Addressing the meeting, the Director-General said:

"Whether it be efforts to strengthen committee structures and notifications, to advance new negotiating approaches, or to find ways to deliver on issues like fisheries subsidies and agriculture, all relate in one way or another to the broad issue of WTO reform. It is important to recognise that through the discussions and negotiations that have started in Geneva, members are already responding to the call for reform. I often hear that members want a WTO that functions well and that is effective in its task. That is why we need to support and further nurture these discussions.

"It is only six months since G20 leaders called for "necessary reforms" of the WTO. So it is encouraging that there is already so much activity. We should advance wherever and whenever we can.

"I welcome the emphasis that Japan's G20 Presidency is giving to digital issues, as they are clearly a major feature of the 21st century economy. I'm happy that ministers are discussing these topics in the WTO – particularly e-commerce, whether on the multilateral track or within groups of interested members."

The G20 Ministerial Statement on Trade and Digital Economy, issued at the close of the meeting, includes the following text under the heading "Dialogue on Trade Developments":

"We continued our dialogue to mitigate risks and enhance confidence among exporters and investors, as we committed to do in Mar del Plata last year. We affirmed the need to handle trade tensions and to foster mutually beneficial trade relations. We strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, to keep our markets open. International trade is important for productivity, innovation, job creation and development. We recognize the contributions that the WTO has made to this end. We agree that action is necessary to improve the functioning of the WTO. We recognize our business community's call for the G20 to continue supporting the multilateral trading system."

The statement also includes a section on "WTO reform and Recent Developments in Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements", which reads as follows:

"Building on the G20 Leaders’ declaration in Buenos Aires, we will work constructively with other WTO Members to undertake necessary WTO reform with a sense of urgency, including in the lead-up to the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference.

"We recognize the importance of transparency of the WTO Members’ trade related policies. We note ongoing initiatives on transparency and notifications with this purpose in mind. We confirm our commitment to fulfilling our existing notification obligations.

"We also note ongoing initiatives to strengthen the activities of the WTO regular committees and bodies in order to make the WTO function more effectively.

"We confirm the importance of the role of the WTO in generating opportunities and addressing various challenges. We reiterate our support for the work to agree on comprehensive and effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies as mandated in MC11. We also note some ongoing initiatives for updating WTO rules.

"We reaffirm the importance of the Work Programme on electronic commerce.

"We note the ongoing discussion under the Joint Statement Initiative on electronic commerce.

"Participants in the respective Joint Statement Initiatives under the WTO welcome the ongoing discussion and confirm their commitment to achieve progress.

"In order to share the benefits of digitalization worldwide, we recognize that there is a need to enhance investment in infrastructure focusing on ICT, including in developing countries, to facilitate their participation in the digital economy. We also acknowledge the need for capacity building for women, youth and MSMEs to benefit more from digitalization. To this end, we will continue our effort to harness and enhance the potential of trade and the digital economy.

"We recognize the complementary roles of bilateral and regional free trade agreements that are WTO-consistent.

"We agree that action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by the WTO Members."

The full G20 Ministerial Statement on Trade and Digital Economy is available here.

The Chairs' statement which was also issued at the end of the meeting is available here.




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