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(L-R: Deputy Director General (DDG) David Sharke, DDG Yi Xiaozhun, General Council Chairman Jonathan Fried,
Director General Roberto Azevêdo, Philippine Permanent Representative Esteban B. Conejos, Jr.,
PCTF Secretary Nora Neufeld, Chef de Cabinet Tim Yeend)

- "The WTO is back on track," said Director General Roberto Azevêdo, thanks in large part to the constructive engagement of all WTO Members, including the Philippines, and the efforts of Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos, Jr. as Chairman of the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation (PCTF).

Decisions related to public stockholding for food security purposes, the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the post-Bali work were adopted during the General Council meeting of the World Trade Organization on 27 November 2014, breaking the months-long impasse in multilateral trade negotiations. The impasse was related to the political link between two of the Bali decisions - the decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, and the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The General Council meeting took place immediately after the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation meeting, chaired by Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos, Jr., where the members unanimously adopted the Protocol Amending the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, for endorsement to the General Council.

“On behalf of the General Council, I would like to sincerely thank Ambassador Conejos for his leadership, his tireless efforts over the past few months and his perseverance,” said the Chairman of the General Council, Jonathan Fried.

All members who took the floor, such as the United States, the European Union, Japan, India, Turkey, China, Korea, Brazil and the coordinators of various negotiating groups, all expressed their gratitude for Ambassador Conejos' work in the Preparatory Committee and conveyed their renewed commitment to the multilateral trading system.

After more than nine years of negotiations, WTO members finally reached consensus on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, as part of a wider "Bali Package." The final agreement contains provisions for faster and more efficient customs procedures through effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues.

It may be recalled that Ambassador Conejos was unanimously elected by WTO members as chairperson of the Preparatory Committee on Trade Facilitation during its first meeting on 31 January 2014. The role of the committee is to ensure the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, prepare for its efficient operation, conduct its legal review, and receive notifications of members' commitments. It also officially amends the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO by inserting the new Trade Facilitation Agreement in Annex 1A. The adoption of the Protocol of Amendment also officially operationalizes the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility, which was launched in July 2014. Many donor members and other organizations have shown support for the Facility, which aims to ensure that least-developed countries and developing countries get the help they need to reap the full benefits of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The above-mentioned General Council decisions will pave the way for the possible conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda, where the Philippines stands to gain from possible trading preferences and flexibilities being proposed by like-minded developing economies.

In particular, the Philippines' benefits from the General Council decisions on public stockholding for food security purposes, the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the post-Bali work respectively include:

        • Enabling the Philippines to continue with its food security, livelihood security and rural development programs to address the needs of millions of Filipino farmers and consumers;

        • Faster and more efficient handling of shipments, as well as less burdensome processes and requirements at the border that would benefit SMEs and contribute to further export and GDP growth, considering that the Philippines is the fastest-growing economy in ASEAN, and that the Agreement is foreseen to contribute USD 400 Million to 1 Billion to the global economy; and

        • The reaffirmation of the primacy of Doha and development-oriented priorities for the WTO's future work.