Austria welcomes WTO talks on supply-chain disruption at MC13 in UAE

ABU DHABI: Austria applauds the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) initiative to discuss supply-chain disruption in the upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi later this month, Dr. Martin Kocher, Austrian Minister of Labour and Economy, told the Emirates News Agency (WAM). 'I welcome the fact that this topic will be discussed at MC13. I am already looking forward to discussing this specific issue and others in Abu Dhabi,' he said in an email interview from Vienna. Supply-chain disruption poses risks for countries such as Austria, which are dependent on imports in certain areas, Dr. Kocher pointed out. Therefore, he emphasised the need to ensure smooth-running global supply chain. 'UAE as exciting venue' After successfully organising COP28, the UN Climate Conference in Dubai in December, the UAE is set to host MC13 from 26th to 29th February 2024 in Abu Dhabi. The WTO ministerial meeting will convene representatives of 164 nations and trading blocs. 'The UAE is certainly an exciting venue for this event and very well suited to host such an important international meeting,' the Austrian minster said. He stressed that Austria has always been a firm supporter of the multilateral trading system in general and the WTO in particular. 'We are therefore very pleased that the previous Ministerial Conference (MC12) could demonstrate that WTO is still able to deliver promising results.' Dr. Kocher suggested that MC13 must build upon past achievements and demonstrate the organisation's continued effectiveness in addressing today's critical challenges. However, he pointed out that it will not be an easy task, given the challenging political and economic circumstances at present. 'I am however confident that we will succeed under the chairmanship of Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi [Minister of State for Foreign Trade].' Key topics MC13 aims for pivotal reforms in the global trading system, spanning from expanding WTO membership to strengthening dispute resolution mechanisms and adopting digital trade frameworks. The ministerial meeting also aims to address challenges such as supply-chain disruption, inflation, protectionism, and climate change. In addition, MC13 will explore ways to boost investments in trade technologies for sustainable and resilient supply chains. Talking about MC13 agenda, the Austrian minister said fishery subsidies, food security, dispute settlement and least-developed countries (LDCs) graduation from LDC status are also important topics. 'I believe other issues should have an important role at MC13. Austria especially backs an extension of the e-commerce moratorium, as well as a wide-ranging WTO reforms.' By e-commerce moratorium, Dr. Kocher was referring to the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. WTO reforms On the WTO reforms, he proposed two key steps such as enhancing debate through a stronger deliberative function and solidifying joint initiatives within the organisation's rulebook. The minister emphasised the importance of consid ering various aspects, including sustainable development, climate issues, industrial policy, and the role of states in trade. Other important topics are fostering innovation and technology transfer, ensuring fair labour practices, regulating digital trade for security and inclusivity, enhancing supply chain resilience and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, he explained. A comprehensive approach that encompasses these topics is essential for fostering a more resilient and sustainable global trading system, Dr. Kocher stressed. Austria-UAE ties The UAE is Austria's most important economic and trade partner in the Gulf region with the bilateral diplomatic relations dating back almost fifty years, the minster emphasised. 'We are constantly developing and improving our relations, one example being the strategic partnership we agreed upon in 2019.' During his visit to the UAE in December 2023, he met with several UAE ministers and launched a meeting of a Joint Committee to discuss ways to further strengthen the cooperation between the two countries. 11 CEPAs support global trade Given its rising role as a global logistics hub, the UAE has taken the initiative to host MC13, a prominent global meeting. The Emirates, a champion for greater engagement of the Global South, advocates for a more inclusive global trading system. In 2021, the UAE started forging the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with major partners worldwide. The CEPAs aim to establish more open, sustainable and mutually beneficial trading relations by removing barriers to trade in goods and services, simplifying customs procedures and streamlining supply chains. UAE has concluded CEPA with 11 countries such as India, Indonesia, Israel, Trkiye, Cambodia, South Korea, Colombia, Georgia, Mauritius, Congo-Brazzaville and Costa Rica. The first five agreements have already come into effect. Source: Emirates News Agency