The Australia-organised informal ministerial meeting addressed two questions: how to advance negotiations on fisheries subsidies, and what WTO reform and negotiating outcomes should be targeted for the 12th Ministerial Conference, due to be held in Kazakhstan in June 2020. Commenting on the fisheries subsidies negotiations, the Director-General said:
“Despite the intense work happening in the negotiating group, we are not making tangible progress. To advance, we will need greater political engagement — and a greater acceptance of the need for compromise. You will not get all you want, and you'll need to contribute more than you want. We have a number of proposals before us today. Members may want to consider how to consolidate them into one text, so that we can be in full negotiating mode as soon as possible. We urgently need to start seeing progress by being pragmatic and focused. I repeat that if we continue as we are today, we will fail this test.”
The Director-General also updated ministers on work in other negotiating areas and the current debate on WTO reform, including the ongoing impasse in appointments to the Appellate Body. Concluding his remarks, he said: “We need both to address systemic challenges and to advance our negotiating work, in parallel. Positive engagement at ministerial level in the coming months will be crucial.”
While in Paris, the Director-General also attended, by invitation, the launch by a group of 59 WTO members of a Joint Statement on Domestic Regulation. The statement announces the intent of these members to converge on a set of regulatory disciplines for services trade. At the launch event, DG Azevêdo said:
“I am pleased to have the chance to welcome this joint statement. It is very positive that a large group of WTO members is announcing its intent to converge on a set of regulatory disciplines for services trade. This is an issue which has long been under discussion at the WTO.
”I'd like to congratulate the group for the progress made since the last WTO Ministerial Conference in 2017. I am sure that this took a lot of compromise and hard work. The fact that participants have invested this time and effort in an open, inclusive and transparent process is testament to the importance that they attach to good regulatory practice — as well as the continued relevance and credibility of the WTO.”
While in Paris, DG Azevêdo also held bilateral meetings with French authorities, including with Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
In addition, the Director-General delivered speeches at the French National Assembly, an event organised by the Mouvement des Entreprises de France and the International Chamber of Commerce, and the OECD's Ministerial Council meeting.