Import Licensing Concerns Raised at WTO Meeting
An April 21 meeting at World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva illustrated that import licensing remains a key topic of concern for those involved in the global marketplace.
The World Trade Organization Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures stipulates that administrative procedures for obtaining licenses should be simple, neutral, equitable and transparent and that import licensing should not obstruct trade unnecessarily. However, at the recent meeting members expressed concern that a number of individual measures may not be meeting this requirement, including the following.
- India’s import regime on marble, marble products and boric acid
- Brazil’s import licensing requirements on nitrocellulose
- Indonesia’s import regulations on cell phones, handheld computers and tablets
- Angola’s non-automatic licensing regime regulating the importation, distribution and sale of food/non-food products where domestic supply covers 60 percent of national consumption (the European Union asked whether these procedures have been adopted and/or published, what they contain and how Angola intends to implement them in a neutral manner)
- Turkey’s surveillance licensing regime (e.g., how imports subject to surveillance are selected, the procedure for submitting applications and the period for processing), import authorization on old and renovated goods (e.g., where information on the measure’s application can be found and whether a similar measure applies to the domestic production of vehicles) and import regime for non-fuel petroleum products
- Mexico’s automatic licensing procedures on certain steel products (the U.S. asked whether receipt of an import license is a condition of entry and what the duration of the licensing requirement is, while Canada encouraged Mexico to automate its system)
- Indonesia’s import licensing regulation for the importation of carcasses/processed meat products (Australia and the EU both expressed concern about the regulation’s burden on traders)
The import licensing agreement also obliges members to provide information via notifications covering domestic laws and regulations on import licensing, new or revised licensing procedures, information regarding the administration of import licensing regimes, and replies to an annual questionnaire on import licensing procedures. However, 14 WTO members have yet to notify the committee regarding their laws regulating import licenses and their administrative practices.
Members agreed at the April 21 meeting to explore the idea of organizing a workshop to help familiarize new delegates with their notification obligations. The committee chair also proposed to prioritize technical assistance activities related to import licensing through national and/or regional workshops and to establish focal points in members’ capitals.