When asked about the key trends shaping global trade, DDG Ellard noted that digital trade is the next frontier in economic development, both in the Indo-Pacific region and globally. She further observed that, in major Southeast Asian economies, 70 per cent of the population is online, with the number of new users continuing to increase. Work to address this phenomenon is taking place at the WTO, such as through the joint initiative on e-commerce involving 86 WTO members, as well as through various regional initiatives, she said.

DDG Ellard told the Dialogue participants that WTO members are reacting to the shift to a sustainable economy through several negotiations and initiatives, such as negotiations to end harmful fisheries subsidies as well as the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade.

She noted that barriers to climate-friendly goods could be addressed through an agreement eliminating tariffs on environmental goods as well as reducing barriers to environmental services. She further underlined that proliferation of carbon prices leads to uncertainty for businesses, and that the WTO is well placed to begin work on establishing a single carbon price.

When asked about potential areas for WTO reform, DDG Ellard stressed the importance of being honest as to where the WTO has done well and where it has not. The monitoring function works well, but more transparency is needed, she said. With respect to dispute settlement, she noted that the panel process functions well. However, the appellate review stage remains blocked due to disagreements among members as to how it should work.

With respect to possible new rules, DDG Ellard emphasized that members must decide on which negotiations to pursue. The 12th Ministerial Conference, which was postponed due to the Omicron variant outbreak, is an excellent opportunity for members to agree on what reform is needed and to set wheels in motion, she concluded.




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