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GENEVA – Following the AGC’s successful delivery of the final Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) statement and the significant results of the APEC meetings held in Boracay last May 2015, Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos, Jr., convened the third Heads of Delegation (HoD) meeting of the APEC Geneva Caucus (AGC) on 23 September 2015 at the Centre William Rappard.

With Permanent Representatives and Geneva-based officers of the 21 APEC Economies present at the meeting, Ambassador Conejos reiterated the AGC’s main objective of drafting and endorsing the statements on supporting the multilateral trading system (MTS) for the APEC 2015 Ministerial Meeting and the APEC 2015 Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November.

Ambassador Conejos also recapitulated that despite some outstanding issues, which were eventually resolved in Boracay, Ministers adopted the Caucus’ 11 May draft text of the MRT statement which mentioned the 20th anniversary of the WTO; centrality and primacy of the multilateral trading system; anti-protectionism; full implementation of the Bali package, including the post-Bali work program, TFA, and public stockholding; meaningful MC10 outcomes; the 5th Global Review of Aid for Trade, and the importance of SMEs; and  the complementary role of FTAs. He added that at the 3rd Senior Officials Meeting (SOM3) recently held in Cebu, the MRT Statement was likewise discussed, and members were encouraged to ratify the TFA, and for the involved parties to conclude the ITA-II negotiations.

Given that APEC has persistently provided the political push needed to help the WTO overcome its difficulties, and has consistently and strongly supported the work of the WTO through high-level statements and a complementary agenda, Ambassador Conejos proposed that ‘To reinforce its central role in international trade and global economic cooperation, the WTO needs to urgently deliver meaningful outcomes at MC10. As in previous occasions, APEC will provide the necessary political impetus to achieve these outcomes.’ be the theme for the AELM and AMM statements. This theme was warmly welcomed by the Permanent Representatives who subsequently took the floor.

The Philippines will host several HOD and technical-level meetings in October to discuss the draft statement. The Geneva-based Permanent Representatives agreed that the statement must reflect the reality in WTO negotiations, as well as depend on crucial developments that will unfold in the next few weeks. END.

GENEVA – Following its first meeting on 17 February 2015, as well as three succeeding technical-level meetings to draft the statement supporting the multilateral trading system for the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting in Boracay in May 2015, Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos, Jr., convened the second Heads of Delegation (HoD) meeting of the APEC Geneva Caucus (AGC) on 11 May 2015 at the Centre William Rappard.

PR on Call on DG 17 Feb1

GENEVA - Key officials of the Philippines met with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevêdo yesterday to discuss the Philippine chairmanship of APEC 2015 and possible synergies with the work of the WTO this year.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura Q. del Rosario, the APEC 2015 SOM Chair, together with Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos, Jr., Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Ambassador Cecilia B. Rebong, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, called on the Director General after meeting with the APEC Geneva Caucus earlier in the day.

During the call, Undersecretary del Rosario conveyed to the Director General that APEC will continue its full support for the multilateral trading system during the Philippine chairmanship. She noted that APEC and the Philippines will continue to cooperate and communicate with the WTO in order to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes at the APEC 2015 Leaders Week in Manila in November and the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December. She also informally conveyed the invitation of President Benigno S. Aquino III, through a subsequent formal letter from Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, for the Director General to visit Manila and participate in the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in Boracay in May.

Director General Azevêdo conveyed that APEC could play a significant role in raising awareness and ensuring the immediate ratification by APEC members of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. He thanked the Philippines for its crucial involvement in the Agriculture outcomes of the Bali Package, and expressed appreciation for the "extremely helpful" role of Ambassador Conejos as chairman of the Preparatory Committee in Trade Facilitation. He urged members to be "creative and open-minded" on the WTO's work this year, including the formulation of a post-Bali Doha Development Agenda work program. He noted that the WTO will continue communicating with the Philippines as developments take shape in the coming months. He looked forward to participating in the MRT meeting in Boracay in May.

Before ending, Ambassador Rebong, Ambassador Conejos and Undersecretary del Rosario painted a vivid picture for Director General Azevêdo of Boracay, the "island paradise with fine powder-white sand and clear blue waters". END

PR-on-AGC-17-Feb-2015

GENEVA – As the Philippines takes over the chairmanship of the APEC Geneva Caucus (AGC) in 2015, following China’s successful chairmanship, Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Esteban B. Conejos, Jr., convened its first meeting on 17 February 2015 at the Centre William Rappard.

In attendance were Permanent Representatives and other Geneva-based officers of the 21 APEC member economies, who lauded the presentations of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for International Economic Relations and APEC 2015 SOM Chair, Laura Q. Del Rosario, and Ambassador Conejos, Jr. as chairman of the AGC, respectively. They also expressed their praises for the APEC Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM), which was held in Manila on 08-09 December 2014 and the APEC First Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM 1) in Clark on 26 January to 7 February 2015 – echoing their APEC Senior Officials who attended these meetings.

Undersecretary Del Rosario presented an overview of APEC 2015, themed “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World, and made significant linkages between APEC and the work of the WTO, saying that “the multilateral trading system is the heart of APEC.”

AGC Members acknowledged the importance of inclusive growth, and the work being done by APEC in this respect. They also noted the crucial role of APEC in a host of issues, including food security, SME development, and counter-terrorism.

Ambassador Conejos, in his presentation, reiterated the main objectives of the AGC, which are to: draft and endorse the statement on supporting the multilateral trading system for the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting in Boracay on 23-24 May 2015; as well as draft and endorse the statement on supporting the multilateral trading system for the APEC 2015 Ministerial Meeting and the APEC 2015 Economic Leaders’ Meeting in November 2015.

He noted that the statements will highlight that the WTO is 'back on track', and that the WTO needs to deliver concrete outcomes this year. Particular attention will be placed on the ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the formulation of a post-Bali work program, and a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes.

Ambassador Conejos’ proposals were well received by the Caucus, and Permanent Representatives who took the floor stressed the significance of this year to the WTO, as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the WTO and the tenth (10th) Ministerial Conference (MC10) will take place on 15-18 December 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya. END.

DSC 8586
(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)


GENEVA
- "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.

PHOTO CREDIT : http://www.apec.org/Press/Photos.aspx