WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference concludes with Abu Dhabi Declaration, securing key trade and development agreements

Abu Dhabi, Mar. 3 (BNA): The 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has concluded with the acceptance of Abu Dhabi Declaration, a landmark document securing important new trade agreements that will extend the benefits of the global trading system to more nations.

 

Following a week of intensive negotiations, Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 Chair, heralded the Declaration as “a momentous week not only for Abu Dhabi and the UAE, but for global trade as a whole,” according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).

 

Hosted by the UAE Ministry of Economy and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), MC13 took place across five days at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, beginning on February 26 and concluding on March 2. The Abu Dhabi Declaration reflects consensus on a series of key trade and development policies.

 

Members agreed to implement Special and Preferential Treatment on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), which supports producers in least developed countries gain better access to global supply chains. Currently, SPS measures account for 90 percent of non-tariff barriers to trade, which are considered discriminatory to smaller nations.

 

In another outcome benefitting of developing countries, ministers adopted a Ministerial Decision that responds to a 23-year-old mandate to review special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions for developing and least developed countries (LDCs) with a view to making them more precise, effective and operational.

 

Substantive breakthroughs were made on dispute settlement, with an agreement to fulfil the MC12 mandate to achieve a fully and well-functioning Dispute Settlement system by the end 2024 – with a wide range of reform pathways agreed by the membership.

 

On E-commerce, Members agreed to extend the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions for another two years, meaning that trade in purely digital products and services will remain tariff-free until MC14 in Cameroon. Ministers also adopted a Ministerial Decision to extend the moratorium on non-violation and situation complaints regarding the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) until MC14.

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MC13 saw the accession of two new WTO Members, with Comoros and Timor-Leste becoming the 165th and 166th members of the body – and the first new Members since 2016. This also increased the number of Least Developed Countries, as defined by the United Nations, in the WTO to 37 out of the total 45 LDCs. Comoros and Timor-Leste will now be able to participate in the monitoring and negotiation of these treaties and trade with all WTO members on preferential terms.

 

The entry into force of new rules to simplify trade in services was also announced during MC13. The 72 Members that signed up to the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation account for more than 92 percent of the world’s trade in services.

 

MC13 also saw the UAE make a US$10 million commitment to three key WTO development funds. The contribution will be split between the Women Exporters in the Digital Economy (WEIDE) Fund, which will receive $5 million, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), which is to get $4 million, and the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, which will benefit from $1 million.

 

Collectively, the grants underline the UAE’s belief in, and commitment to, trade as a driver of economic growth. The commitment was announced by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the eve of MC13. The UAE also provided AED 1 million (CHF240,000) to increase the capacity of least developed countries to participate in the Ministerial.

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Notably, MC13 also facilitated expanded private-sector engagement. The forum provided an opportunity to explore greater collaboration and partnership with business, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, and civil society to enhance the effectiveness of trade policies and programs via a series of side events.

 

These included the TradeTech Global Forum, which promoted the use of technology in global supply chains, and sessions on trade facilitation in partnership with Etihad Credit Insurance, trade finance with HSBC, SMEs with the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), the WLP Logistics Challenges with DP World, Future of Cargo in collaboration with Emirates, and Sustainable Trade Africa.

 

Ministerial Conferences are the highest decision-making body of the WTO and serve as crucial forums for its Members to address trade challenges, refine trade rules and set the agenda for global trade policy. The 13th Ministerial Conference builds on progress achieved during MC12, held in Geneva in June 2022.

 

Dr. Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade and Chair of the MC13, said that it has been a momentous week for Abu Dhabi, for the UAE and for global trade.

 

“I would like to thank the delegations from every member for their diligence and dedication to the negotiation and for their ceaseless efforts in making the global trading system more robust, more efficient and, most importantly, more accessible. Even in areas where final agreements have not been reached issues that previously seemed unsolvable can now be unlocked – clearing the way for further progress in the months to come,” Al Zeyoudi said.

 

He added that delivering the Abu Dhabi Declaration of outcomes is a true testament to the value that Members continue to attach to the World Trade Organisation and its pivotal role in ensuring an orderly global system of trade rules. With the adopted Abu Dhabi Declaration we have demonstrated that we can deliver to ensure the global trading system remains a vital engine of growth and development for nations around the world.

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“We must build on these significant achievements and remain united for global trade.”

 

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the WTO said that the WTO remains a source of stability and resilience in an economic and geopolitical landscape fraught with uncertainties and exogenous shocks. Trade remains a vital force for improving people’s lives, and for helping businesses and countries cope with the impact of these shocks. Let us get some rest, then regroup and resume.

 

MC13 was hosted by the UAE Ministry of Economy and the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) with the support of Strategic Partners: Abu Dhabi Department of Tourism and Culture (DTC); Integrated Transport Centre (ITC); ADNEC Services; Etihad Airways; Etisalat; Emirates News Agency (WAM); Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy (AGDA); and The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

 

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is comprised of 166 Members and is the only multilateral organisation overseeing the rules of trade between nations, dedicated to enabling member states to use trade as a means to raise living standards, create jobs, and improve people’s lives across the world. Its biannual Ministerial Conference is considered its topmost decision-making forum, bringing together ministers and senior officials from all Members with the aim of reviewing and updating the rules that shape the global trading system.

 

 

H.F.







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