In response to a question about the impact of COVID-19 on global supply chains, DDG Ellard noted that among the most pressing trade policy issues are: (i) access to vaccines, therapeutics and other products necessary to combat the pandemic; (ii) broader supply chains issues; and (iii) the pandemic's overall impact on jobs and people's lives.

In particular, she noted that having resilient supply chains is essential to combatting the pandemic, and participation in global value chains is crucial to economic wellbeing of many developing countries. Instead of simply aiming to “reshore” production, she said, countries should consider whether such a step would actually solve the problem and should instead work with their trading partners to diversify supply sources and adopt trade facilitating measures.

DDG Ellard highlighted the work that the WTO has done in identifying trade-related bottlenecks as well as facilitating measures to aid policymakers.  She further noted that the WTO is planning more in-depth data collection and analysis of supply chain issues, and she suggested that this is an important area where the WTO could work with the private sector.

With respect to the postponement of MC12, DDG Ellard stressed the need to maintain momentum and keep the negotiations in all areas ongoing. She emphasized that WTO members were reasonably close to concluding a deal on fisheries subsidies, and it is important to keep the level of ambition to achieve a meaningful outcome in that area.

At the same time, she noted that there are still difficult issues to resolve, including how to address the needs of developing countries. She further observed that, due to pandemic-related uncertainties, members need to look for creative solutions — both substantive and procedural — to achieve outcomes and conclude the negotiations.

When asked if any aspects of negotiations could be characterized as a “low-hanging fruit,” DDG Ellard noted that, in several areas, outcomes have already been achieved. In particular, she noted that members have concluded plurilateral negotiations on services domestic regulation. She further noted that work has been completed on the Joint Ministerial Declaration on the Advancement of Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment within Trade, which had been scheduled for adoption at MC12.

Finally, in response to a question concerning climate change and the WTO, DDG Ellard observed that the proliferation of carbon pricing schemes is leading to confusion and disruptions for exporters. She noted that the WTO is uniquely well-placed to help its members to scope out and set a carbon pricing mechanism. She stressed that it would be far better to achieve a negotiated outcome rather than set policy through litigation concerning the consistency of individual carbon trading schemes with WTO rules. The WTO can provide a forum for discussions and assist members with information gathering to help them make a cogent policy choice, she concluded.   




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