TNC - Photo:Photo: WTO
TNC/HoDs 4 May 2022. Photo: WTO

Norway’s Statement at the informal Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HoDs) meeting 4 May 2022

as delivered by Mr. Dagfinn Sørli, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA, Norway

Thank you Chair,

I would first like to thank you, DG, for your introduction, and our colleagues for their presentations.

We have only a few weeks until MC12. Let me assure you chair, that Norway will do its best to contribute to meaningful and substantial results.

The world is not an easy place, nor is the backdrop for our conference. From the Covid pandemic, which is still ongoing, to food insecurity that is for many people a brutal reality, to the war in Europe, which should never have started.

Norway condemns the violent Russian attack on and aggression in Ukraine which shows a blatant disregard for international law and institutions. Now, more than ever, we need to respect a rules-based world order, which the WTO is an integral part of.

For trade specifically, we need members to genuinely believe in, uphold, and continue to develop our rulebook. We need multilateralism. We need rules. We need a well-functioning WTO.

MC12 has been postponed time and time again. With the right combination of ambition and realism we can get it done in June. Results are achievable.

To your question, Chair, regarding the character of the conference, I will limit myself at this stage to say that the number of issues we put on the table of ministers to solve will have to be limited. Meaning that we need to close as much as possible ahead of the ministerial.

We agree that we should focus our efforts on the issues listed in your invitation letter, DG.

Starting with disciplines on harmful fisheries subsidies, which are long overdue, are within our reach. Our instrument will have a disciplining effect on Members and therefore a positive effect on the global fisheries resources. We need to close the deal now and start implementing it the sooner the better.

There is nothing out there on fisheries subsidies that is better or more realistic, nor will there be for the foreseeable future. There is still time to tweak certain areas of the draft, but with restraint. Most importantly, let us converge on the key numbers related to SDT and get it done.

Members have spent a lot of energy discussing the WTO response to the pandemic. We should build on what has been done, including the Walker text. But we are not there yet, as was evident from the report from the facilitator. More work will have to be done.

What is certain is that the world expects WTO ministers to address the trade related challenges posed by the pandemic and to send a message about our common resolve to meet the challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic as well as being better prepared for future health crises.

The seminar on food security last week was helpful in highlighting the many aspects of the current global food crisis. Many of the issues, such as transparency, quick response and cooperation, restraint in the use of emergency measures such as export restrictions, and the importance of keeping markets open, echo issues discussed in relation to the pandemic response.

Norway is one of the co-sponsors of a joint statement on open and predictable trade in agricultural and food products which has elements we believe can be included in a ministerial declaration on food security.

Let us also finally agree on a Decision not to impose export prohibitions or restrictions on foodstuff purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes by the World Food Programme.

On agriculture, the Chairs’ text in TN/AG/50 provides a good basis for a work program without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations themselves. With the very limited time left, ambitions must be calibrated accordingly to close in on potential landing zones.

MC12 is an opportunity to launch work on WTO reform with the objective of appropriate decisions being made at MC13. Reform is required to revitalize the WTO and strengthen the rules-based trading system.

Everything should be on the table, including development issues and how to move forward on issues of interest to some but not all Members, including on trade and environmental sustainability.

The draft outcome document that we worked on in November addresses WTO reform. We need to finalize those paragraphs.

Chair, this is not the time for waiting games. We need to start moving. Meaningful results are within reach. Together, we can get this done.

Thank you.