WTO members made progress at an informal meeting of the Market Access Committee held on 9 April on improving the operation of the Integrated Database (IDB), which is the main source of tariff and import data at the WTO. The discussion was based on a draft decision that was prepared by the WTO Secretariat with ideas on how to tackle certain issues and update the General Council Decision of 1997 on the supply of information to the IDB.
The WTO's Integrated Database (IDB) is the only database grounded on official data supplied by members on tariffs and import data. It contains data supplied annually on the tariffs members apply on a non-discriminatory basis in line with the most-favoured nation (MFN) principle, as well as their annual imports by tariff line and country of origin. Data on preferential duties under free trade agreements (FTAs) and/or preferential schemes for developing countries are available for some members.
The draft discussed by members consolidates existing rules and procedures which are currently spread across several different documents and decisions, which many members see as one of the main obstacles in complying with the notification requirement to the IDB. The main objective is to streamline the procedures, eliminate terms that have become obsolete (such as "diskettes"), and links to non-existing websites. To this end, it seeks to better explain who must do what and when, including the interaction with other existing notification requirements.
Another important goal of the text is to streamline procedures as much as possible to facilitate compliance by members. The draft decision also eliminates the need to submit some data elements which were no longer considered necessary, seeking to simplify the current requirements and to reduce the burden faced by members in preparing their notifications.
The draft decision also includes some new ideas to take advantage of new technological developments and to align them with other notification requirements. For example, the proposed text would allow members who choose to do so to submit their data by automatically connecting their domestic information technology (IT) systems to the WTO. It also encourages members to try to notify information concerning their preferential trade agreements (i.e. the non-reciprocal preferential schemes in favour of developing countries and least developed countries, such as the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP) together with their IDB notifications.
The chair of the Market Access Committee, Ms. Zsófia Tvaruskó of Hungary, stressed that members would retain full control of their tariff and import data at all times. As was the case in the 1997 Decision, members would still be able to send revised data at any time, and even to request the removal from the Integrated Database of information already included in the system. In addition, the new ideas, such as the automatic interconnection of IT systems, would be implemented on a voluntary basis.
Members reacted to the proposal in a constructive and positive manner and agreed this is the way forward in terms of streamlining the notification procedure.
Source: WTO