Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

I first want to thank Ambassador Tai, Secretary Blinken, and the United States for their extraordinary hospitality — and for guiding our valuable discussions.  Ambasssador Tai, thank you for your kind words — I enjoyed working with you for so many years. 

Our Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, sends all of you her regards.  She enjoyed meeting with you in Detroit.

A strong WTO that is fit for purpose in times of uncertainty and multiple crises is paramount to realising the APEC Putrajaya Vision of an open, dynamic, resilient, inclusive, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040. APEC leadership is indispensable to reforming the rules-based multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core, starting with building on the successes of MC-12, for a successful MC13.

And APEC plays such a strong role in the system.  It is more than an incubator — it is an accelerator and a catalyst.  It has launched critical work that led to the Information Technology Agreement and the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and it has done groundbreaking work on environmental goods and services as well as domestic services regulation.  It is inclusive as well, integrating the private sector and civil society.

In today's interdependent and multipolar global economy, an open, rules-based trading system, and the WTO as its guardian, are becoming more, not less, important. There are now 164 WTO members accounting for some 98% of world trade. A further 24 countries are queuing up to join — including Comoros and Timor Leste, which we hope to welcome as members at MC13.

In a world of slowing trade growth and increased fragmentation, the need for partnership and collaboration to promote resilience has never been more important.  And that’s where the WTO comes in.

Many complain, justifiably, the multilateral trading system is still far from perfect. But the solution is to not to weaken the system. The solution is to strengthen and reform it. The best way to do that is to build on your success in MC12 and to continue delivering positive outcomes at MC13 that demonstrate how trade is helping to raise living standards, improve people's lives, and protect the environment.

Let me outline a few concrete objectives.

  • A key reform priority is to reform the dispute settlement system. A rules-based system that cannot be enforced makes rules meaningless. Unless the dispute settlement system is repaired in whatever ways Members determine, it will be seen as broken even though important cases are still being resolved through the existing parts of the dispute settlement agreement.  No matter your views on reform, it is undeniable that a fully-functioning system, in whatever form it takes, is essential.
    • At MC12, WTO Members agreed to having a fully functioning system by 2024. The ongoing informal technical discussions on dispute settlement reform are promising and show a constructive engagement by Members.  I thank you for your engagement in these discussions and strongly urge you to aim to deliver that outcome at MC13.
  • Another priority is delivering on fish. The Agreement already marks a significant achievement in delivering on ocean sustainability and meeting on SDG 14.6. 
    • It's the WTO's first environmental agreement, and it shows that multilateralism and consensus-based decision making is still alive and well.  APEC economies were leaders in this negotiation.  This agreement must enter into force as soon as possible to deliver its benefits for ocean sustainability — and MC13 is our target.  We have 52 acceptances, out of the 110 needed. Ten of the APEC economies have already deposited their instruments, and a few have indicated during this meeting that they will be ready soon.  I'm asking those of you who have not yet submitted your instruments to expedite the domestic processes so that the Agreement can enter into force. Achieving this goal is important for the ocean, the fish, and those whose livelihoods depend on it. And thanks as well to the 4 APEC economies who have contributed to our Fish Fund to help developing Members take on their obligations.
    • On the second wave of negotiations, to deliver at MC13, WTO Members must work together intensively and pragmatically with a view to identifying compromise on the disciplines concerning overcapacity and overfishing and the related SDT provisions.
    • I call on you to instruct your Geneva and capital-based delegations to roll up their sleeves to finish this negotiation in December, before you go to Abu Dhabi for MC13. 
  • Another key priority is making progress on agriculture. Food insecurity is on the top of the agenda for many countries — especially the most vulnerable ones. For many, such issues as domestic support and public stockholding are also important, and market access for others.  The impact of climate change on food production is also more visible and worrisome. MC13 will not be the end of the road. But it can and should be an important milestone confirming the commitment of trade ministers at MC12 to take “concrete steps to facilitate trade and improve the functioning and long-term resilience of global markets for food and agriculture”.
  • Next, WTO Members need to decide on extending the e-commerce moratorium. There have been quite a few studies published recently by the IMF, the OECD, and others showing that charging duties does not generate much revenue, as well as showing the negative effects of withdrawal of the moratorium. I hope that Members can converge on the way forward based on the available data and evidence.  Not extending the moratorium will be seen by many as a step backwards.  And of course the WTO should continue its work on assisting developing countries in addressing the digital divide and to use e-commerce as a tool for development.  We will continue our work with other international organizations to demonstrate the profound positive effect of digital transformation on development, growth, productivity, innovation, resilience, MSMEs, women, and inclusiveness.
  • There are other areas where reforms are not only needed but are happening already. We need to expand the WTO's deliberative function — using approaches pioneered in the SPS, TBT, and other committees — so members can more easily exchange information, learn from each other, and head off disputes. Efforts to reform the Organization “by doing” are advancing in the various WTO bodies. Members have been adopting more efficient and flexible ways of reaching agreements. Many of our Members point to the Joint Statement Initiatives as providing innovative approaches and delivering forward-looking outcomes that need to be mainstreamed into the system.  The Domestic Services Regulation Agreement, the Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (in which 80 of 120 participants are developing), and the e-commerce initiative are examples.
  • We are also showing the role of trade in other areas.  COP28 in Abu Dhabi later this month will feature a Trade Day for the first time, highlighting that trade must be part of the solution to the climate crisis.  The WTO Secretariat continues its work to show how trade benefits women and how women can benefit trade and economies.  With regard to development, we have been working to make the deliberative function and processes of the WTO more inclusive.  We are building on our technical assistance and capacity building for developing members and helping them to improve their participation in supply chains.  Many of our members also seek to address domestic subsidies.
  • Finally, allow me to say a couple of words about our budget. The WTO has been at a zero nominal growth budget since 2012. In real terms, our budget has shrunk by more than $10 million in the past 11 years, and the cost of many goods and services we buy has increased above inflation. We have asked Members to adjust our budget to bring us back to the level of resources we had in 2012 when the ZNG began, even as the workload has increased immensely. I am asking you to consider favorably this request so that we could continue delivering an excellent service to you. A decision is required imminently.

In conclusion, APEC leadership is indispensable to strengthening the multilateral trading system and the WTO. The APEC Ministers led at MC12 — which was key to its success — and your leadership again at MC13 is essential to our success.

With just over three months to MC13, every day must count to substantially advance our work towards concrete results at MC13. We count on you to assure that we have a successful ministerial on essential issues, including reform.  I note that the WTO is Member-driven, so you are in charge.  Of course, the Secretariat stands ready to support you in any way.

I look forward to seeing you in Abu Dhabi in February, if not before. 

Thank you for your attention.




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