Norway's statement at the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HODs) meeting on 19th April 2023

Ambassador Petter Ølberg, Permanent Representative of Norway to the WTO and EFTA, delivered the following statement at the formal TNC Meeting and informal Heads of Delegation Meeting on 19th April 2023:

| Geneva

Thank you.


Today many are talking about “what” and “how”. At this juncture I will refrain from the “what” (our priorities are well known) and concentrate on one particular “how”-question:


Namely: How can we de-dramatize the MCs and maintain a high ambition? I actually think this is possible. The drama part is directly linked to expectations. Until now these have been that ministers must resolve the difficult issues we have not been able to solve here in GVA. And when they did not agree, then the whole MC was a deemed failure. I think by now we all agree that this is not ideal. I have three concrete suggestions on how we can change that:


  1. We should change the format of the MC. It could be helpful to seek inspiration from how MCs in other sectors + organizations are done. Take the UNGA f.ex. Here PMs and FMs and others meet for a week. They each give a plenary statement. The rest of the week they are engaged in political talks with their counterparts and others. That is: dialogue. Not nitty-gritty or text-based negotiations. And the expectations? No one is expecting a complete agreement or new global ruleset. No, the fact that they met, talked and interacted is enough. The same could be said for the half-yearly meetings at the WB and IMF. We should have a similar venue for trade ministers. We need a similar platform where trade ministers can meet regularly and address relevant challenges of the day. And by relevant, I mean those political issues that they see as most pressing. This would ensure that the WTO stays relevant – simply because ministers met and discussed. And I think our ministers would prefer this kind of interactive and inclusive approach.


  1. To be even more concrete and demonstrate to the outside world what are the most relevant present trade challenges, we could consider having a headline or theme for the MC. Right now, I would indicate that f.ex. the three themes in the EU communication on how the WTO can respond to global trade policy challenges could work well. They encompass development, climate, food security, health, supply chain resilience, digital economy – and thus are highly relevant to the world, and indeed for how can trade play a role.


  1. And not least important, I refer to DGs point on sense of urgency: We should in parallel raise expectations and put pressure on ourselves (in GVA). We all should strive to present results at the MC, rather than leave it to ministers to figure it out. And instead present a report to ministers on progress since the last MC – including concrete results and outcomes. Which ministers then can endorse and applaud and follow up by giving us new directions or instructions.

Thank you.