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Statement by Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Wilson at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the Dominican Republic

Statement by Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Wilson at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the Dominican Republic

Geneva, Switzerland
July 22, 2015

*For the Record*

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  The United States welcomes Vice Minister Dargam Espaillat, Ambassador Piantini Munnigh, and the rest of the Dominican Republic’s delegation to the fourth Trade Policy Review of the Dominican Republic.
The United States enjoys a close and growing trade and investment relationship with the Dominican Republic.  We are the Dominican Republic’s largest trading partner, and the Dominican Republic is the largest trading partner to the U.S. in the Caribbean Basin Region, with almost $12.5 billion in two-way trade in goods in 2014.  In 2014, U.S. goods exports to the Dominican Republic were $8 billion, up 10.7 percent from the previous year.  Similarly, the Dominican Republic exported $4.5 billion in goods to the U.S. last year, up 6.1 percent from 2013. 
The Dominican Republic’s global trade regime and our bilateral trade relationship have undergone substantial and positive changes through the Dominican Republic’s implementation of the Dominican Republic – Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) beginning in 2007.  The Dominican Republic enacted substantial changes to its legislation as well as regulatory modifications, particularly in the areas of government procurement, telecommunications, intellectual property rights, and customs procedures.  Both the Secretariat’s and the government’s reports highlight the Dominican Republic’s medium and long-term economic and trade policy.  The United States particularly commends the Dominican Republic’s focus on developing a regulatory environment that ensures a pro-competitive business climate, as well as the close coordination among relevant government ministries and agencies in the formulation and implementation of trade policies.
Further, both the Secretariat and the government report that since the last trade policy review in 2008, the Dominican Republic has achieved progress in matters of trade facilitation, and this was highlighted in the Vice Minister’s statement today.  It has strengthened its risk management systems, introduced a computerized import clearance process, and eliminated particular authorization requirements.  We are pleased that the Dominican Republic has demonstrated a firm commitment to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, submitting its schedule A commitments, making progress in several TFA substantive areas and stating its intention to secure the necessary domestic authorization to ratify the TFA before MC10 in Nairobi. 
While the Unites States applauds these positive efforts, we have concerns with certain aspects of the Dominican Republic’s trade regime. For example, with respect to trade in agriculture we are very concerned about lack of transparency and delays in issuance of import licenses.  We also have concerns that “no-objection permits” issued by the Agriculture Ministry and required for animals and agriculture products, are not exclusively based on SPS grounds, but may be influenced by economic considerations. 
Regarding intellectual property rights and developments since the last review period, we applaud the Dominican Republic’s 2011 ratification of the WIPO Trademark Law Treaty, which streamlined procedures for registering trademarks.  We also congratulate the Dominican Republic for approving the “National Strategy on Intellectual Property in the Dominican Republic” in 2013 in efforts to integrate intellectual property into the country’s public policies and development plans.  While we welcome these actions by the Dominican Republic and its recognition of the importance of protecting intellectual property rights, we remain concerned about shortcomings in practice and enforcement, such as the extremely long delays for the review of patent applications and administrative delays in the marketing approval process for pharmaceutical products. We are also concerned by the widespread availability of pirated and counterfeit goods, particularly by the prevalence of broadcast signal piracy.  We have submitted several specific questions and look forward to learning more about enforcement procedures and actions taken by the relevant government agencies.  
Lastly, we note that, as in prior reviews and as highlighted by Ambassador Conejos, inefficiencies in the energy sector continue to be a primary challenge to the Dominican economy.  Reliance on imported fossil fuels to generate electricity, subsidized consumption, and price controls burden government finances and dis-incentivize investment. We encourage the Dominican Republic to take steps to address this longstanding difficulty, while respecting international trade and investment commitments.  
In conclusion, the United States will continue to work closely with the Dominican Republic bilaterally, and as a value partner here at the WTO. 
Thank you