WTO’s latest Ministerial Conference commits to the multilateral trading system

Nearly 4000 ministers, senior trade officials and other delegates from the 164 members of the World Trade Organization came together in Abu Dhabi for the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference.

In a Ministerial Declaration, which can be found HERE, they committed to preserving and strengthening the ability of the multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core, to respond to current trade challenges.

Members recognised the role and importance of services to the global economy as it generates more than two-thirds of global economic output and accounts for over half of all jobs.

They encouraged the relevant WTO bodies to continue their work to review and build on all the lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and to build effective solutions in case of future pandemics in an expeditious manner.

Ministers recognised female economic empowerment and participation in trade contributes to economic growth and sustainable development, with capacity building and sharing experiences being crucial in raising participation levels.

Also at the conference, ministers formally approved the WTO membership terms of Comoros and Timor-Leste, the first new members in almost eight years.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Head of Trade Policy, William Bain, said: “The main objectives have been achieved. These include an extension of the moratorium on electronic transmission of goods and services, maintaining the current application of the agreement on intellectual property rights, and the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation entering into full effect.”

However, he went on, with protectionism on the rise, there is much more to do.

The BCC is urging all countries to work towards a full e-commerce agreement by the time of the next Ministerial Conference (MC14) in Canada in 2026.

WTO Members agreed to renew the “e-commerce moratorium” until MC14, maintaining duty free trade in online services, including apps, games and software, as well as digitally transmitted content such as music, video, and other digital files.

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