DIRECTOR-GENERAL

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The virtual gathering, attended by ministers from the group’s 13 members, was chaired by Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng. The Ottawa Group describes itself as a small, representative group of WTO members that supports reforms to address challenges placing stress on the multilateral trading system.

In his remarks, the Director-General said:

“The COVID-19 crisis has put huge additional strains on the multilateral trading system — in fact, on the whole global economy.  How we respond will be crucial because a strong and effective multilateral trading system needs to be a key part of the global response. This is why the next 12 months or so will be critical to the Organization.

“Even before the pandemic, it was quite clear that an effective Twelfth Ministerial Conference would need to advance WTO reform work both on the multilateral track (in important negotiations such as fisheries subsidies and agriculture) and in the joint statement initiatives.”

Transparency and dispute settlement were additional areas where DG Azevêdo identified scope for progress. He said that the Ottawa Group’s constructive approach would be crucial in helping WTO members reach compromises.

“We need a swift and full recovery from the pandemic. MC12 outcomes could have a powerful role in the recovery. They could also help members prepare for future global crises. So let’s be pragmatic but also ambitious,” he concluded.

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