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East Asia Forum

The narrowing economic gap between the United States and China has led to growing use of World Trade Organization (WTO) security exceptions, a development requiring a review to prevent abuse of the concept. A balance between these exceptions and free trade must be maintained through restoring the WTO's legislative function, realising the goals of Joint Statement Initiatives and clarifying trade remedy measures.

The rapid narrowing of the economic and technological gap between the United States and China since the late 2010s has triggered confrontation. Because of this, security-based perspectives have shaped various measures introduced into trade and commerce around the world.

Politico Pro

Here’s a roundup of the issues at stake at the upcoming ministerial:

Fishing subsidies: The WTO reached a partial agreement at its last ministerial conference in June 2022 to curb subsidies that threaten the future of ocean fish supplies.

This time they are trying for a more comprehensive agreement that would hopefully have a much bigger impact on maintaining one of the world’s most important food stocks.

Of all the issues at stake in Abu Dhabi, officials are most hopeful about getting this negotiation over the line. “If there’s no agreement on fish at MC13, that’d be a tragedy,” one Geneva-based diplomat said.

For Okonjo-Iweala, the negotiation is proof the WTO is still relevant. “260 million people depend on fisheries for their livelihood, and the oceans are being overfished. [The question for ministers in Abu Dhabi is] can we save the oceans, be part of the regenerative blue economy and save jobs?” she told POLITICO in an interview.

CEPR

rom February 26–29, 2024, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will host the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Governments from 164 countries will be joined by Timor-Leste and Comoros, the first two nations to join the group since 2017.

At stake is a fight between two visions of what role the WTO, as the world’s most powerful rule-making body in the global economy, should play.

Should the institution expand as an even more corporate-influenced body, with rich countries allowed to set agendas, impose negotiation mechanisms in their favor, and leave poorer countries — and multilateralism itself — in the dustbin of history?

Or should members of the institution recognize the constraints that the current rules place on developing economies, including the harm caused to workers, farmers, and the global environment, and increase flexibilities so that these countries can use trade for their development?

Ministerial Declaration

IUST

World Trade Organization negotiators have identified several “concepts” that could be the basis for a “viable solution” to the question of what the appeals stage of the dispute settlement system will look like, the facilitator of the reform talks said on Friday, adding that a deal on that issue is possible before the 13th ministerial in one month -- if members work with enough “determination.”

The WTO Appellate Body has been largely defunct since December 2017, as the U.S. has maintained a block on filling vacancies on the body across two administrations, leaving more than 30 appealed disputes in limbo. The fracture of the dispute settlement system sparked a reform effort, which has produced a draft text that identifies a number of procedural and operational improvements to the system, although it does not yet include any outline of a new or reformed appeals stage.

TWN

Several members of the World Trade Organization sought to know from the facilitator overseeing the reform of the WTO’s dispute settlement system (DSS) as to why his 49-page draft ministerial decision did not include language on the crucial pillar of Appellate Review, particularly the Appellate Body.

TWN

 Several members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 18 December apparently sought to know from the facilitator overseeing the reform of the WTO’s dispute settlement system (DSS) as to why he has remained silent on the most crucial pillar of Appellate Review, particularly the Appellate Body, seemingly raising a cloud over the restoration of the two-tier DSS at the upcoming WTO’s 13th ministerial conference (MC13) that commences in Abu Dhabi on 26 February 2024.

TWN

While the chair of the World Trade Organization’s General Council (GC) and the WTO Director-General said on 24 October that the two-day Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) ended on an optimistic note with clear guidance going forward, the Chairpersons’ Summary issued by them has raised some serious questions.

See full report for further details on Dispute settlement, TRIPS, Agriculture, Development, Fisheries subsidies, WTO reform, JSIs

TWN

The facilitator overseeing the informal discussions on reforming the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement system issued a confidential zero draft text on 3 October that appears to curtail the organization’s vital enforcement function.

TWN

Several members of the World Trade Organization sought to know from the facilitator overseeing the reform of the WTO’s dispute settlement system (DSS) as to why his 49-page draft ministerial decision did not include language on the crucial pillar of Appellate Review, particularly the Appellate Body.