WTO General Council: UK statement

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Item 5 – MC12

Thank you, Chair. The UK would like to join others in thanking Kazakhstan for its continued willingness to host the next Ministerial Conference. While the United Kingdom is willing to be flexible on the date and venue regarding MC12, we believe our collective priority should be to agree the dates as quickly as possible, so that Members can focus on the substance of negotiations. Some Members here today have suggested pushing the date back to December, and we could support that.

When we have agreed a date, we should turn our attention to building in milestones on the way to MC12 where decisions could be taken to facilitate an ambitious conference. The UK looks forward to working with all WTO Members in order to achieve this.

Thank you, Chair.

Item 6 – Work Programme on Electronic Commerce

Thank you Chair, and my thanks to the Goods, Services, and TRIPS Council chairs, for their updates.

On the moratorium on imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions, the United Kingdom is a strong supporter. The moratorium is the WTO’s most significant contribution to digital trade, and we believe it should be made permanent.

As we have heard today, members continue to hold a wide range of views on the impact, and desirability, of the moratorium. The Work Programme on E-Commerce has a continuing and important role to play, in providing members with a forum in which to air those different opinions, as well as offering the opportunity to better understand the viewpoints of others.
It is already clear that e-commerce has played an essential role during this pandemic, in keeping commerce flowing and saving jobs. Digital trade – along with the capacities, policies, and infrastructure that support it – also offers one of the brightest opportunities, to revive international trade and prosperity, as we seek to build back better after this global crisis.

This is another reason why the UK believes the success of the JSI on e-commerce is so important, for developing and developed members alike. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Chair. The United Kingdom strongly supports this initiative, and we warmly thank its proponents and the Ottawa Group for their leadership on this issue.

Keeping trade moving, particularly trade in critical health goods, is one of the most important ways in which the global trading system, and the WTO, can meaningfully respond to this pandemic, and to show to our citizens that we are helping.

Firstly, Chair, let me address Tariffs. We very much agree, that the removal of tariffs is an essential step, to reduce costs and increase trade in the most essential goods for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. We strongly support the Ottawa Group’s call, within the proposal presented today, for such tariffs to be removed.

The UK’s new MFN tariffs enter into force on 1 January, following our departure from the European Union’s Customs Union. As one of the world’s top five importers and exporters of medical goods, we have therefore looked carefully at how we could use this moment, to help lead the way in terms of putting this proposal into practice.

So I’m delighted to be able to announce that, from 1 January next year, almost all pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, and most medical devices, including ventilators, will enter the UK tariff free. That includes gloves, protective equipment, thermometers and other COVID-critical products. We will also suspend all tariffs on all the products on the WHO’s list of COVID-19 critical goods. These suspensions will be for 12 months duration, and subject to ongoing reviews.

Now, Chair, let me turn to Export Restrictions. The UK also strongly supports the disciplines on export restrictions in this Communication. We have today published a list of all of our export restrictions on our central government website. This makes clear the approach we will take to limiting our restrictions, and underlines that we will be applying all the measures, in this proposal, in a fully transparent way. Finally, we look forward to working with all of you here to implement this proposal, and we hope that others will join us in cutting their tariffs to support it. The role that trade can and must play in combatting this pandemic, and helping the world build back better, will also be a central priority for our G7 Presidency next year.

Thank you, Chair.

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