WTO trade review gives Israel mixed grades
World Trade Organization praises industry reforms, meeting int'l food standards, urges Israel to improve transparency of import procedures.
A ship unloads in the port of Haifa Photo: The Jerusalem Post
The World Trade Organization has given Israel mixed grades in a detailed country
report, praising it for carrying out industry reforms and meeting international
food standards but urging it to improve the transparency of its import
This was the fourth report on Israeli trade policy since the
country joined the WTO in April 1995, and the first since 2006. All 157 WTO
members are required to undergo trade policy reviews.
The report praised
Israel for making “considerable progress” in aligning its technical regulations
and food standards with international standards.
It noted that the
government aims to accomplish full harmonization of Israeli technical
regulations with overseas mandatory standards by end- 2012 (end-2013 for food
Industry, Trade and Labor Director General Ohad Cohen, who
represented Israel before the WTO panel in Geneva, said that the government has
been making a concerted effort to adopt international standards, with the aim of
Israel’s “well-developed” intellectual property system was
also singled out for praise by the review, which said that it underpins the
country’s status as one of the most innovative economies. Citing the example of
the Copyright Act 2007 – which replaced the doctrine of fair dealing with fair
use – it concluded that Israel provides a more flexible approach to copyright
exceptions, which it called “an exceptional step that few jurisdictions have
taken so explicitly.”
The report also applauded the Israeli government
for conducting a series of structural reforms in various sectors to strengthen
competition, including in financial services, telecommunications, and transport
“Far-reaching structural reforms have been carried out in
Israel’s financial services sector since 2006, to promote competition and
enhance the efficiency of financial intermediation,” the report noted. It
singled out the “Bachar reform” of the capital market, which it said had
encouraged insurers and other intermediaries, including foreign enterprises, to
enter the market for those financial services that were traditionally controlled
by the banks.
On the other hand, the review criticized Israel for
maintaining non-automatic import licensing procedures on a vast range of
products such as health, safety, security and tariff- quote administration, and
recommended that up-to-date notifications would help improve the transparency of
these import procedures.
“In general, Israel’s notification record has
been mixed,” the report said, adding that there is room for improvement in areas
where Israel has outstanding notification obligations, such as agriculture,
regional trade agreements, and import licensing.
Turning to agriculture,
the review noted that Israel uses border measures, notably tariffs, to support
It concluded that the “bill” for agricultural support is
paid mainly by Israeli consumers, and argued that they would benefit from the
opening of Israel’s food markets to more import competition.