Norway’s statement at the informal TNC/HODs 24 July 2018(2)

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 on 24 July, voiced serious concerns about the state of play in the WTO and warned of escalating trade tensions straining the global economy. The Norwegian statement in its entirety can be read below:

 Thank you DG for your report and thanks to the chairs of the negotiating groups for their updates.

At the TNC and HoDs meeting in May, I voiced Norway’s concerns that increased protectionism would have a damaging effect on the multilateral trading system. I also stressed that Norway is worried about risks of increased instability in the world economy, which may hamper the prospects for global economic growth.

Developments since then have confirmed our fears. Norway’s concerns about the state of play in the WTO are even deeper today. Trade tensions are escalating, and members are engaging in a tit-for-tat, that will strain the global economy and the multilateral trading system.

Of particular concern is the ongoing 232-process in the US. Norway urges the US not to implement unilateral trade barriers on imports of autos and auto parts in the name of national security.

In general terms, let me repeat that Norway is worried by:

- the apparent willingness to risk ruining the system that has served us all so well for more than 70 years, - the idea that "might makes right" and the use of unilateral tools outside the WTO, - the risk of the Dispute Settlement Pillar grinding to a halt unless we quickly fill empty seats in the Appellate Body, - the apparent unwillingness by emerging economies to accept their part in the fine balance of rights and obligations.

Norway is fully aware that there are some underlying concerns that need to be addressed. However, the answer is not protectionism, unilateralism and "trade war". The entire WTO Membership needs to reflect on the deeper root causes of the current crisis.

How all members respond to the present challenges will have an impact on the multilateral trading system, which is a multilateral common good. The letters and spirit of the multilateral trading system must be respected. We urge all WTO members to use the multilateral trading system to solve their differences.

In this extremely challenging time, WTO members have to commit to work together to safeguard the system – including by being open to discuss its imperfections and by seeking the necessary improvements. Norway welcomes all initiatives and discussions in different configurations on how to modernize and maintain a WTO-rulebook that is relevant for the 21

st century. In this respect, we welcome the Canadian initiative that was mentioned this morning by the permanent representative of Canada.

For us, this includes looking at some of the fundamental underlying issues such as how to deal with overcapacity and subsidies, looking at ways to develop rules on electronic commerce, and so forth.

Let me be clear, focusing on such forward-looking issues is absolutely necessary. This does not in any way imply that this can or would be to the detriment of finding solutions in already well-established processes such as those based on article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture and discussions on services. It is in particular abundantly clear, that we need to continue, and invigorate, the necessary discussions on trade and development.

One obvious way to strengthen the system is by delivering new multilateral negotiated outcomes. The negotiating group on rules discusses IUU this week, but this is only a minor part of the mandate for the negotiations on fisheries subsidies. Norway calls on all members to show the necessary political will to reach consensus and to fulfil all elements of SDG 14.6 in the WTO within the set timeframe. We are ready to do our part to obtain an effective and comprehensive result that is meaningful, and has a real impact on fish stocks. The first necessary step is to agree on a work program for the autumn and that should be done this week.


The outlook for global trade is rather bleak these days. It is impossible to open a newspaper without reading about trade, the challenges we face, and warnings about the consequences if we do not step up our efforts to deal with the challenges. We need to do this now. This is the collective responsibility of the WTO-membership. Listening to some of the other interventions today, I would like to stress that status quo is not an option