Kimberley States Seek WTO Approval

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(Rapaport…November 27, 2002) Eight nations participating in the Kimberley Process have petitioned the World Trade Organization (WTO) for waivers that would allow them to implement the diamond certification plan without fear of having its restrictions overturned by the world body.

The Kimberley Process — which roughly 50 nations plan to implement January 1 — bans diamond trading with nonparticipating countries. That provision, however, may conflict with WTO rules prohibiting nations from unilaterally imposing sanctions on one another. Without waivers, the Kimberley rules could be challenged in the WTO by nonparticipants.

The eight nations sponsoring the waiver request are Canada, Japan, Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. The United States, while not a sponsor, is supportive, according to Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel, Washington’s special envoy on conflict diamonds. The U.S. is trying to convince other Kimberley participants — particularly the European Union (EU) — to join the waiver effort. The EU has argued that waivers are not necessary, one source close to the situation said.

Another source said the EU was supportive in principle but wants to discuss the waivers’ wording before signing on. That position was echoed by India, Israel, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Norway, China, Korea, Taipei and Switzerland.

“We’re working to make sure that we get all the parties together,” Bindenagel said. “We feel it is very important that diamond trading countries support the Kimberley Process.”

The WTO’s Council for Trade in Goods met November 22 to discuss the waivers but made no decision. It plans to take up the issue at its next meeting.

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