While we wait for bigger decisions at the WTO later this week ahead of MC12, here some other interesting bits of news out of Geneva. By Iana Dreyer and Rob Francis.
World goods trade proves resilient on back of post pandemic economic recovery
The flagship annual World Trade Report of the WTO’s main theme this year is – quite predictably – about “economic resilience and trade”.
“Global economic output (at market exchange rates) is projected to recover by 5.3 per cent in 2021. This has been, in part, thanks to the robust recovery in merchandise trade, which is set to rise by 8 per cent in 2021,” notes the report.
“However, trade in services continues to remain depressed”, the authors write.
The key main messages of the report are that “today’s hyper-connected global economy, characterised by deep trade links, has made the world more vulnerable to shocks, but also more resilient to them when they strike”.
Also “policies which aim to increase economic resilience by unwinding trade integration – for example, by re-shoring production and promoting self-sufficiency – can often have the opposite effect, effectively reducing economic resilience;”.
And, the old mantra: strengthening economic resilience will require more global cooperation.”
US sponsors new draft decision on “resiliency through trade facilitation”
The United States did not join the 28-country ‘trade and health’ initiative of which the EU, among others, is a major sponsor. The initiative includes, among others, some language on export restrictions and customs cooperation.
Instead, alongside Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico, Norway and Panama, Washington circulated a proposal for a ministerial decision at MC12 on “strengthening resiliency through trade facilitation”. As its title suggests, it focuses on facilitating, through relevant provisions in the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, the “expeditious movement of compliant essential goods”.
Ministerial declaration on women’s economic empowerment ready to go for MC12
Following on work initiated at the last ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017, 89 members of the WTO – counting the EU as one – have circulated a Joint draft ministerial declaration on the advancement of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
The declaration might yet be tweaked but it is not expected to face major changes. It mainly aims to establish an informal working group at the WTO with a work plan and a few policy ideas to deliver for the following ministerial conference MC13.
In that declaration governments are instructed to “continue to review, develop and improve national and/or regional collection of gender-disaggregated data that is comparable to the extent possible and analysis on trade and gender”, to “utilise research initiatives to inform trade policy instruments and programmes to support women’s economic empowerment”, to “explore and analyse a gender perspective and women’s economic empowerment issues in the work of the WTO” and to promote collaboration with other organisations in this field.
The United States is not formally part of the initiative but is expected to join shortly as it was involved in most of the meetings. The new regime in Afghanistan, a country that was originally on board the initiative in 2017, has not opted out (for now at least). Saudi Arabia is not on board.
The think tank IISD’s Caroline Dommen has the ins and outs of this initiative.
TESSD declaration now out, more members joint plastics initiative
After having leaked, the draft ministerial statement on trade and environmental sustainability, which comes out of the plurilateral Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions or TESSD, is now public.
The draft statement describes a number of actions for future work within the WTO as well as a roadmap for 2022. Israel recently joined the initiative.
The TESSD signatories aim to identify “concrete actions that participating Members could take individually or collectively to expand opportunities for environmentally sustainable trade” and launch “dedicated discussions on how trade-related climate measures and policies can best contribute to climate and environmental goals and commitments”.
They also plan to promote and facilitate trade in environmental goods and services “including through addressing supply chains and regulatory elements” and explore how trade can achieve a “more resource-efficient circular economy”, promote sustainable supply chains, “in particular for developing members”, and encourage “the global uptake of new and emerging low-emissions technologies”.
Meanwhile, the Informal Dialogue on Plastic Pollution is expanding with three more WTO members joining in recent days.