In her capacity as Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, the Director-General welcomed the results from the Group of 7 trade ministers meeting in Osaka, Japan, on 29 October, which also included the participation of a number of developing country trade ministers. The Osaka meeting followed a Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) at WTO headquarters on 23-24 October that focused on preparations for MC13.

The G7 trade ministers “were pleased about the results and it was heartening to hear ministers strongly reiterate the calls we had just heard at the SOM for us to work for concrete outcomes and a successful MC13,” she said. “All of them were desirous to have a successful MC13 but they acknowledged that, on some of the dossiers we have in front of us, differences still remain and have to be resolved.”

“So, we have our work cut out for us. With about four months to MC13, every day must count to effectively utilize the political guidance and support we sought and got from senior officials and ministers to substantially advance our work towards concrete results at MC13.”

The current global outlook is “dire at the moment,” the Director-General said. “People are looking to multilateral organizations to act differently, to deliver differently, to show the world that they're still bastions where multilateral cooperation can deliver for people.”

Reporting on the ongoing discussions among members related to WTO reform, Ambassador Athaliah Lesiba Molokomme of Botswana, the General Council Chair, noted that work on the issue continues, with “reform-by-doing” work advancing in the various WTO bodies. On the latter, the General Council Chair said that participants in the Senior Officials Meeting on 23-24 October were pleased to note that a “significant and credible” reform-by-doing package was emerging which should be acknowledged and blessed by ministers at MC13.

“Colleagues, WTO reform evidently remains a top priority among the WTO membership — a message reinforced by senior officials last week,” the Chair said. “This is reflected in ongoing work on many fronts — from dispute settlement reform, development discussions and institutional reforms to reform-by-doing efforts in WTO bodies.”

“We have also heard from senior officials and from permanent representatives a growing call to ensure that MC13 is a reform Ministerial,” she added. In this regard, delegations have made suggestions for laying a solid foundation for continued work in Geneva and to structure MC13 in a way that allows ministers to take decisions on WTO reform, she said.

The Chair urged members to “be mindful of the numerous tasks ahead of us and the limited time we have to accomplish them”.

MC13 will take place on 26-29 February 2024. More information on MC13 is available here.

The Chair also noted the ongoing discussions regarding paragraph 8 of the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement and the understanding reached at the March 2023 General Council meeting to keep the issue of the duration of the deadline on the General Council agenda. Members continue their discussions on the substance of paragraph 8, she noted. 

Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, the facilitator of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and the e-commerce moratorium, provided a report on work and developments since the General Council's July meeting while Ambassador José Sánchez-Fung, Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development, provided members with a report on the progress made in the Work Programme on Small Economies since July.

The next regular meeting of the General Council is tentatively scheduled for 14-15 December.




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