The event was attended by over 50 representatives from acceding governments and WTO members, as well as representatives of international organizations, development partners and the private sector. Participants exchanged information on latest developments in the WTO and the preparation for the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13), to be held in Abu Dhabi in February 2024.  

The high-level opening of the Round Table explored the role of WTO accessions in addressing some of the global challenges of the day. In his keynote remarks, Ambassador Li Chenggang of China observed that multiple global crises required collective responses and multilateral cooperation, noting that the multilateral trading system needed to be more open and inclusive to better address these challenges.

“Under the interconnected threats of food and energy crisis, climate change and the aftermath of the recent health crisis, no country is immune. It is imperative that all countries unite to overcome the difficulties together,” he said. He noted that WTO accessions provide a pathway to improving the external environment and an impetus to promote domestic reform. Read his full statement here.

Mr Bountheung Douangsavanh, Vice Minister of Industry and Commerce of Lao PDR, highlighted the need for members to work closely together to support and restore the credibility of the WTO. He said: “The most significant aspect is that we send out a signal that the multilateral trading system can come to consensus decisions on the pressing issues the world is now facing.”

Vice Minister Douangsavanh added that Lao PDR was a strong supporter of the rules-based multilateral trading system. Its accession to the WTO in 2013 had marked a major step towards liberalizing trade, integrating Lao PDR into the global economy, and facilitating access to global markets. Read his full statement here.

Speaking on behalf of WTO  Deputy Director-General Zhang Xiangchen, Ms Maika Oshikawa, Director of the WTO Accessions Division, stressed the strategic priority of accessions for the WTO. Accessions have extended the reach of the WTO rules to over 98% of global trade and have systemically contributed to strengthening the multilateral trading system. They have also helped governments adopt necessary regulatory reforms.

“In turn, this has promoted convergence towards a higher level of market integration and economic development. In most instances, this has been accompanied by higher rates of growth and improved economic resilience,” she said. Read her full statement here.

The Round Table included a session dedicated to the accession and membership experiences of the ten Article XII Members from the Asia-Pacific region, as well as their regional integration efforts, including those in the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Speakers exchanged views on the numerous benefits of membership — such as enhanced economic growth, increased market access and export diversification — as well as on the need for trade-related technical assistance and capacity building.

Round Table participants also discussed the outcomes of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Geneva in June 2022, including on food security, challenges faced by landlocked developing countries, and the WTO response to emergencies.

Ambassador Kadra Ahmed Hassan, Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) and Coordinator of the LDC Group, spoke about the LDC perspectives on WTO reform. The discussion also touched upon the topics of e-commerce, investment facilitation, domestic regulation in services, and trade and environment.

The Round Table also reviewed the state of play in the ongoing LDC accessions, including the “strategic focus” accessions of Comoros and Timor-Leste, and the latest experiences and best practices in accessions and post-accession, including in the context of LDC graduation.

Participants appreciated the opportunity to review the extensive experience of Lao PDR on the occasion of the celebration of its 10-year WTO membership anniversary, and exchanged views on possible ways to expedite and advance the integration of LDCs in the WTO.

The China Round Table on WTO Accessions is one of the five pillars of the China's LDCs and Accessions Programme — also known as the China Programme — established in July 2011.




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