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WTO MC13 Wraps Up in Abu Dhabi, Paving the Way for a New Era of Global Trade Reforms

MC13 was a big step for the WTO, laying the groundwork for ongoing work to tackle important global trade issues and enhance the multilateral trading system.

Saurabh Shukla
WTO Members Conclude 13th Ministerial Conference with Forward-Looking Agenda (Photo Source: @wto/X)
WTO Members Conclude 13th Ministerial Conference with Forward-Looking Agenda (Photo Source: @wto/X)

WTO MC13: The World Trade Organization recently wrapped up its 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi, concluding with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration aimed at leading in a new era of reforms for the organization. The conference, which took place from February 26 to March 2, saw the participation of nearly 4,000 ministers, senior trade officials, and delegates from the WTO's 164 members and observers, as well as representatives from civil society, business, and the global media.

WTO MC13: Key Outcomes & Highlights

  • Ministerial Declaration and Reform Agenda: The MC13 concluded with the adoption of the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration, outlining a forward-looking agenda for the WTO. The declaration emphasizes the preservation and strengthening of the multilateral trading system, with a focus on responding to current trade challenges. Additionally, members committed to advancing the development dimension within the WTO's work, recognizing its role in contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Dispute Settlement System: Members renewed their commitment to having a fully functioning dispute settlement system by 2024. They instructed officials to accelerate discussions and work on unresolved issues, with the aim of delivering on this commitment.

  • Special and Differential Treatment (S&DT): A Ministerial Decision was adopted to review and improve S&DT provisions for developing and least developed countries, with a focus on making them more precise, effective, and operational. This decision is seen as a win for development, enabling these countries to better fulfill their WTO commitments and integrate into global trade.

  • Engagement on Sustainable Development and Socioeconomic Inclusion: For the first time, ministers engaged in discussions on the role of trade in sustainable development and socioeconomic inclusion. There was recognition of the importance of empowering women, expanding opportunities for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and achieving sustainable development across economic, social, and environmental dimensions.

  • Expansion and Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: The conference approved the membership terms of Comoros and Timor-Leste, the first new members in almost eight years. Momentum behind the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement also picked up pace, with several countries formally accepting the agreement, putting it on track for entry into force.

  • Other Agreements and Initiatives: Members adopted agreements related to electronic commerce, services domestic regulation, and investment facilitation for development. They also discussed environmental initiatives aimed at tackling plastics pollution, promoting environmental sustainability, and reforming fossil fuel subsidies.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the challenges faced during the conference but highlighted the progress made and the commitment shown by members. She emphasized the importance of continuing to work towards achieving the goals set forth in the Ministerial Declaration and advancing reforms within the organization.

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