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World - Europe Updated: May 23, 2024

WTO members collaborate to address issues from MC13, says Okonjo-Iweala

By Philip Adeboye
May 23, 2024
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World Trade Organization, WTO, members are uniting efforts to resolve outstanding issues stemming from the 13th Ministerial Conference, MC13, held in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, the Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has disclosed. 

According to a statement from the WTO, Okonjo-Iweala, who leads the WTO’s Trade Negotiations Committee, highlighted the "constructive spirit" evident in consultations conducted since the last General Council meeting in March, indicating members' eagerness to address pending tasks from MC13.

“I was encouraged to hear members express determination to find pathways that allow us to do as much as possible here in Geneva,” she stated.

Norwegian Ambassador Petter Ølberg, chair of the General Council, has unveiled plans for a members' retreat on July 8-9, spotlighting forthcoming initiatives. 

The retreat aims to maintain the WTO's forward-looking stance, addressing overdue workstreams and breaking through longstanding deadlocks, according to Ølberg. 

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala outlined four priority areas based on recent consultations: fisheries subsidies, agriculture, dispute settlement reform, and investment facilitation for development. 

Members are particularly focused on advancing negotiations on fisheries subsidies, aiming for substantial progress before the WTO's summer break.

“Members said we must get this done as soon as possible. So, this is a top priority, and we are going to have to work very hard to complete” before the WTO’s summer break, the goal indicated by many members, she said.

Regarding agriculture, she welcomed Brazil’s proposals for advancing negotiations and emphasised the need for a breakthrough in this critical sector. Additionally, dispute settlement reform remains a key area of focus, with Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius appointed as facilitator for the multilateral process.

Referencing data from a World Bank Group agency that highlights a significant drop in capital flows to developing economies, she stressed the importance of welcoming any tools that can help attract investment and create jobs in these regions.

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She underscored the importance of building on the momentum achieved at MC13, particularly regarding proposals benefiting least developed countries and other developing economies.

During the General Council meeting on 22 May, negotiating chairs provided updates on deliberations in their respective areas, signalling ongoing efforts to advance discussions since March.

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