The event was opened on 4 December by WTO Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff, Russia's Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin and China's Permanent Representative to the WTO Ambassador Zhang Xiangchen. Over 100 representatives of accession candidates and WTO members attended the meeting as well as chairs of WTO accession working parties, representatives of international organizations, and various stakeholders from the host country, including government officials, academia and experts from partner institutions.
In his welcoming remarks, Mr Oreshkin underlined the need to maintain an effectively functioning multilateral trading system and to further develop the WTO, both in terms of its geographical coverage and substance. He expressed hope that acceding governments will join the WTO family and help make it more resilient and effective. “For Russia, it is of utmost importance to promote fruitful cooperation with all partners in the Organization,” he said. “The fundamental aim is to jointly make the multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO more responsive to the evolving needs and challenges of the 21st century global economy”. His full speech is available here.
DDG Wolff thanked the Russian Federation for hosting the Round Table. He also expressed gratitude to China for the renewal of the China Programme earlier in the year. Emphasizing the importance for the WTO to adapt and stay relevant, DDG Wolff noted that WTO accessions could “provide a source of inspiration and valuable lessons that would help to develop a systemic response”.He added that many acceding governments were actively engaged in parallel negotiations to pursue deeper integration at the regional level, which could raise “issues of coherence in rules negotiations and of sequencing in market access negotiations”. His full speech is available here.
Ambassador Zhang emphasized China's continued support for the accessions of least developed countries (LDCs) to the WTO. The WTO “can help acceding countries, especially LDCs, better integrate into the multilateral trading system, and further grow their domestic economy”. He emphasized China’s support for fostering necessary WTO reform, with a view to enhancing the organization's effectiveness and authority and stressed the need for pragmatic approaches as the WTO prepares for MC12, highlighting the importance of advancing discussions on investment facilitation for development, “one of the few positive agenda items with relatively promising prospects”. His full speech is available here.
The China Round Table, as one of the five pillars of the China Programme, has served as a platform for stakeholders' dialogue on WTO accessions since 2012. The Round Table aims to sustain discussions on the integration of new members into the multilateral trading system. To date, eight Round Tables have been hosted in three continents.