Trade and economic issues
World Trade Organization (WTO)
The WTO was established in 1995 replacing GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs), which had provided rules for international trade since 1948. The major aim of the WTO is to ensure that trade among its members runs according to the commonly agreed rules, fixed in the WTO Agreements.
Currently the WTO consists of 161 members. Another 24 countries are in the process of accession to the WTO.
The WTO is led by a Ministerial Conference. According to the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the WTO, Ministerial Conference is organized every two years and consists of the representatives of all WTO member states. The previous Ministerial Conference of the WTO was organized in 2013, during Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council.
Day-to-day work of the WTO between Ministerial Conferences is handled by the General Council. Specific issues of the WTO depending on the area are dealt with in different WTO Committees, sub-committees and working groups, which also consist of the representatives of all member states of the WTO. On 20 February, 2015, Minister Counsellor Dalia Kadišienė was announced as the Permanent representative of Lithuania to the WTO.
The work of the organization is based on the following principles:
- Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) principle (each WTO member must equally treat the goods and services of all other WTO members);
- National Treatment (imported and locally-produced goods should be treated equally once they have entered the market);
- Gradual trade liberalization through negotiations;
- A set of predictable and stable rules for trade;
- Promotion of fair competition;
- Stimulation of development and economic reforms.
In addition, the WTO has the Dispute Settlement Mechanism, which helps to solve trade disputes between the WTO members in the multilateral manner. The disputes arise when one member considers that another member is breaking the rules, set by the WTO Agreements, or its commitments for the organization.
By becoming the WTO member a country (or customs territory) not only commits to implement the requirements of the WTO Agreements, but also agrees not to raise the import duties above the level set in accession negotiations.
WTO Doha Development Agenda (DDA)
Current round of multilateral WTO trade liberalization negotiations was launched at the IV WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha (Qatar) in 2001. The work programme of these negotiations is much wider than that of previous rounds. It is focused on the needs of developing countries, hence the name – Doha Development Agenda (DDA).
The Ministers’ Declaration of Doha Conference provides the mandate for the negotiations.
DDA negotiations take place in the Trade Negotiations Committee and specific negotiating groups in specific areas of negotiations: Non-agricultural Market Access, Agriculture, Services, Rules, Trade Facilitation, Trade and Environment, Trade and Development, Dispute Settlement Understanding, Trade and Intellectual Property Rights.
The major impetus for the negotiations was provided at the IX WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali (Indonesia) in 2013. The so-called “Bali Package”, adopted at the conference, is of utmost importance to the further development of the negotiations and the renewal of the agenda. The major element of the package is a Trade Facilitation Agreement, which contains provisions for faster and more efficient customs procedures through effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It also contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area. This legally binding agreement is the first international WTO Agreement since the establishment of the organization in 1995.
Lithuania, together with other EU member states, is seeking for the ambitious results of DDA – additional market access for agricultural and industrial goods as well as services, reduction of trade-distortive subsidies and other illegal forms of support in third countries, ensuring more effective use of trade defense instruments and defining new measures of international trade facilitation. European Commission speaks on behalf of the EU and its member states in these negotiations.
Most recent information about ongoing DDA negotiations can be found on the WTO website
Lithuania and the EU in the WTO
After six years of negotiations Lithuania joined the WTO on 31 May 2001. Since 2004 Lithuania is the member of European Union and also a part of the EU common external trade policy applied towards third countries. As a member of the EU, Lithuania receives the same treatment from the third countries as any other EU Member State.
Each and every EU member state is a separate WTO member. However, the EU itself is also a member since the establishment of the organization. Therefore, the EU overall has 29 voices in the WTO meetings – 28 of its member states and 1 of the EU itself. Since the external trade policy belongs to the exceptional competence of the EU, interests of the EU in the WTO are represented by the EU Commission. European Commission regularly consults with the European Council’s Trade Policy Committee, which consists of the high-ranking officials from the EU member states. The position of the EU member states is discussed both in Brussels and Geneva – these meetings are chaired by the country holding the Presidency of the EU Council at the time (in the second half of 2013 it was Lithuania).
The basic import duty levels of the EU are set in the EU commitments schedule at the WTO. However, they are constantly being corrected by additional EU commitments in preferential trade agreements (free trade agreements and customs unions), generalized system of preferences (GSP), which is applied to the developing countries unilaterally, as well as specific products’ situation and the general state of EU competitiveness. The basic level of import duties might be corrected by the results of the ongoing WTO DDA round negotiations.
Lithuania, together with other EU members, seeks that the rules of international trade, set in WTO agreements, would be smoothly implemented and their review in the negotiations would contribute to the strengthening of the multilateral trade system. The EU is one of the most active users of the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism frequently relying on the WTO arbitration in its trade disputes when the third countries are breaking the rules of the multilateral trade system and the EU interests.
More information about the membership of Lithuania in the WTO can be found on the WTO website
United Nations Economic Comission for Europe (ENECE)
UNECE is one of five regional commissions administered by the United Nations, which reports to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was established in 1947 and now has 56 members, including not only European states, but also Canada, the Central Asian republics, Israel and the United States of America. The major goal of UNECE is to encourage economic integration in the European region and to coordinate the co-operation among its members in such areas as energetics, protection of environment, development of technologies and others.
Lithuania became a member of UNECE in 1991. Besides all interested UN member states, over 70 various international professional organizations and other non-governmental institutions participate in the activities and projects of UNECE.
The European Union is an observer at the UNECE, and also a full member of many of the international transport and environmental conventions that are administered by the UNECE. The EU Delegation coordinates positions of member states and also represents the EU and its member states at the monthly meetings of the Executive Committee.
UNECE has a very pragmatic and results-oriented approach; it sets best practices, standards and norms (normative work) and provides technical assistance. UNECE aims for deeper economic integration and closer collaboration among its members, as well as encourages sustainable development and economic prosperity through:
- Political dialogues;
- Negotiations on international legal instruments;
- Development of regulatory provisions and norms;
- Exchange and application of best practices, as well as the development of economic and technological expertise;
- Technical co-operation with transition economies.
Since the reform of 2005, UNECE‘s work is organized in 8 sub-programmes: environment, transport, statistics, sustainable energy, trade, economic integration, forestry and timber, land and housing.
In 2013 the UNECE Commission adopted a decision on the Reform review process which updates the future work priorities of the organization and ensures that it continues to work in a transparent, inclusive and accountable way, complementary to other international actors.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
The UNCTAD was established in 1964 as an organ of United Nations General Assembly to provide developing countries with an institutional framework to address their development concerns and to help them promote economic growth through trade and the inter-related issues of finance, investment, technology and sustainable development. UNCTAD has 194 member states.
UNCTAD functions as an international expert forum, gathers information, conducts research and offers direct technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, helping them to build the capacities they need to become equitably integrated into the global economy and improve the well-being of their populations.
UNCTAD holds a ministerial-level conference every four years to discuss major global economic issues and to decide on its programme of work for 4 upcoming years. The conference is the supreme governing body of UNCTAD. The organization also holds discussions with civil society, including at an annual symposium where members of the public can express their views and interact with country representatives.
Lithuania, together with Poland, Hungary and other newly acceded EU member states, is interested in strengthening of UNCTAD‘s attention to our Eastern neighbors, economies in transition, enabling them to participate in UNCTAD projects.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP, established in 1972, is an agency of the UN responsible for coordination of its environmental activities.
The core mandate of UNEP includes analysis of the state of global environment and assessment of global and regional environmental trends, further development of international environment law, facilitation of effective cooperation in implementing the international environmental agenda. UNEP also hosts several environmental convention secretariats including the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the Convention on Biological Diversity and number of chemicals-related agreements, including the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, etc.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
WIPO is the United Nations agency dedicated to the use of intellectual property (patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, etc.) as a means of stimulating innovation and creativity. WIPO develops the international legal IP framework, administering 26 international treaties.
WIPO currently has 187 member states (186 UN members and Vatican, Palestine has a state observer status). Lithuania is a WIPO member since 1992 and is a member of 17 international treaties administered by WIPO.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
The WMO originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873. Established in 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations in 1951 for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences. Membership of the WMO comprises 191 member states and territories. Lithuania has been a member of the WMO since 1992.
The WMO aims to facilitate worldwide cooperation in the establishment of networks of stations for making meteorological observations, establish and maintain the system for rapid exchange of meteorological information, promote standardization of meteorological observations.
International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV)
The UPOV was established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, which was adopted in Paris 1961 and entered into force in 1968. UPOV’s main purpose is to ensure that members recognize and secure an intellectual property right to breeders of new varieties of plants.
Currently there is 71 member of UPOV. Lithuania is a member of UPOV since 2003.
Universal Postal Union (UPU)
The UPU was established by the Bern Treaty of 1874 and became a specialized agency of the UN in 1948. The aim of the Union is to secure the coordination and improvement of postal services, promote the development of international collaboration and undertake technical assistance in postal matters. The countries that have adopted the Constitution comprise a single postal territory.
The UPU has 191 members. Lithuania is member of the UPU from 1992.
In 2008, Lithuania was elected to the Council of Administration of UPU, which is the highest administrative body of the Union. It is elected every four years and consists of 41 member countries, which are elected in conformity with the principle of geographical representation. Representatives from Lithuania in the Council of Administration will seek to draw the attention of other members to the interests of small countries with low volumes of postal consignments, to promote the usage of information technologies in postal services and the growth of revenue in this sector.
International Trade Center (ITC)
ITC is the joint technical co-operation agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists developing countries and economies in transition to benefit from exports. ITC works with trade support institutions, policymakers and directly with the business, in particular with the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
ITC gives particular priority to project implementation in the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), small-island developing states (SIDS) and sub-Saharan Africa.
International Organization for Standartization (ISO)
The ISO is an independent non-governmental international organization, established in 1947. Its members are national standards institutes of 163 countries. The ISO is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards.
Lithuanian Standards Board (LS) has been representing Lithuania at the ISO as a full member since 2008.