Mme Chair, I would like first of all to congratulate you for your first two months in office and for taking some of the WTO’s current key challenges head on.
The months ahead of us will be of crucial importance for steering our work in the right direction in order to have a 12th Ministerial Conference that puts the WTO in the right trajectory to address the many challenges that the Multilateral Trading System is facing. The EU is ready to support you and the Chair of the General Council in your efforts to steer this process successfully.
Time is short. A first priority is to have a clear idea of the process from here to MC12. There are a number of useful consultation underway and you have indicated your intention to convene a Ministerial Meeting in July to address some issues and finalize the fisheries subsidies negotiations, which are a priority for the membership and are long overdue.
However, we need to have a clearer and more precise idea on the process and staging posts from here to July and indeed until MC12. This is important in order for us all to prepare work properly and involve senior officials and Ministers at crucial points along the road to MC12.
MC12 will be the first WTO Ministerial Meeting since 4 years. We can all be easily tempted to bring to the table the whole range of issues that we have been unable to solve in the last years. We have to resist such temptation. We should rather focus on what we can reasonably deliver in the current circumstances.
MC12 will be taking place in very particular and uncertain times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, we are not even certain in which format the meeting will take place. The only certainty that we can have is that MC12 will be a Ministerial Meeting unlike any of those held in the past. So much we can be certain.
This particular context adds to the challenges that we have to address. It is critical for the WTO and for us all as Members, that MC12 is successful. We cannot afford to have a failure.
And a failure needs not to happen. Working hard together with a shared vision of what can reasonably be achieved, we can collectively deliver a few concrete outcomes at MC12 and lay the foundation for a meaningful reform programme of the WTO with outcomes to be delivered by MC13. This will be an important success.
For the EU, we need to have concrete outcomes by MC12 on two key issues:
Firstly, on fisheries subsidies; the EU supports the Chair’s efforts to move the negotiations forward and the Director-General’s involvement and intent to achieve an outcome already in July. With this in mind, we need to consider how best to use the short time ahead. These negotiations are a test case of the ability of the WTO to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, in this case SDG 14.6. We are already late, well passed the deadline that Heads of State and Government instructed us, here at the WTO, to deliver. We have full confidence that Ambassador Wills will find the best way forward for these negotiations.
Secondly, on trade and health, we must work towards a Ministerial Declaration that brings together key elements of the Ottawa Group proposal on Trade & Health (export restrictions, transparency, trade facilitation) as well as progress on the expansion of production capacities through voluntary licensing and, where necessary, supporting the use of the available TRIPs flexibilities.
Beyond that, for the EU it is essential that MC12 lays out a solid path for WTO reform across its three functions.
For this, we should seek to establish a Working Group on WTO Reform at MC12. The Working group should serve as a forum for discussion and guide the membership towards delivering outcomes by MC13 around institutional aspects of WTO reform that are of systemic interest. Such outcomes should improve each of the WTO’s three functions and could be achieved through dedicated work programmes.
A top priority remains to find a lasting solution to the current paralysis of the Appellate Body that would restore a fully functioning dispute settlement in the WTO.
We are also working towards outcomes on improving the monitoring and deliberative function, via the proposals on notification compliance and guidelines for WTO bodies dealing with trade concerns.
The EU continues to strongly support progress in the different Joint Statement Initiatives. We expect to conclude negotiations on Domestic Regulation in services, and progress on E-Commerce and Investment Facilitation. We will also seek to launch a new initiative addressing issues such as strengthened disciplines on industrial subsidies or state owned enterprises and another on trade & sustainability including a trade and climate component.
On agriculture, the EU strongly believes that MC12 can make a positive contribution but we must also stay realistic on what we can achieve to avoid a repeat of MC11. We should focus on export restrictions, including the World Food Programme proposal, and improvements in transparency, and agree on a work programme for future work on domestic support, including public stockholding.
This agenda is substantial given the time we have left and the particular circumstances under which we are all operating. MC12 can deliver concrete and important outcomes and set the stage to reboot the WTO with a solid reform programme. This is much necessary and will be a successful outcome. Working hard and together in the months ahead, we can succeed. The EU is ready to play its full part.