Minister for Trade Ahn Duk-geun attended the World Trade Organization’s Ottawa Group ministerial videoconference held on Dec. 16 to seek joint measures for WTO reform as follow-up to the discussions held during the 12th ministerial meetings (MC12) in June.
Trade Minister Ahn stated that the time leading up to the next WTO ministerial meeting is a critical hour that will determine either success or failure of WTO reform, and called for member states to participate in talks with a sense of urgency, emphasizing that the Ottawa Group should empower and steer the course of the reform dialogue.
More specifically, he stressed that the three major functions of WTO, namely negotiation, implementation and dispute settlement, must be revived for the reform to take place.
First, Minister Ahn addressed the WTO’s multilateral negotiation mechanism as a valid means of modernizing regulations in accordance with the rapidly changing trade environment. He maintained that negotiations on facilitating investment and e-commerce need to achieve swift outcomes, and added that discussions on trade, environment and other new trade rules must also see progress.
Second, the trade chief noted that implementation is a key factor in raising the predictability of the multilateral trade system and proposed that member states require stronger obligation to report their respective trade measures to the WTO.
Third, he agreed with other countries in that normalization of WTO’s dispute settlement system is of utmost priority by 2024 for an efficiently functioning multilateral trade system, and viewed the ongoing unofficial reform discussions in Geneva positively.
The trade ministers attending the Ottawa Group videoconference concurred that WTO reform is an urgent and important matter for restoring the multilateral trade system and agreed to seek measures for stronger cooperation to ensure a successful WTO reform in the future.