General Council Elected New Chair


The General Council, on 14 February 2012, elected Ambassador Elin Johansen (Norway) as chairperson for 2012.
Ambassador Elin Johansen (Norway) is elected as chairperson of the General Council for 2012 (WTO)
The outgoing chair, Ambassador Yonov Frederick Agah (Nigeria), informed members that consensus had not been achieved on the slate of names for the appointment of officers to WTO bodies. The General Council agreed that the new chair should continue consultations, and that it would reconvene as soon as possible to continue its consideration of this matter.
Director-General Pascal Lamy and many delegations paid tribute to the leadership of Ambassador Agah during the past year. They especially commended his efforts leading to the success of the Eighth Ministerial Conference held last December.
The General Council adopted the two waiver decisions: “Cuba — Article XV:6 — Extension of the waiver”, and “European Union — Additional autonomous trade preferences granted by the EU to Pakistan”. Pakistan expressed gratitude to members and the EU in particular for the decision.
The Chairman of the Dedicated Session of the Committee on Trade and Development, Ambassador Anthony Mothae Maruping (Lesotho), recalled the Decision on the Work Programme on Small Economies adopted at the Eighth Ministerial Conference,  and said that the focus of that programme for this year would be the identification of non-tariff measures and their effect on small economies. Barbados, speaking on behalf of the small vulnerable economies (SVEs), said that non-tariff measures were an important area for further examination in the WTO, and particularly critical for small vulnerable economies whose exports could be permanently impaired by non-tariff measures. 
The outgoing General Council chair reported on his consultations on a proposal by the Arab Group on improving the guidelines for granting observer status to intergovernmental organizations in the WTO. He urged continued engagement of members to address this issue.
The Director-General reported on the implementation of the recommendations for savings and more efficient use of resources made by the Budget Committee and adopted by the General Council at its November 2011 meeting. He referred to measures taken on documentation and to save on translation costs, including moving from detailed minutes of meetings to summary records. He sought members’ co-operation in devising better notification formats and in developing more efficient notification processes. Another important element in this cost-saving exercise was to improve the scheduling and management of meetings.

Czech Republic offers CZK 500,000 to WTO training programme for developing countries


The Czech Republic on January 25 has donated CZK 500,000 (about US$26,306) to the WTO Global Trust Fund.

This donation will finance technical assistance programmes and training activities for developing and least developed countries with the aim of enhancing their ability to participate effectively in the WTO negotiations and ensure they fully benefit from the results achieved during these negotiations.
“I welcome this new donation which demonstrates the Czech Republic continuous commitment to help developing countries fully benefit from the multilateral trading system” declared WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.
The Czech Republic Ambassador Kateřina Sequensová stated that “this donation is a concrete demonstration of the Czech Republic’s continuous support to developing countries in better understanding the WTO rules, with the aim of expanding their trading activities and making trade a tool for growth, development and poverty reduction”.

Netherlands offers US$5.06 million to training for least-developed countries


The Netherlands on February 6 has donated EUR 3.9 million (approximately equal to US$5.06 million) to the Netherlands Trainee Programme (NTP) for the period 2012-2015.

Launched in March 2005, The Netherlands Trainee Programme aims at providing junior public officials from least-developed countries, the opportunity to learn about trade related issues and to develop their knowledge of trade policy, while working for the WTO. After up to 10 months of WTO internship, the trainees go back to their ministries and contribute to the strengthening of their countries’ institutional capacity. Particular attention is given to African countries.
“I welcome this new donation which demonstrates The Netherlands continuous commitment to help developing countries fully benefit from the multilateral trading system” declared WTO Director General Pascal Lamy.
The Dutch Minister for Development and Cooperation, Ben Knapen, stated that “The Netherlands has decided to renew and further enhance the arrangement governing its Trainee Program. This donation is a concrete demonstration of The Netherlands continuous support to developing and least developed countries in better understanding the WTO rules, with the aim of expanding their trading activities and making trade work as a tool for growth, development and poverty reduction”.

Christine Lagarde to Visit Nigeria and Niger on First Trip to Africa


International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde will visit Nigeria and Niger from December 18–22, 2011, on her first trip to Africa since her appointment earlier this year. Ms. Lagarde will hear from policymakers, the African private sector, and civil society about the challenges facing African countries and underline the IMF’s commitment to further reinforce the IMF’s partnership with Sub-Saharan Africa. 
“I am very much looking forward to my first visit to Africa as Managing Director of the IMF. Africa is a vital part of the IMF’s membership, and listening to the voices of the region, and strengthening our partnership, is one of my key objectives,” Ms. Lagarde said ahead of her trip. “African economies have made significant progress over the last few years. However, the world economy is in a critical phase, and in these difficult times, we have to make sure we all work together to tackle the challenges facing all IMF member countries, in Africa and around the globe.”
In Abuja, Ms. Lagarde will hold a series of meetings with the leadership of Nigeria, including President Goodluck Jonathan and Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In Lagos, she will take part in a round-table discussion on “Africa’s Future: Responding to Today’s Global Economic Challenges”, alongside the private sector, academia, civil society organizations and research institutes.
In Niger, Ms. Lagarde will meet with President Mahamadou Issoufou and take part in a cabinet meeting focused on “The Challenges of Economic Development in Niger”. She will also address the National Assembly, and meet with representatives of the financial institutions and the private sector.

TOWARDS FULL COMPLIANCE OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS


Every 10th of December, the whole world celebrates the Human Rights Day to remember the importance of the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled: equality, dignity, life, liberty, security, justice, education, health, freedom of speech, political participation and culture.The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and announcement, in 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In addition on this day it is a tradition that the United Nations Prize in the field of human rights and Nobel Peace prize are awarded. It is important for us to be reminded of the importance of human rights and to let these rights be protected and respected in our daily life and society.
These are not empty words for us; the European Union is highly committed to ensuring the full compliance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights both within its borders and worldwide, including in Cambodia. In doing so, the EU partners with the United Nations. We believe it is an important advantage for Cambodia in its efforts to promote and protect human rights to have both an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and a Special Rapporteur, who on this important occasion is in Cambodia to celebrate Human Rights Day with us.  It is also the EU’s hope that Cambodia’s acceptance of all the recommendations made under the Universal Periodic Review will serve as an example to others. The EU stands ready to support the implementation of these recommendations.
Within the EU, we are not complacent with regard to our human rights record. The EU continues to fight racism, xenophobia and other types of discrimination based on religion, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation. The EU domestically is particularly concerned about human rights in the area of asylum and migration. Human rights require a constant vigilance. The EU has gradually pushed the human rights issue to the forefront of its relations with other countries and regions. All agreements on trade or cooperation with third countries contain a clause stipulating that human rights are an essential element in the relations between the parties.
We strongly believe that in a country where people fully enjoy their rights there are better conditions to achieve sustainable development, social cohesion and good governance. That is why The European Union is supporting more than half of development assistance worldwide, worth €50 billion, to contribute to help some of the poorest people be able to invoke their human rights.
Human rights are a cornerstone of the European Union foreign policy; our commitment to human rights reflects our aspirations for a world in which everyone can live in freedom and security, free from fear and want.
The European Union works closely with Cambodia to raise the capacity of both the government and the civil society in order to build a firm base for long-term sustainable development. The EU seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, processes and actors collaborating on many different issues, such as indigenous people’s rights, land rights, women’s rights; from legal and judicial reform to combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Finally, no statement on human rights is complete without remembering that we all have a role to play. We can all be human rights defenders within our families, friends and neighbourhoods. We can all be involved in the promotion and respect of the human rights: from our rice paddies or our offices to our pagodas or social media networks, which today enhance our power as citizens. Participating in public debates or online fora gives us the opportunity and the responsibility of sharing opinions and ideas on how to build a better society.
Article by H.E. Mark Gooding, UK Ambassador, on behalf of the European Union

Joint IMF-People’s Bank of China Symposium Calls for Strengthening Financial Stability Assessments in Asia and Worldwide


In the wake of the global financial crisis, authorities worldwide, including those in Asia, are stepping up their efforts to assess the health of their financial sectors in close collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In the past two years, the IMF conducted its first-ever Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) reviews of China and Indonesia, jointly with the World Bank. FSAP updates have been completed for Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the Philippines, and assessments are either underway or will soon be launched in India, Japan, Malaysia, and Australia.
“This stepped-up activity is consistent with the increased leadership role that Asia is playing in multilateral bodies such as the IMF and the G-20,” said Min Zhu, the IMF’s Deputy Managing Director, during a High-Level Regional Symposium held in Shanghai December 9-10 and organized jointly by the Fund and the People’s Bank of China (PBC). Attending were central bankers and financial regulators and supervisors from the Asia Pacific region, as well as from other parts of the world, and representatives from the Asian Development Bank, the Financial Stability Board, and standard setting bodies.
“Rigorous implementation of international standards and codes is critical in reducing financial risk,” said PBC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan in his keynote address at the Symposium. “China has benefitted from strict adherence to international standards in the banking reform since 2003, particularly with respect to the injection, raising and maintenance of high-quality common equity capital.”
Participants shared their experiences in responding to the global financial crisis, the implementation of new international regulatory standards, systemic risk identification and monitoring, and the application of macro-prudential policy frameworks. They also discussed how these lessons could be best applied in the context of the independent assessments performed under the FSAP. Increased demand for FSAPs, including in emerging Asia, has underscored its role as an important underpinning of global financial stability.
“While Asia has navigated the crisis relatively unscathed so far, there is no room for complacency,” Mr. Zhu added. “FSAPs represent a unique opportunity to strengthen and reshape their financial sectors, based on the lessons from the current crisis.”
As well as sharing their experiences, participants in the Symposium provided feedback and suggestions on recent improvements to the FSAP. For example, the FSAP has become more flexible by taking into account more country-specific needs. It has also benefited from an improved analytical toolkit, covering a wider range of risks, cross-border spillovers, and interactions between the financial sector and the broader economy.
Discussions at the Symposium also focused on how the FSAP could be adjusted further to take into account the need for continuing post-FSAP engagement and higher frequency monitoring; consistency in quantitative risk analysis; more candid and open engagement; and whether assessments of standards compliance have become more burdensome.
“The FSAP has played a useful role as an independent review. It is tough but fair,” said Jose Vinals, Financial Counsellor and Director of the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department. “Not only has the program significantly strengthened the capacity and effectiveness of the IMF’s surveillance, but it has also greatly enhanced the authorities’ own efforts to monitor and manage financial stability.”
Referring to China’s particular experience, Mr. Zhou added: “China will further strengthen its financial stability, regulatory and supervisory framework and promote financial reform and development by incorporating the findings of the China FSAP as appropriate.”

The FSAP, established in 1999, is aimed at helping national authorities to identify financial sector vulnerabilities and design longer-term policies and reforms. As part of its analysis, the FSAP helps the authorities to assess the effectiveness of financial supervision against broadly accepted international standards; identify the source, probability, and potential impact of key risks to macro-financial stability; and assess the country’s ability to manage and resolve financial crises. As warranted, the assessment is followed up by technical assistance support in areas critical for preserving financial stability.
“The FSAP should continue to evolve, in response to the needs of member countries, including those in this region,” said Mr. Zhu. “Indeed, given the relative strength of financial stability in the region, future assessments of Asian members are likely to provide lessons and a source of best practices for others.”
In September 2010, the IMF made financial stability assessments under the Financial Sector Assessment Program a mandatory part of IMF surveillance every five years for 25 jurisdictions deemed systemically important based on the size of the financial sector and their global interconnectedness.

IMF and Approved Request for Augmentation of Access and US$143.67 Million Disbursement for Kenya


The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on December 9 completed the second review of Kenya’s economic performance under a three-year arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). The Board also approved an augmentation of access equal to 60 percent of quota, which would lead to a total access of 180 percent of quota, an amount equivalent to SDR 488.52 million (about US$760.63 million), under the ECF arrangement.  The Board’s decision enables the immediate disbursement of an amount equivalent to SDR 92.276 million (about US$143.67 million), bringing total disbursements under the ECF arrangement to an amount equivalent to SDR 200.836 million (about US$312.7 million).
Mr. David Lipton, First Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair said that Kenya’s economy has continued to expand despite the challenges posed by the drought in the Horn of Africa, higher than expected food and fuel prices, and the uncertain global environment. The combination of external shocks and strong domestic demand, fueled by rapidly expanding credit has led to sharp increase in inflation, a widening of the current account deficit, and currency depreciation. The authorities are taking decisive measures to address these imbalances and to preserve macroeconomic stability.
Program implementation during the first half of 2011 was in line with the objectives of the ECF-supported program, he added. The fiscal position at end-June was significantly better than expected, as a result of strong revenue performance and strict expenditure control. Beginning September, the Central Bank of Kenya increased its policy rate substantially and maintained a tightening bias to discourage excessive credit growth, which had contributed to inflation and the current account deficit.
Sustaining high growth will require addressing macroeconomic vulnerabilities. The impact of the increase in international prices on the country’s external position will require fiscal and monetary policy adjustment. Monetary policy will need to remain geared towards reining in inflationary expectations. It will be complemented by strengthened fiscal consolidation to curb domestic demand, while protecting key outlays, including emergency food relief.

“Important structural reforms are under way. The Public Financial Management Law has been submitted to the Committee for the Implementation of the Constitution. The benchmark on the submission of VAT law is set to be met by end-January 2012,” Mr. Lipton said.
In completing the review, the Board also approved a modification of three performance criteria for end-December 2011 and end-June 2012 related to the net international reserves, the net domestic assets of the central bank, and the primary budget balance of the central government. The three-year arrangement under the ECF for Kenya was originally approved by the IMF Executive Board on January 31, 2011.