Although the new Director-General is still a few days away from taking up her duties, we can already sense her presence. With the DG appointed, we can now focus on the challenging tasks that we have ahead of us.
One week ago, the European Commission has set out a new trade strategy for the EU. This strategy builds on strengthening and reforming global trade rules and includes a dedicated paper on WTO reform, which is a central priority for the EU’s trade policy. Executive Vice President Dombrovskis has reached out to all WTO Ministers on the EU’s agenda for WTO reform, and we look forward to working and engaging with you all.
The EU Trade Policy Review lays out our ambitions for a successful MC12, which will be key for WTO reform. We look forward to working with all Members in the coming months on key priorities including the fisheries negotiations, trade and health, trade and environment, dispute settlement reform and ongoing negotiations in the Joint Statement Initiatives.
But looking beyond MC12, the EU will continue to put forward or strongly support initiatives that address the most pressing problems WTO Members collectively face, such as tackling the effects of COVID-19, supporting environmental and social sustainability, updating the rules for digital trade, and reinforcing rules to tackle competitive distortions and promote a level playing field.
We strongly support progress in the different Joint Statement Initiatives and we would wish to discuss with like-minded countries a new plurilateral initiative on competitive neutrality, including issues such as strengthened disciplines on industrial subsidies or state owned enterprises.
The EU Trade Policy Review includes ideas on making the WTO’s negotiating function more effective – including on defining mechanisms to incorporate plurilateral agreements in the WTO - and on how to reinforce the WTO monitoring and deliberating function. These institutional issues could be considered by a Working Group on WTO reform to be set up at MC12.
Moving to fisheries subsidies, I want to thank the Chair Ambassador Wills for his efforts and his report of the state of play of the fisheries subsidies negotiations.
I will not repeat my intervention of last Friday on the EU’s view on the main issues. Unfortunately, the positions of the Membership remain far apart.
The EU supports working in small groups on some of the key issues, as that setting would allow more in-depth and interactive discussions and consider alternatives. Small groups, of course, need to be transparent and report back to the full membership. But we should avoid excessive requirements that would defeat the purpose. To guide our work, the Chair has the right, I would even say the responsibility, to put forward specific questions and to identify different drafting options.
Similarly, we trust the Chair’s judgement on revising the texts in light of his assessment of possible compromises. Subjecting every change to unanimity would deprive the negotiating process of its vital dynamism.