The heads of the WTO and six multilateral development banks on 1 July issued a joint statement promising to address shortages in trade finance, so that financial market stresses arising from the COVID-19 crisis do not prevent otherwise-viable trade transactions, including for essential goods such as food, drugs and medical equipment. They committed to do more to support trade finance providers in the coming months, and urged other institutions to join their ongoing efforts to provide vital financing support for cross-border trade.
At a time when the WTO is under heightened scrutiny and reform of the WTO is a subject of concern for all, the efforts undertaken by acceding governments to join the organization are a force for change, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff said on 29 June. Speaking at the virtual opening session of the WTO’s Accessions Week, DDG Wolff said that collective action and leadership are needed to meet global challenges and carry the multilateral trading system forward. Acceding governments “will help lead the way to the future,” he declared. The text of his speech is below.
While import-restrictive measures introduced by Group of 20 (G20) economies continue to cover a growing share of trade, the WTO’s latest biannual monitoring report on trade measures — the first to cover a time period coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic — points to significant moves to facilitate imports, including products related to COVID-19. During the mid-October 2019 to mid-May 2020 review period, G20 economies implemented 154 new trade and trade-related measures, 95 of them import-facilitating and 59 import-restrictive. Of these measures, 93 (about 60 per cent) were linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WTO members agreed at a meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) on 29 June to a request from the European Union for a dispute panel to examine India’s tariffs on certain high-tech goods. The DSB also agreed to an EU request for a panel to review Colombia’s anti-dumping duties on frozen fries from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
The WTO and four academic institutions on 28 June awarded winners of the John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition on WTO Law, a simulated hearing of the WTO dispute settlement system for law students which mainly took place virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. India’s Government Law College, Mumbai, emerged as the winner of the competition while Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit Leuven was the runner-up.
The heads of the WTO, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) announced on 26 June the rollout of an improved and expanded digital tool, the Global Trade Helpdesk, that will help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) gain access to trade data and take advantage of new market opportunities.
Addressing a webinar on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) held on 26 June to mark MSMEs Day, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo stressed that addressing the challenges faced by small businesses is a critical part of ensuring a socially inclusive economic recovery. He said that the webinar would help the global community draw lessons from how governments have supported small business during the COVID-19 crisis and provide an opportunity to explore how international cooperation can be strengthened to better support MSMEs. The webinar was organized by the Informal Working Group on MSMEs. His speech is below:
WTO members have discussed a possible Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Declaration for the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference next year which would address the growing pressures on international agri-food production and trade. The proposal was discussed for the first time at a meeting of the SPS Committee held on 24-26 June, where members also reached an agreement in principle on a series of recommendations to improve how they deal with SPS standards, regulations and trade.
At the 25 June meeting of the Negotiating Group on Rules concerning the fisheries subsidies negotiations, the chair, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, introduced to heads of WTO delegations a draft consolidated text of disciplines in anticipation of the text-based phase of the negotiations. He noted that the draft is intended as a possible starting point for those discussions and is without prejudice to any member’s views.
Openness, balance and trust are some of the key underlying values of the WTO that will support future reform of the organization, Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff said on 25 June. “WTO members can make progress toward improving the organization to help it to create a better world through building on the values that are inherent in the system,” he said in remarks delivered to the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO hosted by the Saudi G20 presidency. The text of his speech is below.