With respect to current negotiations, DDG Ellard noted that, despite the postponement of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, members are determined to keep the momentum going and that useful discussions on the full range of topics are taking place regularly. She further noted that members have already harvested some results, such as the conclusion of plurilateral negotiations on Services Domestic Regulation and the launch of the three environmental initiatives.

With respect to the ongoing multilateral negotiations, she highlighted the environmental, economic and humanitarian importance of the fisheries subsidies negotiations. Stressing the alarming decrease in global fish stocks over the last 50 years, she emphasized members' willingness to conclude these negotiations not only for the sake of the fish, but also to show that the WTO can deliver.

DDG Ellard observed that negotiations concerning the proposed TRIPS waiver with regard to the pandemic remain difficult, but a good-faith discussion is taking place among the key players. She highlighted the ongoing member discussion regarding the trade-related dimension of the pandemic response, such as supply chains, export restrictions, transparency and pandemic preparedness. She also emphasized that the work done by the WTO Secretariat to identify bottlenecks and trade facilitating measures, as well as vaccine inputs, provided useful information to decision-makers in governments and the private sector.

Addressing the broader issue of supply chains, DDG Ellard cautioned that policies of “re-shoring” production in an effort to become self-sufficient can backfire, particularly because supply chains are vulnerable to natural disasters and other unexpected events. She noted that few if any countries are capable of sourcing all inputs domestically, so working across borders is necessary to ensure resilience, reduce uncertainties and avoid costly disruptions. As an example, she noted that 280 inputs are needed to produce some of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Regarding dispute settlement reform, DDG Ellard said that more discussion is needed to reach a common understanding of the problem and how it should be addressed. However, she noted that members' recent creativity in resolving disputes, such as the use of facilitators and attempts to reach negotiated solutions, gave her hope that members would also find common ground on the fundamental issues.

In response to a question regarding industrial subsidies, DDG Ellard stressed that the WTO is a member-driven organization and that the initiative to launch any negotiations has to emanate from members. The first step is to gather the relevant facts, she added.  To that end, the WTO, together with the World Bank, the IMF and the OECD, has been conducting a study on subsidies, which is at an advanced stage.

DDG Ellard further said that issues related to environment and climate change should be part of the WTO agenda.  Noting that around 70 carbon pricing schemes already exist, which collectively cover a small percentage of trade, she emphasized the need for a common carbon pricing mechanism. The WTO is the ideal forum to develop a multilateral approach because of its broad and diverse membership. “That means everyone’s represented, everyone is vested and would be part of a discussion,” she said. “It will be very difficult to move forward if something like this is not global. [Solving climate change] is an issue of the global commons,” she concluded.




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