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Reform WTO, resist protectionism: Commonwealth ministers

Oct '19
Pic: Common Wealth
Pic: Common Wealth
Commonwealth trade ministers recently vowed to resist all forms of protectionism and to jointly work on an urgent basis towards reforming the World Trade Organisation (WTO). At a meeting in London, ministers from the 53 Commonwealth members declared their collective support for free trade in a transparent, inclusive, fair and open multilateral trading system.

They agreed that any WTO reform should take into account the views of all members, underlining the special circumstances of the developing and the least developed countries, as well as small and vulnerable economies, including small island developing states (SIDS), according to a Commonwealth press release.

The ministers also endorsed an action plan to boost trade among their countries to at least $2 trillion by 2030, through the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. Intra-Commonwealth trade is projected to reach $700 billion by next year.

“The multilateral trading system is the only way for our countries, as diverse as they are, to trade in a predictable, stable, transparent and fair environment. While the global trading system may be far from perfect, it is the surest pathway towards eradicating poverty,” Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland said.

“We must work together to promote free trade and reform the multilateral system to make sure it works for every nation, small or large....Trade has the power to drive growth, jobs and opportunities; it is an essential tool in the fight against extreme poverty and insecurity, chair of the meeting, UK secretary of state for international trade and president of the board of trade Liz Truss said.

Ministers called for an end to the impasse regarding the WTO’s Appellate Body, a key panel of judges, whose rulings help resolve the trade disputes.

They highlighted the need to update WTO rules to address new challenges and opportunities, including e-commerce. They pledged support for a global agreement that would prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by the end of 2019.

In a communiqué, the ministers also welcomed the progress made under the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, including the work of active country-led ‘clusters’ focused on five areas: digital, physical, regulatory, supply side and business-to-business connectivity.

The outcome of the meeting will inform leaders’ discussions at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2020.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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October 2019

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