Peter Ungphakorn Profile picture
Mainly trade stuff (you have been warned). WTO Secretariat 1996-2015. Back (occasionally) in journalism. Usual disclaimers on RT etc. Member:
LittleGravitas 🇺🇦 🌻 🇪🇺 💙 #FBPE Profile picture Fionna O'LEARY  Profile picture Hugh Sainsbury #FBPE Profile picture Jeffrey Rubinoff Profile picture Birger Leth Profile picture 8 added to My Authors
May 10 7 tweets 3 min read
Today’s WTO General Council meeting largely reflected exchanges in the May 6 intellectual property (TRIPS) council, with a couple of points firmed up.

One, said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell, is that most WTO members accepted the compromise as a text that can be negotiated.

1/6 TRIPS Council chair Amb. Lansana Gberie (Sierra Leone) said: "It is the only product that we have. It’s the only game in town.” No one disagreed according to Rockwell.

So for the first time members will negotiate a text, and it will be this one.

May 6 13 tweets 5 min read
WTO members were largely non-committal today in their first reaction to the proposed compromise text on intellectual property and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most said they needed more time to study it, although some indicated some concerns

The text:…

1/12 None of the “Quad”—EU, India, South Africa, US—wholeheartedly endorsed it even though the text emerged from consultations among them, with the help of WTO director-general @NOIweala and her deputy @_AnabelG

Their common line was they hoped it could lead to agreement.

May 6 5 tweets 3 min read
(I missed this last week. H/T @BobWolfeSPS)

TRANSPARENCY PROPOSAL for WTO General Council or Ministerial Conference.

The 9th revision of the proposal makes one major change, which improves its chances of being accepted.

Gone are proposed penalties.

1/5… This is about transparency in what governments do under the WTO trade agreements.

It’s a major role of the WTO, achieved by members notifying each other (and the world at large) through the WTO. That allows understanding, scrutiny and feedback.

May 5 10 tweets 5 min read
Some thoughts on the Jun 12-15 slimline WTO Ministerial Conference #DietMC12

The biggest challenge: persuading ministers it’s worth travelling to Geneva in the first place

What does “slimline” entail?

• Most decisions taken before the meeting—ministers just endorse them

1/10 • Those decisions will be more technical (eg extending duty-free e-commerce) than political.

• Big political decisions are unlikely before or during the conference anyway (agriculture, even fisheries subsidies, reforming dispute settlement)

May 4 10 tweets 6 min read
Last week’s (Apr 27) informal meeting in the WTO agriculture negotiations.

No sign of a deal.

Chair @GloriaAbrahamP’s report on the state of play, with an eye on the WTO Ministerial Conference in June (MC12), usefully released as a public document:

1/10… Image Topic by topic

Domestic support—high priority, need for balance, avoiding support causing concentration of supply. But no prospect of agreement by June, so settling for a “general work programme might be feasible”

2/10… Image
Apr 29 5 tweets 2 min read
A WTO legal dispute panel has found that the EU🇪🇺 violated WTO rules when it imposed “safeguard” tariffs in steel imports from Turkey🇹🇷.

It also dismissed a number of other claims by Turkey and declined to consider some others.

But that’s not all.

1/5… By allowing the panel’s findings to be circulated, 🇪🇺 and 🇹🇷 won’t appeal—so the findings will be adopted by the WTO membership.

That’s what the two have agreed bilaterally on appealing by arbitration when the WTO Appellate Body cannot function.

Apr 28 10 tweets 5 min read
The latest development in an interesting case, procedurally.

The use of arbitration (under Art25 of WTO dispute settlement rules, DSU) is a way double checking an initial panel ruling when proper appeal is not possible.

I'm not a lawyer but this is how I understand it 🧵

1/9 Full details of the case DS583 from 2019⬇️

In it, the EU🇪🇺 complains that Turkey’s🇹🇷 measures on pharmaceuticals⚕️ discriminate against foreign products or producers through eg, localisation & banning imports that compete with localised products.

Apr 25 4 tweets 2 min read
Geographical indications are now increasingly applied to products that are not food or drink.

Carpets are a typical case, here, from Kashmir.

What this news story doesn’t say is whether the protection for Kashmiri Carpets in India also applies in Germany.

1/4 The answer is almost certainly “no”. The EU is only starting to set up protection for names of non-food/non-drink products.

Has India registered this as a trademark in the EU/Germany? The story doesn’t say.

Otherwise copies could be sold in Germany.

Apr 21 5 tweets 3 min read
Yesterday the Japanese parliament passed a law withdrawing non-discrimination (MFN) from trade with Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Apparently it’s a political statement confirming Japan’s participation in the G7 (&EU) move in March.

H/T @Kurako76

1/3… In practice Japan had already suspended MFN by blocking exports of dual-use technology products, luxury and other goods in March ➡️…

The Japan Times (Mar16): “there is no set outcome on what happens” after MFN has been revoked…

Apr 18 6 tweets 4 min read
Trade is dreadfully dull and boring.

But if there’s one issue that can be guaranteed get trade geeks shouting names at each other it’s geographical indications—names like “champagne” and “feta”

@insidetrade broke the news last week that the EU is planning a major overhaul

1/6 There’s a 77-page document, which is indeed dreadfully dull and boring➡️…

But there’s also a statement saying the EU wants to expand the protection from names of food and drink, to things that are not food and drink.

Apr 9 5 tweets 3 min read
Yesterday, US President Biden signed into law two bills (now acts) imposing sanctions on Russia and Belarus.

• H.R. 7108 removes Russia & Belarus from “normal trading relations” (non-discrimination, or MFN in the WTO), allowing them to be targeted.

1/4… Removing NTR/MFN is significant *under US law*, not in the WTO

Removing normal trading relations shifts US import duties from standard rates to higher rates in “column 2”

The new law also allows the president to raise tariffs above “column 2” rates

Apr 4 8 tweets 6 min read

Today, Britain's first post-Brexit notification to the WTO on domestic agricultural support has been circulated (for 2021).

It include "zero" for trade-distorting support (aka AMS or "Amber Box") with an entitlement of almost £5bn

1/8… Trade-distorting domestic support is not counted if it is below the "de minimis" threshold of 5% of the value of production.

The UK figures really are zero for butter (except £10,000 for "private storage aid"), skimmed milk powder and wheat.

Mar 25 6 tweets 2 min read
Another WTO meeting, another exchange of accusations about the invasion of Ukraine, followed by business (almost) as usual.

This time it was sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS, food safety, animal/plant health) Mar 24-25.

1/6… According to Geneva sources, Ukraine's statement included the question: how can it ensure standards are observed when its cities are almost wiped off the face of the earth.

🇦🇺🇨🇦🇪🇺🇯🇵🇰🇷🇳🇿🇳🇴🇵🇾🇬🇧🇺🇸 (name the flag) backed Ukraine

Russia said politics was not part of WTO work

Mar 17 7 tweets 4 min read
Some initial thoughts on the compromise text produced by India, the EU, South Africa and the US, allowing most developing countries to suspend some patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

In this ⬇️: Broad implications (pandemic, WTO), and specifics

1/5… The text itself is here⬇️. It’s still unofficial, still has to be considered, approved and possibly amended by the WTO’s full membership. Any decision will be by consensus.

We still speak of the #TRIPSwaiver, but it's now a “decision”, not a waiver.

Mar 15 4 tweets 2 min read
If confirmed, a major breakthrough.

We need to see the details, whether the Commission can persuade EU member states, and how the rest of the WTO react.

It's only vaccines, only for developing countries that exported <10 % of world COVID-19 exports in 2021.

Details in the 🧵 That's COVID-19 vaccines exports, of course
Mar 15 8 tweets 4 min read
Some observations

1. Suspending equal treatment (MFN) does not in itself raise trade barriers. Unlike in the US where tariffs automatically go to another list, this allows the EU to set new tariffs or other measures. That has to happen too.

1/2 2. In practice some trade measures taken against Russia already violate MFN. So this is a gesture.

3. Note security exceptions plural. So services and intellectual property too.

4. WTO members cannot unilaterally suspend Belarus's accession. But they can block it.

Mar 7 7 tweets 5 min read
.@ThiruGeneva has the agenda for this week’s meeting of the WTO intellectual property (IP, TRIPS) Council, Wednesday and Thursday.

The meeting starts with important (but deadly dull) transparency on countries’ IP laws.

Expect some fun and games for Russia’s notification

1/5 Includes 3 items on IP and COVID-19

3—actions taken
12—the waiver (India-South Africa proposal)
13—a draft declaration (EU proposal)

(Links follow)

Also four age-old items which surely have not moved in at least a decade: items 4, 5, 6 and 7

Feb 26 12 tweets 6 min read
My simplistic tweet from late last night needs elaborating. “Right” is a bit strong

It was a response to news that some US politicians want to act against 🇷🇺 by withdrawing WTO rights and even expelling it over the invasion of 🇺🇦

For example …

🧵1/13 For example this ⬇️

Permanent normal trading relations (PNTR) is the US’s (more accurate) term for “most-favoured-nation” (MFN) treatment—non-discrimination between trading partners. The most important principle in WTO rules.

Feb 24 4 tweets 2 min read
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was raised on Day 2 of the WTO General Council today

A number of countries prefaced their statements under various agenda items by expressing concern about violation of sovereignty, territoriality and the rule of law

1/4 WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said they included Australia, Canada, Colombia, EU, Georgia, Japan, Rep. Korea, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, UK, US

Russia said the WTO was not the place to discuss this

Feb 22 10 tweets 4 min read
A formal meeting of the WTO intellectual property (TRIPS) council this afternoon heard reports from an attempt by four members (EU, India, SAfrica, US) to break the deadlock over waiving the obligation to protect some intellectual property for COVID-19 (the #TRIPSwaiver)

1/10 WTO deputy head @_AnabelG who is coordinating (with DG @NOIweala) with the group of 4 said the talks have been difficult but she hoped a compromise could be possible.

One approach explored is to separate vaccines from diagnostics and therapeutics. (Why? Explained in 9/10)

Feb 22 7 tweets 2 min read
Proposed rescheduled in-person WTO Ministerial Conference—June 2–4 or week of June 13, Geneva.

General Council chair Dacio Castillo the earliest feasible dates taking account of availability of Swiss security and other facilities.

1/6… Based on what he heard informally today, Castillo will consult members and report to the formal General Council tomorrow & Thursday.

Most delegations preferred the week of Jun 13, some preferred Jun 2–4, but most said they were flexible, according to a Geneva trade official