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PHL heads WTO fund review panel

AFTER heading the trade policy review panel in 2019, the Philippines is set to lead this year the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) budget committee tasked to review the funding and financial statement of the multilateral trading body.

The WTO General Council on Wednesday reached a consensus in electing the next chairmen of the 13 bodies comprising the organization. Philippine Ambassador to the WTO Manuel A.J. Teehankee was voted to take charge of the Committee on Budget, Finance and Administration (CBFA), which was formerly headed by Dagfinn Sorli of Norway.

As CBFA chairman, Teehankee will lead the review of the WTO budget and financial statement presented by the director general, as well as in making recommendations about these matters to the General Council. He will steer the discussion on any financial and administrative issues referred to the CBFA by the General Council or the director general.

The committee, which is open to all WTO members, convenes between seven and 10 times annually.

Last year the WTO’s budget was at around $206.13 million—$198.2 million is allocated for the WTO Secretariat, while $7.94 million is designated for the Appellate Body.

The WTO sources most of the income for its yearly budget from contributions by its members, according to its web site. These contributions are computed according to a formula based on their share of international trade.

However, the multilateral trading body last year faced arguably its toughest financial challenge yet, as the United States—its largest contributor at 12 percent—tried to block the tabled $200-million budget for 2020 on frustrations against the Appellate Body.

The Appellate Body, the supreme court of world trade, is operating with just one seating judge of the seven available seats. The chamber can only hear cases with a quorum of three judges, and the US has been preventing the nomination of any new member.

In taking the helm of the CBFA, Teehankee will relinquish his post as head of the Trade Policy Review Body, now to be taken over by Harald Aspelund of Iceland.

New Zealand’s David Walker was selected as the new chairman of the General Council, while his former seat in the Dispute Settlement Body will be moved to Dacio Castillo of Honduras. On the other hand, Sweden’s Mikael Anzen was elected chairman of the Council for Trade in Goods, while Singapore’s Tan Hung Seng was voted head of the Council for Trade in Services.

Joining the roster of WTO leaders are: Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter of South Africa (Council for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, shortly known as TRIPS); Mohammad Qurban Haqjo of Afghanistan (Committee on Trade and Development); and Refiloe Litjobo of Lesotho (Committee on Balance-of-Payments Restrictions).

Chad Blackman of Barbados will head the Committee on Trade and Environment, while Martins Kreitus of Latvia will take charge of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements. Meanwhile, the Working Groups on Trade, Debt and Finance and on Trade and Transfer of Technology were designated to Rashidi Said of Malaysia and Stephen Fevrier of Santa Lucia.

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