In a two-day gathering, senior trade officials at the WTO have provided positive signals that negotiators in Geneva are poised to achieve significant outcomes at the upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) scheduled for early next year. The meeting, chaired by WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and General Council Chair Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, was characterized by constructive dialogues on various issues on the MC13 agenda and emerging trade-related concerns.
Director-General Okonjo-Iweala expressed a "very strong positive impression" regarding the discussions during her concluding remarks at the Senior Officials Meeting. It is evident that Geneva-based negotiators now have the political mandate to pursue breakthroughs at MC13 on crucial topics such as agriculture and food security, dispute settlement reform, the e-commerce work program, the "second wave" of fisheries subsidies negotiations, and development matters.
The Chair of the General Council highlighted that the Senior Officials Meeting marked the fourth stage in preparations for MC13, with the next steps including a General Council meeting in early November and the end-of-year meetings of the General Council and the Trade Negotiations Committee. The urgency of capital engagement at all levels was emphasized to ensure the success of MC13 and beyond.
The Senior Officials Meeting played a pivotal role in preparing for the 13th Ministerial Conference, focusing on reviewing progress, making decisions, and addressing specific challenges. Discussions aimed to identify potential deliverables for MC13, offer political guidance and support for ministerial preparations, and deliberate on pressing global issues.
The meeting also saw the adoption of a decision to assist least-developed countries (LDCs) in their transition from LDC status, sending a strong signal of the WTO's commitment to supporting vulnerable members in achieving their development objectives.
While the world faces increased uncertainty and challenges, the WTO is expected to demonstrate its capacity to contribute to solutions and bring stability in an unstable environment. MC13 will play a crucial role in showcasing solid deliverables in various areas, including fisheries and sustainability, agriculture and food security, development, e-commerce, services, digital trade, investment, and WTO reform.
The Senior Officials Meeting sets a positive tone for the preparations leading up to MC13, where WTO members aim to make progress on key global trade issues and demonstrate the organization's ability to navigate turbulent times and deliver meaningful outcomes.