WTO ministerial conference ends with practical deals

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Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during the opening ceremony of the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of WTO in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Feb. 26, 2024. [WTO/Handout via Xinhua]

The four-day 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded in Abu Dhabi Saturday with several practical agreements reached after intensive negotiations, and China's positive and constructive role won wide praise during the meeting.

Positive outcomes

At the closing ceremony, WTO members adopted the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration, pledging to strengthen the multilateral trading system and continue to promote WTO reform.

The declaration also emphasizes the centrality of the development dimension in the work of the WTO, while recognizing the role of the multilateral trading system in contributing to the realization of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In addition, on e-commerce, members agree to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until the next session of the ministerial conference scheduled in two years. The moratorium and the work program will expire on that date, according to a ministerial decision adopted on Friday.

On dispute settlement reform, members adopted a ministerial decision acknowledging the advancements achieved towards establishing a fully operational dispute settlement system accessible to all members by 2024. Ministers have directed officials to expedite discussions, build on the progress already made and address outstanding issues.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stressed the progress made with contributions from members. "Let's continue to roll up our sleeves to advance this reform and deliver by 2024," she said.

In the conference, Comoros and Timor-Leste were formally approved to join the WTO, the first new members in almost eight years. Members agreed on concrete measures to ease the path to graduation from the category of least-developed countries (LDCs), helping the LDCs better integrate into the multilateral trading system, according to a ministerial decision on support measures for countries which graduated from the LDCs.

Okonjo-Iweala thanked members for their efforts to seek convergence on difficult issues, particularly as the conference against a global backdrop marked by economic and geopolitical uncertainties.

"We have worked hard this week. We have achieved some important things, and we have not managed to complete others. Nevertheless, we moved those pieces of work in an important way. At the same time, we have delivered some milestone achievements for the WTO and laid the groundwork for more," she said.

China's firm support

Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao led a delegation attending the conference. The Chinese delegation actively promoted negotiations, facilitated cooperation and participated in all the consultations.

In the negotiations on investment facilitation and fishery subsidies, China actively coordinated and communicated with other members, demonstrated its responsibility as a major player, and made important contributions to the success of the conference.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and Chair of the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, said the Chinese delegation had performed positively in various agendas of the conference, and the active participation of the Chinese side had contributed to the success.

The Chinese side believed that this meeting was another major victory for multilateralism. It fully demonstrated the WTO members' determination to take effective actions in the face of the widening development gap, adhere to the priority of development, and also fully demonstrated the WTO members' ability to work together to address global challenges in the complex and grim international situation.

The success has boosted the international community's confidence in the multilateral trading system and injected a strong impetus into global trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, the Chinese delegation said.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that China had participated constructively in the entire agenda, showing its strong support for the multilateral trading system.

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