In a recent address at the 2023 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in San Francisco, Deputy Director-General Angela Ellard emphasized the crucial role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in building a more open, dynamic, resilient, inclusive, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community. She called upon APEC to take the lead in reforming the multilateral trading system and underlined the importance of achieving positive outcomes at the upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) to demonstrate the benefits of international trade.
Ellard began by expressing gratitude to the United States for hosting the event and highlighted the significance of collaboration in these discussions. She also conveyed greetings from WTO Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who had met with APEC leaders earlier.
Ellard stressed that a robust WTO is vital for realizing the APEC Putrajaya Vision, which aims to create a prosperous and harmonious Asia-Pacific community by 2040. APEC's leadership is instrumental in reshaping the rules-based multilateral trading system, building on the achievements of MC-12 and aiming for a successful MC13.
She acknowledged APEC's historical role as an accelerator and catalyst for critical trade agreements, such as the Information Technology Agreement and the Trade Facilitation Agreement. APEC has also made significant contributions to discussions on environmental goods and services and domestic services regulation.
The Deputy Director-General underscored the increasing importance of a rules-based trading system in today's global economy. With 164 WTO members representing 98% of world trade and more countries seeking to join, the need for collaboration and partnership to promote resilience is greater than ever.
Ellard recognized the imperfections in the multilateral trading system but advocated for strengthening and reforming it, rather than weakening it. She outlined several concrete objectives for MC13, including reforming the dispute settlement system, progressing on fisheries sustainability, addressing agricultural issues, extending the e-commerce moratorium, and expanding the WTO's deliberative function.
She highlighted the urgency of reforming the dispute settlement system by 2024, emphasizing the importance of a fully functioning system. Achieving progress on fisheries sustainability was also stressed, with the aim of reaching 110 acceptances for the Agreement to enter into force.
On agriculture, Ellard emphasized the importance of addressing food security, domestic support, public stockholding, and market access. She noted the impact of climate change on food production and the role of MC13 as a milestone in enhancing global food and agriculture markets' resilience.
The Deputy Director-General called for the extension of the e-commerce moratorium, citing studies that showed the negative consequences of not doing so. She emphasized the need for the WTO to assist developing countries in addressing the digital divide and using e-commerce as a tool for development.
Ellard also highlighted ongoing reforms within the WTO, with innovative approaches and forward-looking outcomes being developed in various committees and initiatives. She mentioned the WTO's role in addressing the climate crisis, promoting gender equality, and supporting inclusive development.
In closing, Ellard addressed the WTO's budget constraints and requested favorable consideration to adjust the budget to meet the organization's growing workload while delivering excellent service.
In conclusion, APEC's leadership is pivotal in strengthening the multilateral trading system and the WTO. The success of MC13 depends on the collective efforts of APEC members to drive essential reforms and shape the future of international trade.