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Strong S&D delegation to Abu Dhabi for the WTO’s meeting to support multilateral trade system


22 Feb 2024



Starting tomorrow, S&D MEPs Bernd Lange, Kathleen Van Brempt and Javier Moreno Sánchez will be in Abu Dhabi in the frame of the European Parliament’s delegation. They will first attend the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and then participate in the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), bringing together 164 members of the global trade organisation’s highest decision-making body. 

The S&D Group remains committed to a rules-based multilateral trading system and fair and sustainable trade. While in Abu Dhabi, they will be pushing for a successful outcome of the MC13, including a comprehensive institutional reform of the WTO, with a functional and independent dispute settlement. Besides, the S&Ds urged WTO members to conclude the second phase of the Fisheries Subsidies agreement, to fight overfishing and overcapacity, and to find a fair and permanent solution for the e-commerce moratorium on customs duties on online deliveries like e-books, films, and software. S&Ds also want to see progress in agriculture negotiations on many long-standing issues. 

Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament’s trade committee, and the head of the EP delegation to Abu Dhabi, said:

“Some people say that the WTO is yesterday’s way of doing things, but that is not correct. 75% of global trade continues to be conducted according to WTO rules. This is why it remains important to further strengthen the WTO and change it from within so that it is fit to tackle challenges of the 21st century. One of the main deliverables we want to see is a substantive reform of the organisation, including reinstating an independent two-tier dispute settlement system. Without a strong dispute settlement system, over time members will be tempted to disrespect the rules. 

“As the US unfortunately is still not forthcoming enough, we will not be able to agree on an appeal stage at MC13. Yet, we need to set out a clear path to find a solution on this still in 2024. In the meantime, all members should commit to not appeal disputes into the void. 

“We should also start a structured discussion on the important issues of trade and industrial subsidies, as well as trade and the environment. Otherwise, we risk that subsidy races and trade conflicts will undermine the multilateral trading system, as well as the Green Deal itself.”

Kathleen Van Brempt, S&D MEP and the EP rapporteur on trade and climate for the WTO Parliamentary Conference, added: 

“In the current geopolitical context, multilateralism is more and more under pressure. Not just the WTO, but all multilateral institutions and multilateral rules.

“To maintain its relevance, the WTO needs important internal reforms. These reforms must address the imbalance in representation; it is time to ensure developing countries have a significant say in decision-making processes and that their concerns over issues like cultural subsidies, intellectual property, etc. are adequately addressed. What happened during the pandemic with the discussion on intellectual property rights and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) should not be repeated. We need to step up our efforts in this regard and see through the fulfilment of the Doha Development Agenda.

“These reforms should also address the nexus between trade and climate action. Climate change is today’s number one global challenge. Recent COP meetings reveal the urgent need for action. It is high time to incorporate fighting climate change in the core of trade governance. Multilateralism is essential to fight climate change and trade needs to step up and do its part.”  


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