12th WTO Ministerial Conference: we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to reform the WTO

By Jennifer Richard

The European Parliament has adopted today a resolution on the multilateral negotiations which will take place during the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva from 30 November to 3 December. Under these technical words there are several challenges which the EU and the entire world have to face.

As you probably know, the World Trade Organisation is the only international organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations. Various agreements were negotiated and ratified in the framework of the WTO to open trade for all. However, the current functioning of the WTO shows its limits. As a consequence, it’s more and more difficult to find agreements on very important issues and the dispute settlement body — which has to deal with disputes WTO members — is blocked.

Renew Europe strongly supports multilateralism and by extension the WTO which is the good place to defend this value. This is why our group promotes and defends an ambitious reform of the World Trade Organisation. The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference is an important opportunity to launch a common reflection between WTO Members on this central issue. Renew Europe is convinced that the EU should seize this opportunity to lead this dialogue and to come up with new ideas.

Renew Europe expects multilateral deliverables during this Ministerial Conference. First, an agreement on disciplining and prohibiting unsustainable fisheries subsidies. Our group considers that agreement as a minimum. If not, the 12th Ministerial Conference would have a taste of failure. Second, an agreement on the work program on the next Ministerial Conference on transparency in agriculture, on modalities for reduction of trade distorting domestic support and on a permanent solution on public stockholdings. Finally, these meetings should provide a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last but not least, the Renew group is strongly engaged in the works of the Parliamentary Conference of the WTO, in order to foster and encourage public debates on rules-based and sustainable trade for the benefit of all and involve citizens in shaping globalisation. Trade finds its way through many different paths, we have to make sure that it is always accompanied by good and fair rules.

“More than ever, the WTO need rules, stability and predictability. Our citizens are waiting for coherent actions, especially on the issue of health, and it is crucial to create confidence among all economic actors. Without concrete results during MC12, without a strong WTO, international trade is at risks”, declared Marie-Pierre Vedrenne, vice-chair of the International trade Committee and standing shadow rapporteur on the WTO.

This 12th Ministerial Conference is a pivotal moment. If the WTO Members fail, the multilateral trade system will be diminished. The risk is WTO Members might look for alternative forums for rule-making. The EU and the Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala have to avoid such a situation.