Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of the World Trade Organization (WTO) stressed the need for concerted efforts among WTO members to reach common ground and deliver tangible results at the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) scheduled for February in Abu Dhabi. Speaking in her role as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, she welcomed the outcomes of the recent Group of 7 (G7) trade ministers meeting in Osaka, Japan, where discussions centered on preparations for MC13.
During the G7 meeting, ministers expressed their commitment to a successful MC13 while acknowledging the existing differences on various issues. Director-General Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the urgency of the situation, with only four months remaining until MC13. She emphasized the importance of utilizing the political guidance and support received from senior officials and ministers to advance their work towards concrete outcomes.
In her address, she acknowledged the challenging global context, stating, "The current global outlook is dire at the moment. People are looking to multilateral organizations to act differently, to deliver differently, to show the world that they're still bastions where multilateral cooperation can deliver for people."
Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, the General Council Chair, provided an update on discussions related to WTO reform. She highlighted the progress made in various WTO bodies on "reform-by-doing" initiatives and noted that a "significant and credible" reform package was emerging, which should be endorsed by ministers at MC13.
The General Council Chair stressed that WTO reform remains a top priority among member states and called for MC13 to be a "reform Ministerial." She encouraged delegations to focus on the tasks ahead and the limited time available to accomplish them.
MC13 is scheduled to take place from February 26 to 29, 2024.
Additionally, the ongoing discussions surrounding paragraph 8 of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement and the duration of the deadline on the General Council agenda were noted.
Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius provided a report on developments in the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, while Ambassador José Sánchez-Fung, Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development, reported on progress in the Work Programme on Small Economies since July.
The next regular meeting of the General Council is tentatively scheduled for December 14-15. These developments reflect the WTO's commitment to addressing key global trade issues and achieving meaningful outcomes for its member states.