WTO AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
DDG Angela Ellard welcomed the OECD delegation, which included 35 Ambassadors accredited to the OECD in Paris. She noted that the visit came at an opportune time to strengthen the inter-agency collaboration and to underpin the principles of International Geneva, an initiative by the Swiss government referring to the network of international and non-governmental organizations, scientific and academic actors, civil society and the private sector based in Geneva working for a world of peace, rights and prosperity.
In her remarks to the Ambassadors, DDG Ellard stressed that international cooperation can work even in the face of a fractious geopolitical climate, as evidenced by the successful WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June this year. The outcome of MC12 “defied expectations”, she said. “Our members worked very hard and were able to deliver many significant outcomes.”
DDG Ellard emphasized the importance of MC12's “Geneva Package”, which includes the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies as well as decisions on the COVID-19 pandemic response, food insecurity, the e-commerce work programme and moratorium, and WTO reform. She also stressed the need for the international community to work hard so that these agreements have a real impact on people's lives across the world. “We cannot rest on our laurels. There is a lot of work to do, and the challenges keep changing every day,” she said.
DDG Ellard expressed the WTO's eagerness to work with the OECD to keep WTO members well-informed and to provide a forum for discussion of policy choices. As an example of such cooperation, she noted the role of data and research by the OECD on fisheries subsidies. This provides the factual basis of discussions on fisheries subsidies and encourages further cooperation on the next wave of negotiations to address overcapacity and overfishing, she said.
DDG Ellard called on OECD members to complete their domestic acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies as soon as possible so that the Agreement can enter into force. She also highlighted the importance of the Fisheries Funding Mechanism established under the Agreement for providing technical assistance to developing country members in meeting their obligations.
Looking forward, DDG Ellard noted the key role of the WTO-OECD partnership in providing responses to the many challenges faced by the multilateral trading system in terms of food security, job creation, digital trade expansion, opportunities for women and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), addressing climate change and harnessing trade for sustainable development and a green economy.
She also highlighted the WTO's Aid for Trade initiative — “where the OECD has been such a stalwart partner in our work” — and the idea recently raised by WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of pivoting from a purely “Aid for Trade” concept to an “Invest for Trade” modality, marshalling the resources of development banks and international organizations to bridge the financing gap for developing countries.
“This pivot is intended to preserve the monitoring function of Aid for Trade, but also encourage private investment that can create more development. For this to work, multilateral banks, development partners and other international organizations have to continue to level up support,” DDG Ellard said. “I know that this is something that you are interested in, so we can explore blended financial opportunities and solutions to align with our work, including climate finance objectives.”
OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann highlighted the excellent cooperation and dialogue between two organizations that share the commitment to promote well-functioning global markets and a rules-based international trading system with the WTO at its centre. “In several of our recent Ministerial Council meetings, we have especially expressed our support for the important role of the WTO underpinning the rules-based international trading system,” SG Cormann said.
“Our mission, as an organization under our convention, is the preservation of individual liberty and to increase economic and social well-being for people across OECD countries and beyond. The sustainable expansion of global trade was seen by our founders as the central ingredient of driving that increase in economic and social wellbeing around the world,” he added.
OECD Ambassadors took the floor, congratulating the WTO and its members for achieving significant outcomes at MC12. They asked questions on a wide range of issues, from WTO reform and the critical impasse for the dispute settlement mechanism to carbon pricing as part of the response to climate change, the impact of the war in Ukraine on international trade, the “plurilateral” joint initiatives and the interaction with the private sector and civil society.
On subsidies, DDG Ellard referred to the joint report issued on 22 April by the WTO, the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as an excellent example of a successful partnership between international organizations. This work, she emphasized, is often cited by experts and policymakers all over the world.
With respect to climate change, DDG Ellard pointed to the benefits of identifying a list of “green” goods as possible candidates for lowering tariffs — an environmental goods agreement. She also suggested that an environmental services agreement would be a worthy endeavour and suggested that addressing carbon pricing is another area for possible cooperation.
There are “a lot of different approaches out there, hundreds of different carbon pricing mechanisms creating tremendous confusion across sectors. And only a small number of sectors are even covered by these different mechanisms. There has to be a way to integrate this activity and provide more certainty and effectiveness for policymakers,” she said.
Secretary-General Cormann agreed that for climate action to be effective globally, all the big players have to commit themselves to a less distorting, more coherent and better coordinated approach. He welcomed the opportunity to collaborate, drawing on the strengths of each organization, particularly the trade-related multilateralism of the WTO.
The WTO and the OECD work in partnership on a wide range of other issues. Experts from both organizations are currently undertaking a joint analysis on the impact of cross-border data regulation on economic activities. Other areas of joint work are statistics, data projects and data sharing, methodological work, technical assistance and governance.