DG Okonjo-Iweala: Delivering meaningful outcomes at MC13 ‘not beyond our reach’

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The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Speaking at a meeting of the General Council on 6 March, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed the constructive spirit demonstrated by members in preparations for the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in February 2024 and said delivering meaningful and quality outcomes at MC13 is “not beyond our reach”.

In addressing the first General Council meeting of 2023, the Director-General said leaders, ministers and other stakeholders she met during her recent outreach appealed to the WTO to “work towards delivering further results for the benefit of people around the world — with MC13 being a key opportunity to do so”.

The Director-General also said she was very encouraged by the support expressed by India and other members of the Group of 20 leading economies for the WTO’s work during recent meetings in India of G20 finance and foreign affairs ministers.

The chair statement issued by the Indian G20 presidency after the meeting of foreign affairs ministers on 1-2 March in Delhi was an “unprecedented acknowledgement of the work of the WTO,” she said.

“Excellencies, one thing was very clear at this meeting. Expectations are now that we will get results at MC13. A new results-oriented WTO that is producing for people is what is being expected of us and that means that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us in Geneva to build trust to work hard to have a results focus and to deliver.”

The Director-General also noted the discussions which took place at the 28 February meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee, where several members cited the need to avoid overloading ministers’ plates with outstanding issues at the last minute.

“This means we must now prioritize a few issues and build as much convergence on them as possible,” she said. “If we sustain the positive spirit from last week’s meeting over the next 10 months, then delivering meaningful, quality outcomes is not beyond our reach.”

Ambassador Didier Chambovey, the chair of the General Council, reported to members on the outcome of the 2-3 February informal meeting on WTO reform, which focused on development. Ambassador Chambovey said he was encouraged by the support from all members to make progress on the organization’s development work and proposed that the reform discussions on development take place under the aegis of the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Development.

The General Council chair also noted other issues on the WTO reform agenda, including dispute settlement, the negotiating function, the deliberative and monitoring functions, and institutional issues, among others. He noted that the informal discussions on dispute settlement have now entered the next stage and expressed hope that members would continue to constructively engage in this process.

“I am heartened that we have continued our WTO reform process on a good footing,” Ambassador Chambovey said. “We have made small but concrete steps forward in a short period of time.”

The Director-General also welcomed the announcement by the United Arab Emirates at the General Council meeting that its government has officially adopted the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies and would soon submit its instrument of acceptance to the WTO.

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