Switzerland chairs an informal WTO ministerial meeting

On January 21, 2022, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin invited trade ministers to a discussion about the ongoing WTO negotiations. The virtual meeting focused on the next steps after the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, which was postponed last December due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further topics included the current challenges in the relationship between international trade and health, the reduction of fisheries subsidies, the reform of agricultural trade policy and the strengthening of the rules-based multilateral trading system in the medium term.

Twenty-eight members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), representing a wide range of trade policy interests, attended the informal ministerial meeting on 21 January. The virtual meeting was held in place of the informal WTO ministerial meeting, which traditionally takes place on the fringes of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos and is chaired by Switzerland.

The ministers regretted that the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled for December 2021 had to be postponed once again and expressed their hope that the overdue event could soon take place. The delegations underlined the urgency of strengthening the WTO’s contribution to the fight against the pandemic and the recovery of the global economy. They discussed better supply of medical goods to the world’s population through measures facilitating trade, closer cooperation between governments and the private sector, and the role of intellectual property in pandemic response. The ministers also reiterated their determination to soon conclude the advanced negotiations on fisheries subsidies, which should contribute to ensuring the long-term sustainability of global fisheries.

Medium-term negotiation priorities, particularly in agricultural trade policy and WTO reform, were also discussed. The latter includes measures to improve transparency in applying existing WTO agreements, a fully functional WTO dispute settlement system and the further development of the WTO rules.

Switzerland favours an international, ideally multilateral, approach in seeking solutions to global challenges. Thanks to its participation in many international organisations, such as the WTO, it is able to play an active role in this regard. A broad-based and reliable multilateral regulatory system for international economic relations creates legal certainty and stability.

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