Trade ministers from the Group of Twenty (G20) have vowed to make the necessary reforms to the World Trade Organization (WTO) “with a sense of urgency,” according to WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo.
Azevedo said the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy concluded on June 8-9 in Tsukuba, Japan, with a commitment from the ministers to “work constructively with other WTO Members to undertake necessary WTO reform with a sense of urgency, including in the lead-up to the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference.”
The ministerial statement also underlined a number of areas where further action is needed, including “regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by the WTO Members.”
Addressing the meeting, the WTO director-general said: “Whether it be efforts to strengthen committee structures and notifications, to advance new negotiating approaches, or to find ways to deliver on issues like fisheries subsidies and agriculture, all relate in one way or another to the broad issue of WTO reform.
“It is important to recognise that through the discussions and negotiations that have started in Geneva, members are already responding to the call for reform,” he added.
The G20 ministerial statement released after the meeting affirmed the continued need to handle trade tensions and to foster mutually beneficial trade relations.
“We strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, to keep our markets open. International trade is important for productivity, innovation, job creation and development. We recognize the contributions that the WTO has made to this end. We agree that action is necessary to improve the functioning of the WTO. We recognize our business community’s call for the G20 to continue supporting the multilateral trading system.”
The statement added that “we will work constructively with other WTO Members to undertake necessary WTO reform with a sense of urgency, including in the lead-up to the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference.”
“We confirm the importance of the role of the WTO in generating opportunities and addressing various challenges. We reiterate our support for the work to agree on comprehensive and effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies as mandated in MC11. We also note some ongoing initiatives for updating WTO rules,” it continued.
Azevedo also welcomed the emphasis that Japan’s G20 presidency is giving to digital issues, saying they are clearly a major feature of the 21st century economy. “I’m happy that ministers are discussing these topics in the WTO—particularly e-commerce, whether on the multilateral track or within groups of interested members.”
“We note the ongoing discussion under the Joint Statement Initiative on electronic commerce,” said the ministerial statement.
“In order to share the benefits of digitalization worldwide, we recognize that there is a need to enhance investment in infrastructure focusing on ICT, including in developing countries, to facilitate their participation in the digital economy,” it said.
Photo courtesy of WTO