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Norway's statement at the informal TNC/HODs of 25th February 2021

The informal Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) and Heads of Delegations (HODs) meeting took place at the WTO on the 25th February, 2021. Ambassador Dagfinn Sørli, Norway’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and EFTA, highlighted the priority areas in the lead up to MC12; addressing the pandemic, the importance of concluding the fisheries subsidies negotiations and addressing the WTO reform. The Norwegian statement in its entirety can be read below:

Thank you, Chair,

Thank you for your challenging introductory remarks, and thanks to the chairs for their reports on the state of play. This is a good opportunity to take stock and look ahead towards MC12, and to reflect on what might realistically be achieved and how we may get there. Permit me to highlight three priority areas.

 

My first point is that MC12 will have to address the pandemic. The pandemic represents a global challenge that can only be addressed effectively through international cooperation using a variety of tools. I believe that we all share the objective of securing equitable and affordable access to diagnostics, vaccines and medicines. Norway supports international initiatives like COVAX, C-TAP and the multi-stakeholder ACT-A, and encourage other Members in a position to do so to join us.

 

The multilateral, rules-based trading regime is part of the toolbox available to the global community, and trade is part of the solution. In this context, the trade and health initiative taken by the Ottawa group provides an excellent basis. Norway is looking forward to engaging with other members and the Director General on how the WTO can best contribute to mitigate the effects of the ongoing pandemic, to recover from the pandemic, and to be better prepared for the future.

 

My second point is the need to conclude the negotiations on fisheries subsidies as soon as possible. Given the difficult issues remaining, there is an urgent need for a more solution-oriented and pragmatic approach from Members. We must also use alternative negotiating formats that may be more conducive to making progress. We agree that smaller formats facilitate deeper and more interactive discussions, at the same time as the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and transparency will have to be respected.

 

My third point is that we need to address WTO reform at MC12. At this stage however, views on what reform should mean, and what may be achieved, seem to diverge widely within the membership, and we tend to talk past one another rather than to each other. We need to discuss seriously about what may constitute a common ground for dealing with reform at MC12 and beyond.

 

For our part, we believe reform needs to address all three pillars. Restoring a fully functioning dispute settlement system is fundamental. But we also need to continue our efforts to improve the efficiency of our work across our established structures. And finally, we need to pursue our rulemaking efforts with renewed energy.

 

I have already touched upon the negotiations on fisheries subsidies. Let me also point to the importance of the various Joint Statement Initiatives. While plurilateral approaches do not represent the preferred avenue, they have injected new energy into this organization. Next week we will have the first session of the Structured Discussions on Trade and Environmental Sustainability. The variety of members participating shows that we share the concern about environmental and climate challenges. We believe that this initiative is another opportunity for the WTO to demonstrate that it is a relevant organisation for the 21st century, and we will work towards concrete deliverables at MC12. 

 

Much work remains to be done towards MC12. Let’s get to work.


Thank you.