Permanent Mission of the European Union to
the World Trade Organization (WTO)

EU statement at the Informal TNC and HoDs meeting, 10 December 2018

Geneva, 10/12/2018 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 181210_34
Local Statements

Director General, many thanks for convening this meeting today, for the reports of the chairs and for your debriefings regarding recent contacts. We agree with you that given the critical state the organisation is in, there is no room for complacency. While the EU does not believe that there is simple solution to the current trade tensions, we remain very worried about their impact on the multilateral trading system and on the WTO. Departing from existing rules is not only harmful to the system but also does not address durably the issues underlying the current crisis.

  • The EU remains a staunch supporter of the rules-based trading system. The system has always served the shared interests of its Members, by ensuring a stable and predictable framework for global trade, with strong rules and enforcement tools. We would all lose from the collapse of the system, and the weak would suffer the most.
  • The current trade tensions have however revealed the shortcomings of the organisation, for which we all share the responsibility. We have left too many issues unanswered and the system is no longer adapted to address many of today’s global challenges. Earlier this month, at their summit the G20 leaders acknowledged as much this in their joint communiqué. Today, we call on, at least G20 Members, to now engage on WTO reform.
  • Over the last months, the EU has reached out to partners about WTO reform. The EU is ready to play a leadership role in the reform process that should be transparent and inclusive.
  • To this end, we have worked with other Members to put forward concrete solutions in the different areas of the reform. We have in particular stepped up efforts to unblock the appointment of Appellate Body Members in the shortest delay. We have together with a broad coalition of Members tabled textual proposals to improve the dispute settlement system while addressing concerns expressed. We trust these proposals provide a good basis for engagement and hope that we can initiate an in-depth process after the General Council meeting of this week.      
  • An efficient and independent dispute settlement system is key, but will not be enough to put the WTO back on track.  We need to advance as well on updating the rulebook to tackle the challenges that our economies are faced with and that, if unaddressed, will lead to an increased resort to managed trade.
  • We have made clear where we should prioritise our efforts to develop new rules to fill the gap of the current rulebook. We are now intensifying work on future proposals, with a specific focus on 'level playing field' issues such as industrial subsidies and barriers to services and investment, and forced technology transfer. Our aim here is not to change Members’ economic models but to make sure that certain policies and practices are not conducive to unfair trading environment. We hope all Members will engage constructively in the discussion. However, we are also ready to move forward with those willing to advance.
  • As regards the reform of the monitoring function of the WTO, we welcome the substantive exchanges at the Council for Trade in Goods meeting in November on the proposal aimed at enhancing transparency and improving Members’ compliance to notification. We are now working  towards good progress by the next CTG meeting in the spring.
  • In addition to reform efforts, we would like to progress on other issues. On e-commerce, it is encouraging to note that the open plurilateral track has allowed to conclude, in less than a year, exploratory talks. This shows that introducing flexibility in the process helps.
  • We are however worried about the actual standstill of negotiations on fisheries subsidies, notwithstanding the large amount of brainstorming activities  as reported by Ambassador Zapata.  We should remind ourselves of our Ministers’ commitment in Buenos Aires a year ago, and actively work on bridging the gaps so that the conclusion of a meaningful agreement next year comes within reach.
  • The EU also remains ready to advance negotiations on agriculture. After the failure in MC11, there is first a need to build confidence. In that regard, improving transparency in agriculture is a crucial element.  The availability, in time, of reliable and pertinent facts and figures is of the essence for a sound debate on new disciplines.  
  • Director General, I have just outlined the different initiatives that the EU has taken over the last months to reform the WTO. There are now concrete proposals on the table that are supported by a broad coalition of Members, from developing as well as from developed economies. This is however only a first step.  

It will be important for other Members engage constructively. We count on your support and leadership, as  well as of the Chairs of the relevant Bodies and Committees, to make this happen.

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