12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation

The 12th  Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was held on June 12th  to 16th, 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland. MC12 was held under the chairmanship of the Honourable Mr. Timur Suleimenov, Deputy Chief of Staff of Kazakhstan’s President.

Guyana’s Delegation to MC12 was led by the Honourable Hugh Hilton Todd M.P, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation , who was accompanied by Ms. Bevon McDonald, Director of Foreign Trade (ag.) and Mr. Paul Kalekyezi, Trade Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation , and Ms Kerrlene Wills, Chargé d’Affaires a.i., and Mr. Colin Luckie, Second Secretary, Guyana’s Mission in Geneva.

MC12 focussed primarily on thematic discussions, which included agriculture, the draft agreement on fisheries subsidies, response to pandemic, trade and food Security, and the reform of the WTO.

The Honourable Hugh Hilton Todd, in his capacity as the CARICOM Spokesperson on WTO  matters, delivered statements on  behalf of  the  Region.  In  addressing the Informal Session on the Challenges facing the Multilateral Trading System, Minister Todd noted that the multilateral trading system and the WTO have not been immune to the crises of these recent years. Thus, he advanced that “ many developing countries,  including  small  vulnerable  economies (SVEs),  continue  to have concerns about certain imbalances in the WTO Agreements, they value the rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core. As small economies, we in CARICOM assign great importance to our ability to participate in deliberations and decision-making in the WTO  on  matters  that  affect  not  only  our interests,  b ut  the  entire membership.   We recognize that  without this rules -based system, the most powerful economies would dominate, and weaker economies would be the most disadvantaged”.

Regarding Agriculture, Minister Todd noted that whilst the agriculture agenda is “one of the most important aspects of the WTO work programme, unfortunately, apart from the decision made in Nairobi on the elimination of export subsidies, there has been little to show since the Agreement on Agriculture was approved”. Minister Todd also highlighted the need for meaningful special and differential treatment in all future agreements and the plight of Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) and mostly Net Food Importing Developing Countries.

In addressing the area of Fisheries, Minister Todd noted that CARICOM “appeals for decisive action to curb harmful fisheries subsidies published by Prime Ministers from our Region.” Minister Todd also conveyed the Region’s preference for a definition of “fish that excludes mammals and aquatic plants” and our willingness to support efforts to address this .

On  the  question of  WTO  Reform, Minister  Todd,  in  addressing the  Ministerial Conference on behalf of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), noted that the reform of the organisation has been on the agenda for many years and the OACPS are in support of the reform. However, he said that the process must address the blockages with the Appellate Body and must see the maintenance of the two-tiered dispute settlement system. It should ensure that the system is member- driven, structured, inclusive, transparent and development oriented. Further, Minister Todd noted that “it should also advance the interests of the developing  and  least  developed  countries  through  the  application of special and differential treatment in all the WTO Agreement … and promote their integration into global value chains ”.

Owing to deadlocks MC12 was extended to the 16 June, 2022, to facilitate continued deliberations  and consensus on several critical  issues. The  decisions of  the  12th Ministerial  Conference includes  the MC12  Outcome  Document,  the  Ministerial Declaration on Food Insecurity, Ministerial Declaration on the World Food Programme, Ministerial Declaration on the WTO response to the COVID-19 Pandemic and preparedness  for  future  pandemics, Ministerial  Declaration  on  the  TRIPS Agreement, the Work Programme on Ecommerce, and Fisheries Subsidies.

The Ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO and comprises the Ministers with responsibility for International Trade within each of its Members. The Ministerial Conference usually meets biennially and can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements. The last Ministerial Conference (MC11) was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 10th – 13th, 2017. It is anticipated that the next Ministerial Conference (MC13) would be held during the first quarter of 2023.

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