Multilateral Fora - WTO
The World Trade Organisation (WTO)
The most innovative aspects of the Uruguay Round, concluded in December 1993 and formalised in Marrakech in April 1994, have been:
- The establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as a global framework to debate trade issues at international level, and the reform of the Dispute Settlement Mechanism towards more efficiency;
- The establishment of the first multilateral framework regarding trade in services (GATS) and the protection of trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS).
The new WTO structure and functioning is relevant to the audiovisual sector in many regards. Among the WTO-administered agreements, the TRIPS Agreement and to a lesser extent the ITA (Information Technology Agreement) have implications for the audiovisual sector. It is primarily within the GATS Agreement though that the European Union and its Member States have preserved a room for manoeuvre with regards to the GATS provisions as far as their policies and measures in this sector are concerned.
The "GATS Community acquis" represents such freedom for action in the field of audiovisual policy, as a result of the addition of exceptions to the Most Favoured Nation clause (MFN) and the absence of commitments concerning National Treatment and Market Access for the audiovisual sector.
The progressive liberalisation of services covered by the GATS is enshrined in the Agreement, which foresees new negotiations to begin no later than 31 December 1999. Within this future Round of negotiations in WTO, referred to as "GATS 2000", the Community will continue to preserve the national and Community policies and measures in this field.
The most recent developments in the Organisation concern the establishment of a Work Programme on electronic commerce. The second World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference adopted a Declaration on Electronic Commerce which requires the General Council to establish, by its September 1998 meeting in special session, a comprehensive work programme to examine all trade-related issues relating to global electronic commerce.
The purpose of this initiative is to reflect within the relevant WTO bodies, the implications of electronic commerce for the existing Agreements in place within WTO: GATT, GATS and TRIPS notably. Exclusively for the purposes of the work programme, and without prejudice to its outcome, the term "electronic commerce" is understood to mean the production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means.
The relevant WTO bodies the Council for Trade in Services, the Council for Trade in Goods, the Council for Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the Committee on Trade and Development and the Committee on Government Procurement - are currently implementing this work programme, due to be completed by 30 July 1999.
Although this exercise is not linked with the launch of the New Round of negotiations within WTO and electronic commerce as such does not form part of the WTO built-in agenda of such negotiations, it is not discarded that relevant discussions taking place within the framework of this work programme might impact on the discussions which will develop during the next Round.