WTO Chief urges cooperation at Ministerial Conference amid global challenges

ABU DHABI: The head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Monday urged member countries to cooperate and deliver concrete results at the ongoing Ministerial Conference, highlighting the importance of trade in addressing global challenges.

Opening the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the complex global situation, marked by geopolitical tensions, rising inflation, and economic uncertainty. However, she emphasised the continued resilience of trade and the WTO’s role in promoting stability and tackling shared issues like poverty and climate change.

“Despite everything we have been through, global goods and services trade remain at or near record highs, with nearly ten percent of the global population still undernourished,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “International markets anchored in the rules-based global trading system have stayed broadly open, helping businesses, households, and economies adapt and adjust to one shock after the other.”

pointed to the success of the previous Ministerial Conference (MC12) in 2021, where members reached ten consensus agreements, and called for similar leadership and compromise at MC13. Key issues on the agenda include finalising the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, which aims to curb the estimated $22 billion in annual harmful subsidies, addressing development concerns of least-developed countries, and making progress on WTO reform, including dispute settlement.

Okonjo-Iweala also highlighted the Secretariat’s efforts to support member countries through research, capacity building, and promoting inclusivity in trade. She expressed gratitude for a recent small budget increase for the Secretariat, which had faced funding constraints for over a decade.

She emphasised the need for leadership and compromise from all members, large and small, developed and developing. This leadership entails a willingness to flex national interests to secure broader gains and ultimately build a stronger WTO capable of delivering for
all. She reinforced this by quoting US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, highlighting the importance of international cooperation and shared purpose in achieving common goals, urging members to ‘get to work!’

Source: Emirates News Agency