Ambassador Harald Neple, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA, in his intervention delivered at the informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HoDs) meeting 7 May warned that increased protectionism could have a damaging effect on the multilateral trading system and global economic growth. The Norwegian statement in its entirety can be read below:

Thank you Director General for your update and thanks to the negotiating groups’ chairs for their reports.

As highlighted by Switzerland in the joint statement, which Norway co-sponsors, and by most delegations this morning, this is a challenging time for international trade and the multilateral trading system. Trade tensions are on the rise. There is an increase in trade measures. Further escalation in an uncontrolled manner is a risk, which you also pointed out, Director General, this morning.

Norway’s primary concern is that increased protectionism would have a damaging effect on the multilateral trading system. Norway is also worried about risks of increased instability in the world economy, which may hamper the prospects for global economic growth.

We are concerned about recent reporting over alleged negotiations aimed at granting individual country exemptions to steel- and aluminium tariffs, at the cost of agreeing voluntary export restraints or similar measures on the export or import side.

It is of crucial importance that all WTO members respect their rights and obligations according to the multilateral trading system.

The principles of non-discrimination, bound commitments and a rules based system of dispute settlement are timeless. The WTO is not perfect, but it is an irreplaceable cornerstone of the rules based global economic architecture.

All WTO members need to continue to work together to improve the organization and tackle the different challenges facing the WTO today, including the need to fill all current and future vacancies on the Appellate Body without delay.

WTO members should also engage in open discussions on trade and development, which is a crosscutting gateway issue. To look more closely at country-specific challenges to assess whether trade rules have contributed to or hindered development, could help us find a way forward together. As the chair of the negotiating group stressed this morning we need fresh approaches.

Norway looks forward to next week’s meetings on fisheries subsidies. Overcapacity and overfishing are important parts of SDG 14.6 and we appreciate that substantive work picks up from here.

We also look forward to discussing the way forward in other areas of work such as agriculture, services, NAMA as well as trade and environment.

Norway has taken part in different meetings under the joint initiatives from Buenos Aires. We believe useful work has started under the initiatives and appreciate their open, inclusive and transparent nature. Norway encourages all interested members to take part in these discussions.

Finally, commenting a bit on what you mentioned this morning, Director General, we appreciate the technical and analytical support we all receive from the secretariat. Each member or group of members has a right to request assistance from the secretariat be it in the form of background papers or facilitation of meetings. No one should prevent others from getting help from the secretariat, which clearly fulfils its role in a neutral and impartial way. We have full confidence in you DG and the secretariat in this respect.