Building Awareness WTO Members MC13 And Beyond

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Overview

This project is implemented by CUTS International, Geneva with funding support from the Netherland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policies. The timeline of the project is from May 2023 to April 2024. Twenty-five years after its establishment, the WTO’s multilateral trading system has proven to be a valuable global public good in many ways, providing countries with a clear rules-based framework for exchanging goods and services and, until recently, the means to ensure it is effectively adhered to

Background

Twenty-five years after its establishment, the WTO’s multilateral trading system has proven to be a valuable global public good in many ways, providing countries with a clear rules-based framework for exchanging goods and services and, until recently, the means to ensure it is effectively adhered to. On the negotiating track, however, progress had until recently remained elusive. The historical “Geneva Package” agreed upon at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) paves the way for intensified discussions towards the MC13 set for 2024, including around a newly launched agenda for reforming the WTO and its DSB appellate body. In addition, several joint initiatives are gaining momentum and are expected to deliver results by MC13.

Context

Not all WTO members can equally and effectively participate in international trade discussions or understand each other's positions. This is particularly challenging for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) due to limited human capacity and resources for trade negotiations. Furthermore, the number of trade fronts at the WTO has increased, while LDCs struggle to keep up. To overcome this, it is crucial to foster understanding between developed and developing members. While economic, technical, and political issues contribute to negotiation stalemates, the lack of mutual understanding among members is a constant threat. The engagement of all WTO members, both developed and developing, is essential to achieve convergence on discussions for MC13 and beyond.

Methodology

In order to further contribute to improving mutual understanding among developed and least developed WTO members on the four issues, the project will conduct four (4) research papers and four (4) workshops unpacking the different positions and interests at play at key ongoing discussions in the run-up to the 13th WTO ministerial conference and beyond.

The research papers will discuss the current status of negotiations on set topics and examine the shared and differing priorities of developed and least developed countries. Its aim is to enhance understanding between negotiators from these two groups by unpacking their positions and interests on the issue. After identifying and consulting with Geneva-based delegates to refine the research scope based on their specific requirements, CUTS will assign its experts to finalize the Terms of Reference (ToRs) and conduct the research. The findings will be presented at a workshop and then released electronically by CUTS. This process will involve final editing, layout, and distribution to CUTS´ extensive network of over 5,000 trade practitioners and through social media.

CUTS aims to enhance mutual understanding among developed and least developed WTO negotiators through a series of four workshops. These workshops will take place in Geneva and be conducted in a hybrid format, allowing both in-person and virtual participation. Trade officials from various WTO member countries, including both developed and least developed, will have the opportunity to engage with and learn from the research findings presented in the papers. The workshops will serve as an additional platform to inform WTO discussions and foster trust-building outside of the formal negotiation process. The hybrid format of the workshops will allow participation not only by beneficiary Geneva diplomats, but also capital-based officials. In addition to presenting and discussing the research findings and recommendations, the workshops will feature participation from the paper author, experts from international organizations, academia, and diplomatic missions, who will address questions from the attending trade officials. Furthermore, relevant organizations and international governmental organizations (IGOs) will have the opportunity to share their work in the field, providing valuable insights to the participants.

Activities

  1. Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs)
  2. Trade officials and negotiators from developed and least developed countries better understand each other’s priorities and interests on the issues discussed in the Informal Working Group (IWG) on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).

  3. E-Commerce
  4. Trade officials and negotiators from developed and least developed countries better understand each other’s priorities and interests on the issues discussed in the WTO E-commerce Joint Statement Initiative (JSI).

  5. Trade and Environmental Sustainability
  6. Trade officials and negotiators from developed and least developed countries better understand each other’s priorities and interests on the issues discussed in the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) Joint Statement.

  7. Subsidies (TBA)

Four Joint Statement Initiatives (JSI) launched at Buenos Aires have become an increasingly active part of members’ work towards MC12. These initiatives on e-commerce, investment facilitation, gender and Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) have been signed by many members, including several developing and LDCs. Each at a different stage of progress, most issued statements late last year to take stock of their work and providing guidance on the way forward despite the postponement of MC12. Given their standard-setting potential, even non-participating developing countries will need to closely monitor these discussions/negotiations, in particular the JSIs on e-commerce and investment facilitation participants aim to achieve outcomes by end of 2022. Small developing countries and LDCs will need assistance to keep pace with progress under these Joint Statements.

Envisaged Outcome

The envisaged outcome of this project is to help trade officials from both developed and least developed countries better understand each other's priorities and interests on key ongoing discussions in the run-up to the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference and beyond. The focus will lie on four outcome areas specifically..

KEY FEATURES

Objective

The project aims to build the capacities of Least Developed Country’s Geneva delegations by unpacking trade and development aspects of key ongoing discussions in the WTO and bringing them together with developed countries’ delegations through workshops to better understand each other’s priorities and interests and build mutual trust in the run-up to MC13 and beyond.

Duration

May 2023 - April 2024

Donor