Director General, Chair:
The results of MC12, not least the agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, Part I, gave a great boost to the WTO. It proved relevance on sustainability – one important challenge of our time.
Our talks and various meetings since then have used the energy from that boost, and I would say we have had 3 low key but rather successful retreats under the auspices of the GC and the TNC. No ambitious takeaways, but an important reboot to try to look at issues together and start a constructive conversation that can pave the way to reform and to needed negotiations.
We recognize that Members needed some time to reflect on the way forward during the weeks following MC12, but we expected that necessary institutional set ups would have been in place by now for both agriculture and fisheries.
On reform, we are heartened by the fact that various bodies, not least the CTG and its subsidiaries, are focusing on reforming their work as part of the bottom up approach. The TPRM appraisal is timely with reform in mind. Small, practical steps might seem trivial and not very exciting. But they can do much to ease the work of members and the secretariat.
Looking forward, I would emphasize 5 issues:
- It is imperative that we restore our two-tier dispute settlement system and ensure legally binding conclusions in trade disputes. The ongoing discussions should be brought into a more formal track early 2023 that ensures that we are able to live up to our commitment our ministers made, a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all Members by 2024.
- Negotiations on Part 2 of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement must start early in the new year, we have a commitment to conclude by MC13. Agreeing on subsidies disciplines for overcapacity and overfishing is difficult but not impossible, we should start with asking whether all member fishing nations are committed to fishing sustainably.
- The agriculture retreat gave an indication of members’ willingness to explore new approaches to the negotiations. As well, we look forward to the start the substantive work in 2023 on the important file of the emergency response to food insecurity.
- We are very pleased that environment and climate has moved up the agenda, with COP 27 just concluded and based on the excellent World Trade Report. The solid activity in the CTE and three initiatives (TESSD, Plastics and FFSR) since MC12 should continue in 2023. Climate and environmental issues will permeate much of what we do in the future.
- Lastly, our conversation on trade and development and aid for trade will resonate in all parts of this organization, and as an integral part of the reform agenda. We see a renewed willingness among members to engage in the dialogue on development issues.
On all these issues we stand ready to take the discussions forward – being constructive and resultsoriented. And mindful that the WTO has to be relevant on the questions of our time.