WTO Concludes MC13 with 10 Consensus Decisions

DG Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the formal approval of the WTO membership terms of Comoros and Timor-Leste and the tangible outcomes on trade and development,

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Despite the more than challenging context, we concluded MC13 with 10 consensus multilateral Ministerial Decisions and Declarations," DG Okonjo-Iweala said. "That's why I personally see the glass as half full."

DG Okonjo-Iweala highlighted the formal approval of the WTO membership terms of Comoros and Timor-Leste and the tangible outcomes on trade and development, including special and differential treatment for developing members to meet product standards or technical regulations, the adoption of the decision to support least-developed countries on the path to graduation, and the decision to facilitate trade opportunities for small economies.

She also cited the substantial progress made in Abu Dhabi on the number of formal acceptances for the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, with 72 formal acceptances now in hand and only 38 remaining for the Agreement to enter into force. She said 15 more formal acceptances are expected in March and April.

DG Okonjo-Iweala further noted that members sent a strong political signal about the importance and value of WTO dispute settlement, providing further shape to the collective commitment to a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system by this year. She also cited the extension of the e-commerce moratorium with an end date of 31 March 2026 or the next ministerial conference - whichever is sooner — thereby maintaining a predictable environment underpinning the digital economy. She further lauded the decisions reached by members on the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration, TRIPS non-violation and situation complaints, and strengthening regulatory cooperation to reduce technical barriers to trade. MC13 outcome documents can be accessed here.

DG Okonjo-Iweala added: "The need to deliver results for the people we serve is no less urgent. We must regroup and reinvigorate how we engage in the coming weeks and months to complete the unfinished business as soon as possible."

On agriculture, DG Okonjo-Iweala said it was encouraging that members were working off a common text for the first time in a long time and that she shared the call of Ambassador Alparslan Acarsoy (Türkiye), Chairperson of the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture, for members to build on the work done thus far. On fisheries subsidies, DG Okonjo-Iweala said she agreed with Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson (Iceland), Chairperson of the Negotiating Group on Rules, on the need to maintain forward momentum and establish the best process to conclude negotiations as soon as possible. On special and differential treatment and development issues, she supported the reflections and plans of Ambassador Kadra Hassan (Djibouti), Chairperson of the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development, on the way forward.

"Ambassadors therefore need to reflect on what happened at MC13 and draw the right lessons that they must start work earlier, work harder, smarter, and conclude issues before a Ministerial," DG Okonjo-Iweala said, noting that the General Council has the power to conclude work in Geneva.  "There can be no substitute for genuine multilateral negotiations in Geneva."

DG Okonjo-Iweala furthermore urged members to adopt a positive approach as work continues in Geneva. "MC13 confirmed what we've all known – that adopting a lose-lose negotiating posture is not conducive to results," she said. "I urge you not to damage an organization that is critical for some, especially small developing countries, and middle powers. Therefore, as you reflect on MC13, I urge you to think about what is helpful for the people we are here to serve and adopt a win-win approach for the greater good."

In her intervention, the outgoing General Council Chairperson, Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, said: "Taking account of the conversations before and at MC13, as well as the decisions taken, it is clear that there are a number of consultations that will need to be held on a range of matters under the purview of the General Council. For one, how to advance the reform-related discussions. Secondly, the work programme on electronic commerce and the moratorium is another such area. Third, consultations will need to be held related to the date of MC14. Fourth, and in close coordination with the Dispute Settlement Body Chairperson, dispute settlement reform."

Abdelsalam Mohamed A.  Al Ali, Plenipotentiary Representative to the WTO of the United Arab Emirates, host of MC13, likewise welcomed the package of outcomes at Abu Dhabi and called on members to keep up the momentum.

"On the way forward, it is vital that we maintain the positive momentum of the discussions.  We are hopeful and confident in reaching the objectives agreed by the ministers in Abu Dhabi.  This will be within our reach if, in the post MC13 period, we build on the efforts made by all members to fine tune the current draft text of agreements," he said.

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