G-20 meetings during the pendency of the war.

At the WTO, the joint statement to the General Council on the need of Members to take actions in light of the threats posed by Russia was followed by a response from Russia. The two documents are embedded below.

244

245

The two largest economic challenges from the war in Ukraine is escalating energy prices and food security flowing from the large percentage of global wheat shipments coming from Ukraine and Russia. While the U.S. and Canada have banned imports of oil and/or gas from Russia in recent weeks, that option is not immediately available to the EU countries. See March 9, 2022:  U.S. joins Canada in banning imports of Russian oil and gas; EU announces plan to drastically reduce reliance on Russian gas; United Kingdom will phase out imports of oil and gas from Russia by end of 2022; Australian oil companies stop purchasing Russian oil, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/09/u-s-joins-canada-in-banning-imports-of-russian-oil-and-gas-eu-announces-plan-to-drastically-reduce-reliance-on-russian-gas-united-kingdom-will-phase-out-imports-of-oil-and-gas-from-russia-by-end-of/ (“The European Commission announced a proposed ambitious program to diversify gas supplies and expand renewables to achieve a potential two-thirds reduction in dependence on Russian oil and gas by the end of 2022 for the European Union. The program, RePowerEU, was announced on March 8th and contains a number of documents.”).

The U.S. and the EU reached agreement on joint efforts to help reduce EU dependence on Russia energy which include U.S. commitments to export to the EU (or get third countries to export to the EU) a quantity of liquified natural gas equal to the LNG purchased from Russia in 2021 (15 BCM) and to ramp up exports to the EU of LNG in the coming years to 50 BCM. See Joint Statement between the United States and the European Commission on European Energy Security, March 25, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/25/joint-statement-between-the-united-states-and-the-european-commission-on-european-energy-security/; FACT SHEET: United States and European Commission Announce Task Force to Reduce Europe’s Dependence on Russian Fossil Fuels, March 25, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/25/fact-sheet-united-states-and-european-commission-announce-task-force-to-reduce-europes-dependence-on-russian-fossil-fuels/.

Because of the dependence of many countries on imports of grains from Ukraine and Russia, the war in Ukraine poses significant food security issues. The WTO’s Director-General has recently noted the potential for social unrest from food insecurity. See The Guardian, War in Ukraine could lead to food riots in poor countries, warns WTO boss, March 24, 2022. (“In an interview with the Guardian, the WTO director general expressed concern about the knock-on effects of Russia’s invasion – stressing the dependence of many African countries on food supplies from the Black Sea region.”).

The G-7 Leaders’ Statement on March 24, 2022 outlined their efforts to address the potential food security issues caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. See G-7 Leaders’ Statement, March 24, 2022, paragraphs 17 and 18, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/24/g7-leaders-statement/#:~:text=We%2C%20the%20Leaders%20of%20the,against%20independent%20and%20sovereign%20Ukraine.

“17. More immediately, President Putin’s war places global food security under increased pressure. We recall that the implementation of our sanctions against Russia takes into account the need to avoid impact on global agricultural trade. We remain determined to monitor the situation closely and do what is necessary to prevent and respond to the evolving global food security crisis. We will make coherent use of all instruments and funding mechanisms to address food security, and build resilience in the agriculture sector in line with climate and environment goals. We will address potential agricultural production and trade disruptions, in particular in vulnerable countries. We commit to provide a sustainable food supply in Ukraine and support continued Ukrainian production efforts.

“18. We will work with and step up our collective contribution to relevant international institutions including the World Food Programme (WFP), in parallel with Multilateral Development Banks and International Financial Institutions, to provide support to countries with acute food insecurity. We call for an extraordinary session of the Council of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to address the consequences on world food security and agriculture arising from the Russian aggression against Ukraine. We call on all participants of the Agriculture Markets Information System (AMIS) to continue to share information and explore options to keep prices under control, including making stocks available, in particular to the WFP. We will avoid export bans and other trade-restrictive measures, maintain open and transparent markets, and call on others to do likewise, consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, including WTO notification requirements.”

It is clear that food security in the coming months will be an important focus within the WTO Committee on Agriculture. See WTO news release, Agriculture negotiators chart path towards MC12, 21 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/agng_21mar22_e.htm (“Several members highlighted the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on the negotiation process as well as the resulting threats to food security. Some members also highlighted the importance of transparency, called for food markets to be kept open, and urged members to refrain from imposing export restrictions. Delegations acknowledged the unprecedented challenges to global food security and stressed the need to deliver a comprehensive outcome on agriculture at MC12 that would place food security at the forefront. Many reiterated their clear support for a multilateral decision as soon as possible to waive food purchases by the World Food Programme (WFP) from any export restriction.”).

Comments

The war in Ukraine is leading to an isolation of the Russian Federation and Belarus and a rethinking of the global economic integration of the last thirty years. How large the retreat from global economic integration turns out to be will depend on various factors including the duration of the war, the extent to which some countries aid the Russian war effort and hence lead to a larger group of sanctioned countries, and the basic incompatibility of state-controlled/directed economies with the current global trading system architecture. The changes in supply chains, trade flows and investment decisions that have been made in the last month will have profound effects on global commerce going forward.

Short term, because of the disruption in grain production and shipments from Ukraine, there is an immediate challenge to food security which if not addressed effectively can have debilitating effects including societal upheaval in a number of developing countries as was seen in 2008-2009.

The WTO has an obvious role to play on the food security issue. Time will tell how many Members contribute to a meaningful solution on food security.

Banned imports, higher tariffs, other actions by trading partners as Russia and Belarus lose most favored nation treatment by G-7 countries and EU during the conflict in Ukraine

In prior posts, I reviewed the joint statement by G-7 countries on their intention to suspend most favored nation treatment on Russia and stop the accession process into the WTO for Belarus in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as well as actions to ban imports of petroleum and coal products and other economic sanctions. See, e.g., March 13, 2022:  Additional trade and other sanctions imposed by G-7 and EU countries on Russia and Belarus on March 11, 2022, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/13/additional-trade-and-other-sanctions-imposed-by-g-7-and-eu-countries-on-russia-and-belarus-on-march-11-2022/; March 9, 2022:  U.S. joins Canada in banning imports of Russian oil and gas; EU announces plan to drastically reduce reliance on Russian gas; United Kingdom will phase out imports of oil and gas from Russia by end of 2022; Australian oil companies stop purchasing Russian oil; https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/09/u-s-joins-canada-in-banning-imports-of-russian-oil-and-gas-eu-announces-plan-to-drastically-reduce-reliance-on-russian-gas-united-kingdom-will-phase-out-imports-of-oil-and-gas-from-russia-by-end-of/.

Press accounts review Japan suspending most favored nation treatment as part of the G-7 effort last week. Kyodo News, Japan to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status over Ukraine, March 16, 2022, https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2022/03/2f6fbf6da2af-update1-japan-to-revoke-russias-most-favored-nation-status-over-ukraine.html.

Canada, a G-7 member, took action first, both banning imports of oil and applying 35% tariffs to other imports from Russia and Belarus. Government of Canada, Canada cuts Russia and Belarus from Most-Favoured-Nation Tariff treatment, March 3, 2022, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2022/03/canada-cuts-russia-and-belarus-from-most-favoured-nation-tariff-treatment.html (“Today, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, announced that the Government of Canada has issued the Most-Favoured-Nation Tariff Withdrawal Order (2022-1), removing these countries’ entitlement to the Most-Favoured-Nation Tariff (MFN) treatment under the Customs Tariff.  This Order results in the application of the General Tariff for goods imported into Canada that originate from Russia or Belarus. Under the General Tariff, a tariff rate of 35 per cent will now be applicable on virtually all of these imports. Russia and Belarus will join North Korea as the only countries whose imports are subject to the General Tariff.”); Government of Canada, Government of Canada Moves to Prohibit Import of Russian Oil, February 28, 2022, https://www.canada.ca/en/natural-resources-canada/news/2022/02/government-of-canada-moves-to-prohibit-import-of-russian-oil.html

The United Kingdom has also taken action on revoking MFN treatment of Russian goods. UK Government Press Release, UK announces new economic sanctions against Russia and Belarus, 15 March 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-announces-new-economic-sanctions-against-russia (“UK to deny Russia and Belarus access to Most Favoured Nation tariff for hundreds of their exports, depriving both nations key benefits of WTO membership. UK government publishes initial list of goods worth £900 million – including vodka – which will now face additional 35 percent tariff, on top of current tariffs.”).

In the European Union, action has been announced denying most favored nation status to Russia. European Commission, Statement by President von der Leyen on the fourth package of restrictive measures against Russia, 11 March 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_22_1724 (” First, we will deny Russia the status of most-favoured-nation in our markets. This will revoke important benefits that Russia enjoys as a WTO member. Russian companies will no longer receive privileged treatment in our economies.” “Fifth, very importantly, we will prohibit the import of key goods in the iron and steel sector from the Russian Federation.”). The fourth package of restrictive measures are contained in regulations and decisions included in L81I of volume 65 of the European Union Official Journal, March 15, 2022, Fifth, very importantly, we will prohibit the import of key goods in the iron and steel sector from the Russian Federation.”). The European Commission provided the following question and answer about denying Russia MFN treatment.

“What are the consequences of denying Russia most-favoured-nation (MFN) status?

“Removal of MFN status means suspending the benefits that come from being a WTO Member, more specifically the benefit of not being discriminated against by other Members. For example, MFN treatment guarantees that a Member will not be subject to higher tariffs than other Members, or to import bans that do not apply to other Members. Suspension of MFN treatment means that the Member concerned – in this case Russia – may be subject to higher tariffs and import bans.

“The EU has decided to act not through an increase on import tariffs, but through set of sanctions that comprise bans on the imports or exports of goods, as this is much quicker and more effective than preparing a completely new tariff schedule from scratch.

“In practice, the EU has already removed a number of trade benefits that Russia previously enjoyed through the imposition of sanctions. Additionally, the EU has restricted the provision of SWIFT financial services to certain Russian banks, which constitutes a disapplication of MFN vis-à-vis Russia under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Today’s sanctions remove further trade benefits from Russia.”

European Commission, Question and Answers: fourth package of restrictive measures against Russia, 15 March 2022, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/QANDA_22_1776.

In the United States, the President through executive order has restricted exports of luxury goods and many other items to Russia and Belarus and banned imports of oil, gas, coal and a number of other products reviewed in earlier posts. March 13, 2022:  Additional trade and other sanctions imposed by G-7 and EU countries on Russia and Belarus on March 11, 2022, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/13/additional-trade-and-other-sanctions-imposed-by-g-7-and-eu-countries-on-russia-and-belarus-on-march-11-2022/; March 9, 2022:  U.S. joins Canada in banning imports of Russian oil and gas; EU announces plan to drastically reduce reliance on Russian gas; United Kingdom will phase out imports of oil and gas from Russia by end of 2022; Australian oil companies stop purchasing Russian oil. https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/03/09/u-s-joins-canada-in-banning-imports-of-russian-oil-and-gas-eu-announces-plan-to-drastically-reduce-reliance-on-russian-gas-united-kingdom-will-phase-out-imports-of-oil-and-gas-from-russia-by-end-of/; February 28, 2022:  Trade sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/28/trade-sanctions-following-russias-invasion-of-ukraine/.

Such actions constitute treating Russia and Belarus differently (though Belarus is not a WTO Member and hence not entitled to MFN treatment by reason of WTO membership). To formally remove most favored nation treatment from Russia in the U.S., Congress must act. On Thursday, March 17, 2022, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would, inter alia, deny MFN treatment to Russia and Belarus and encourage USTR to take other actions at the WTO to block forward movement on Belarus’ accession to the WTO and urge other WTO Members to similarly deny MFN treatment to Russia. H.R. 7108 is embedded below.

House-bill-to-strip-PNTR-from-Russia-passed-House-on-3-17-2022

The United States tariff schedule has two columns of rates. Column 1 is the most favored nation rate. Column 2 is the other rate, often considerably higher. The House bill would have all imports from Russia and Belarus subject to the Column 2 rate. Moreover, the bill gives the President the authority to raise rates on products from those two countries above the Column 2 rate. The vast majority of imports from Russia are oil and gas products ($17.4 billion of $29.7 bill total imports in 2021) which already banned by Executive Order. Other products (worth about $1.5 billion) have also been banned by Executive order. Of the remaining imports the following fourteen 4-digit HS categories accounted for $8.14 billion of the imports from Russia in 2021

HS7110 PLATINUM  $ 2,449,856,890

HS7201 PIG IRON AND SPIEGELEISEN IN PIGS, BLOCKS OR OTHER PRIMARY FORMS  $1,157,617,274

HS7207 SEMIFINISHED PRODUCTS OF IRON OR NONALLOY STEEL  $886,744,073

HS3102 MINERAL OR CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS, NITROGENOUS  $723,784,769

HS2844 RADIOACTIVE CHEMICAL ELEMENTS AND ISOTOPES AND THEIR COMPOUNDS  $669,931,951

HS7601 ALUMINUM, UNWROUGHT  $423,969,585

HS7202 FERROALLOYS  $419,659,133

HS3104 MINERAL OR CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS, POTASSIC  $366,158,625

HS4412 PLYWOOD, VENEERED PANELS AND SIMILAR LAMINATED WOOD  $345,745,434

HS9306 BOMBS, GRENADES, TORPEDOES, ETC., AMMO  $173,633,545

HS7106 SILVER (INCLUDING SILVER PLATED WITH GOLD OR PLATINUM)  $144,208,220

HS8412 ENGINES AND MOTORS NESOI, AND PARTS THEREOF  $133,429,434

HS8108 TITANIUM AND ARTICLES THEREOF, INCLUDING WASTE AND SCRAP  $130,833,908

HS4002 SYNTHETIC RUBBER AND FATICE IN PRIMARY FORMS, ETC.  $114,129,678  

For three of the 14 categories, the column 2 rate is duty free just like the column 1 rate — HS7110, HS3102, HS 3104. For three others, column 2 rates range free to 45% (HS2844, HS8108) or 65% (HS7106. The other 8 categories had column 2 rates that were all above free and generally substantially higher than column 1 rates.

HS 7201, column 2 rates rom 2.5% to $1.10/ton

HS7207, 20%

HS7601, 10.5-25%

HS7202, 6.5-35%; up to 6.6cents/kg.

HS4412, 40-50%

HS 9306, 30-45%

HS8412, 27.5-35%

HS4002, 20%.

When the legislation becomes law (likely by end of March), the higher column 2 rates will apply to all imports from Russia and Belarus not banned from entry. For those categories that would remain duty free under column 2, President Biden will have the authority to raise rates (actually he will have the authority to raise rates on any products from the two countries).

While the trade actions outlined above are but one part of a much broader set of sanctions imposed by many trading partners, they add to the breadth of sanctions being imposed in light of the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the complicity of Belarus. The sanctions will remain in place and will likely continue to be increased until Ukraine’s sovereignty is respected, Russian troops (and various mercenaries brought in by Russia) withdrawn and a freely elected Ukrainian government either remains in place or is elected.

Possible Compromise on Access to Vaccines — draft understanding between EU, US, South Africa and India

Press articles and a release from the World Trade Organization indicate that the small group negotiations between the European Union, United States, India and South Africa have reached a compromise on the India-South Africa proposal for a broad waiver of TRIPS requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic and the European Union’s proposal for a different solution that wouldn’t constitute a waiver. See PoliticoPro, SCOOP: There’s a TRIPS waiver compromise. It’s been reached between EU, SA, India & US and currently only covers vaccines, March 15, 2022, https://twitter.com/ashleighfurlong/status/1503799100214583300; Inside U.S. Trade’s World Trade Online, USTR: High-level TRIPS waiver talks yield compromise; text not yet agreed to, March 15, 2022,https://insidetrade.com/daily-news/ustr-high-level-trips-waiver-talks-yield-compromise-text-not-yet-agreed; Inside U.S. Trade’s World Trade Online, Okonjo-Iweala hails TRIPS compromise as industry remains opposed, March 16, 2022, https://insidetrade.com/daily-news/okonjo-iweala-hails-trips-compromise-industry-remains-opposed; Washington Trade Daily, Details of TRIPS Waiver Compromise, March 17, 2022, https://files.constantcontact.com/ef5f8ffe501/abdf1d95-8d5b-4bb6-87e9-9ad73bcae287.pdf.

The agreement, which still requires final agreement on text by the small group and then consideration and acceptance by the full WTO Membership, is a staged one, applying first to vaccines and six months later (if subsequently agreed) to diagnostics and therapeutics. The agreement would apply to developing countries other than those who exported 10% or more of vaccines in 2021. Based on the WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker, the only developing country with 10% or more of global exports in 2021 was China. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/covid19_e/vaccine_trade_tracker_e.htm.

By picking exports in 2021 as the test for eligibility for developing countries, India remains eligible for the proposed compromise simply because the country, one of the world’s largest vaccine producers and a country that had contracts to export huge quantities to many of the world’s poorest countries in 2021, closed off exports for much of 2021 because of internal needs.

Press reports have indicated that some other countries, like Brazil, are not eligible. If true, this would flow from something other than export volume (e.g., indication that it would not seek special and differential treatment going forward) as Brazil had a negligible share of global exports of COVID vaccines in 2021.

The WTO’s Director-General released a press statement on March 16 which is copied below. See WTO news release, Director-General Okonjo-Iweala hails breakthrough on TRIPS COVID-19 solution, 16 March 2022, https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news22_e/dgno_16mar22_e.htm

“World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala today warmly welcomed the breakthrough among four WTO Members on a waiver of the Trade Related Intellectual Property agreement for the production of vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“’This is a major step forward and this compromise is the result of many long and difficult hours of negotiations. But we are not there yet. We have more work to do to ensure that we have the support of the entire WTO Membership,’ the Director-General said.

“While the agreement between the European Union, India, South Africa and the United States is an essential element to any final deal, she cautioned that not all the details of the compromise have been ironed out and that internal domestic consultations within the four members are still ongoing. Moreover, she stressed that work must commence immediately to broaden the discussions to include all 164 members of the WTO.

“’In the WTO we decide by consensus, and this has not yet been achieved. My team and I have been working hard for the past three months and we are ready to roll up our sleeves again to work together with the TRIPS Council Chair Ambassador Lansana Gberie (Sierra Leone) to bring about a full agreement as quickly as possible. We are grateful to the four Members for the difficult work they have undertaken so far,’ said Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.”

Neither the EU nor the U.S. have released statements which is consistent with the apparent state of play of the negotiations in the small group. One of the parties or one of those private parties being consulted by WTO Members presumably has leaked the text which is available on Stats News. See Stat News, Ed Silverman, A compromise is reached on an intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, but does it go far enough?, March 15, 2022, https://www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2022/03/15/covid19-vaccine-patents-wto/. The two page document is embedded below.

TRIPS-COVID-19-solution-document

Proponents and opponents of a TRIPS waiver responded quickly as reflected in press releases and other articles. See, e.g., KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGY INTERNATIONAL, QUAD’s tentative agreement on TRIPS and COVID 19, March 15, 2022, https://www.keionline.org/37544; In These Times, New “Compromise” on an IP Waiver for Covid Vaccines Is Worse Than No Deal, Activists Say, March 16, 2022, https://inthesetimes.com/article/wto-trips-waiver-intellectual-property-biden-vaccines-diagnostics-treatments; Devex, Devex Check Up: At last, a TRIPS waiver compromise. But who’s happy?, March 17, 2022, https://www.devex.com/news/devex-checkup-at-last-a-trips-waiver-compromise-but-who-s-happy-102844; InfoJustice, STATEMENT ON THE LEAKED COVID-19 TRIPS WAIVERPROPOSAL, Posted by
Sean Flynn, Mar 16, 2022, http://infojustice.org/archives/43947; Relief Web, MSF responds to potential compromise on the ‘TRIPS Waiver’, 16 March 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/msf-responds-potential-compromise-trips-waiver; U.S., Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Opposes Proposal at WTO to Waive Intellectual Property Rights , March 16, 2022, https://www.uschamber.com/intellectual-property/u-s-chamber-of-commerce-opposes-proposal-at-wto-to-waive-intellectual-property-rights; , International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, IFPMA statement on TRIPS discussion document, 16 March 2022, https://www.ifpma.org/resource-centre/statement-ifpma-trips-discussion-document/.

The proponents of a waiver are basically unhappy with the compromise which is not a waiver but rather a modification to requirements under TRIPS Art. 31. They are also unhappy with the fact that only vaccines are covered initially and the fact that the draft agreement deals with patents only versus the broader array of intellectual property rights. The statement from Doctors Without Borders reflects the types of concerns from those wanting a broader agreement and is copied below.

“MSF responds to potential compromise on the ‘TRIPS Waiver’

“Compromise neglects COVID-19 treatments and diagnostics and fails to address intellectual property barriers beyond patents, but there’s still time to get it right

“Geneva, 16 March 2022

“– The European Union, India, South Africa and the United States are working on a possible compromise to address intellectual property (IP)barriers on COVID-19 medical products. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) acknowledges the efforts towards a final resolution, but notes that the text that was leaked today is far from being an IP ‘waiver’ for pandemic medical tools.

“MSF urges all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to be aware of the limitations of the leaked text. WTO members should work together to ensure that any agreement tackles the current barriers to accessing all COVID-19 medical tools, including treatments and diagnostics, and also addresses patents and non-patent barriers in an effective way.

“According to MSF’s initial analysis, key limitations of the leaked text include that it covers only vaccines, is geographically limited, and covers only patents and does not address other intellectual property barriers, such as trade secrets, which may cover critical information needed to facilitate manufacturing. Regarding compulsory licensing for patents on COVID-19 vaccines, the leaked text introduces unnecessary reporting requirements for WTO members that could undermine the effectiveness of the mechanism.

“The leaked text appears to leave the door open for possible inclusion of treatments and diagnostics at a later stage. But delaying the decision on treatments is unacceptable, as many people will have no access to generic antivirals and countries are paying high prices for access to lifesaving treatments like baricitinib due topatent monopolies that block more affordable generic versions.

“The leaked text also fails to cover all countries. It limits ‘eligible members’ to developing countries and only those who exported less than 10 percent of the world’sCOVID-19 vaccine exports in 2021, effectively excluding Brazil and China from being able to use the ‘waiver’.

“The proposed compromise would require authorisation by governments on a product-by-product basis, which was one of the shortcomings of the existing mechanism in a pandemic context and makes its use very cumbersome. There is also a new obligation to identify all patents covered by the authorisation, something not required today under WTO trade rules.

“MSF points again to our position underlining the necessary scope and duration of an effective TRIPS Waiver for COVID-19.

Dimitri Eynikel, EU Policy Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign:

“‘While it is good to see the groundwork for a potential compromise on addressing COVID-19 intellectual property barriers, all WTO members should remain vigilant to the fact that this leaked text contains considerable limitations, and needs to be urgently improved.

“It is incredibly concerning that the leaked text currently only covers vaccines, but neither treatments nor diagnostics. Excluding treatments and diagnostics is acritical weakness, especially as access to COVID-19 treatments remains a significant problem in many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Latin America, in part because of patent barriers and restrictive licensing deals controlled by pharmaceutical corporations. Excluding countries with significant manufacturing and supply capacity like Brazil is highly problematic as it arbitrarily blocks potential critical avenues to increase access to COVID-19 medical tools for low- and middle-income countries.

“‘The world needs effective solutions to the inequities in access for all COVID-19 medical tools witnessed in this pandemic. The good news is there is still room for governments to improve and make sure that any final agreement adequately addresses the remaining barriers now missing in the leaked text. We urge all WTO members to do so.’”

The pharmaceutical industry’s concerns basically follow their longstanding position that with the rapid increase in vaccine production in 2021 and ongoing in 2022, there is no need for the agreement and it sends the wrong message to innovators. The statement from the IPFMA is copied below.

Following reports on the status of informal discussions led by the WTO Secretariat with the European Union (EU), India, South Africa, and the USA, on 16 March 2022, biopharmaceutical companies reaffirm their position that weakening patents now when it is widely acknowledged that there are no longer supply constraints of COVID-19 vaccines, sends the wrong signal. 

“2022 kicked off with COVID-19 vaccine production from both developing and developed country manufacturers reaching 12 billion within a year of the first vaccine being authorized. Today industry is able to produce over a billion vaccine each month. COVAX is now fully meeting its commitments. Since the beginning of 2022, there has been broad consensus that the challenge now is how to get the vaccines into the arms of people who need them, rather than vaccine supply. When the IP TRIPS Waiver was first proposed in 2020, it was to the wrong solution to the problem of scaling up manufacturing of potential COVID-19 vaccines which at the time had not yet even been authorized. Now the problem of supply has been addressed thanks to unprecedented collaboration involving companies from industrialized and developing countries, the TRIPS Waiver is not only the wrong solution, it is also an outdated proposal, that has been overtaken by events.

“Weakening intellectual property (IP) will do nothing to help the scaling up of vaccine manufacturing. There is a broad consensus among experts that waiving patents would not add a single additional vaccine dose, because technology transfer goes far beyond the patent, is built on trust, know-how sharing and voluntary licensing. This is exactly what manufacturers have done on an unprecedented scale. As of now, there are 371 collaborations on vaccines manufacturing and 155 for therapeutics and, in addition, the multiple announcements of partnerships to improve geographical diversity of vaccine production, are proof in themselves that the proposed IP TRIPS waiver is unnecessary and irrelevant, at worst sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.

“The IP TRIPS Waiver proposals should be recognized for what they are – political posturing that are at best a distraction, at worse creating uncertainty that can undermine innovation’s ability to respond to the current and future response to pandemics. The current proposals should be shelved; and the focus should be directed, to admittedly more difficult actions that will change lives for the better: supporting country readiness, contributing to equitable distribution, and driving innovation (Ref Three priorities to urgently increase access to COVID-19 vaccines).”

Comments

Over the last eighteen months, I have posted regularly on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Indian and South African proposal for a broad TRIPS waiver. Following the recent European Union – African Union meeting in Brussels, it was clear that the EU was committed to finding a mutually agreeable solution with the countries of Africa in the coming months. Thus, the announcement of a breakthrough in the small group negotiations is not surprising. See February 21, 2022:  The EU – AU Summit and the promise of a resolution to the WTO pandemic response package, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/21/the-eu-au-summit-and-the-promise-of-a-resolution-to-the-wto-pandemic-response-package/.

Data gathered and published by various multilateral organizations confirm the enormous ramp up in both vaccine capacity and production. And there has been significant movement in increasing production of vaccines in more developing countries, including a number in Africa. See, e.g., February 16, 2022:  Building Vaccine Capacity in Africa – Exciting News from BioNTech, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2022/02/16/building-vaccine-capacity-in-africa-exciting-news-from-biontech/.

Articles also confirm that the challenge in low-income countries is now not access to vaccines but rather all of the other requirements to achieve much higher vaccination rates (including better access to testing). See, e.g., WHO, WHO Director-General’s remarks atSession 2 – Potential Opportunities for Innovation and Collaboration, 3 March 2022, https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-remarks-at-session-2-potential-opportunities-for-innovation-and-collaboration-covid-19-dialogue-with-ministers-of-health-3-march-2022.

Thus, it is hard for me to find merit in the ongoing claims for a need for a broad TRIPS waiver or even the draft agreement at least as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic and equitable access to vaccines. WTO relevance requires addressing either current pressing issues or those that will continue to be present in the future. The draft agreement may meet the need for some compromise between Members like the EU and India, South Africa and other supporters of the waiver. However, the agreement doesn’t appear to serve a useful purpose by addressing current challenges (e.g., testing) or addressing a road forward for future pandemics.