WTO (Negotiations, Regular Work, Leadership)

The Trade System Is Changing: Can it Deliver for the Future?

This session explored how the system of trade rules and how they are developed is changing, and discussed what this could mean for the future of trade policy. The trading system is currently under pressure to deliver results in line with current and upcoming challenges, while also addressing historic inequities among countries at different levels of development. In this context, rule-making is changing shape, including with ongoing plurilateral negotiations on new rules and initiatives on environmental sustainability among others. While this year’s MC12 outcomes have shown the WTO’s ability to deliver, striking agreements that live up to expectations remains a challenge.

The panellists initiated their discussion by addressing the inter-connectedness of trade, environment, digital economy and food security. One of the panellists highlighted that the latest events of the Russian invasion in Ukraine affected the free flow of fertilisers and agricultural inputs from Russia which indirectly influenced food trade and production across the globe. Further, they underlined that the digital economy and climate change are essential features of WTO as they are vital for economic development and how pandemics unveiled the urgent need for a global set of rules to regulate the digital economy. Currently, there are hundreds of regional trade agreements on digital trade and they once again, stressed accelerating e-commerce negotiations to draft a permanent moratorium for legal clarity.

Discussing what is missing in WTO’s work on Climate Change. One of the Panellists shed some light on how WTO is currently dealing with crises that are new in nature and in order to address them, we need multilateral cooperation and capacity building to share and access information. In the end, they mentioned that a critical ingredient is missing in the negotiation which is agriculture. In many developed countries, a huge portion of government funds is allocated to programmes like domestic subsidy support for farmers which affects the funding of the programmes of the 2030 Agenda. So, it needs to be negotiated if we want to address Climate Change.

On the panel were Alice Tipping, Lead, Sustainable Trade, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD); Kumar Iyer, Director General Economics, Science and Technology, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO); Ute John, Head of Trade and Sustainability, Mercedes-Benz Group AG; George Mina, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Permanent Mission of Australia to the World Trade Organization (WTO); Pimchanok Vonkorpon Pitfield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).