13th WTO Ministerial Conference

13th WTO Ministerial Conference

News: The World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) recently concluded in Abu Dhabi.

• The WTO Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making body of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It usually meets every two years and brings together all members of the WTO, which are countries or customs unions.
• The Ministerial Conference can take decisions on all matters under any of the multilateral trade agreements

Key Highlights:
• New WTO Members: Comoros and Timor-Leste formally joined the WTO, becoming the 165th and 166th members.
• E-Commerce: Members agreed to maintain the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions until the 14th Session of the Ministerial Conference or 31st March 2026.
• Dispute Settlement Reform: Officials were instructed to accelerate discussions in an inclusive and transparent manner, build on the progress already made, and work on unresolved issues, including issues regarding appeal/review and accessibility.
• Strengthen Multilateral Trading System: Members pledged to uphold and enhance the capacity of the multilateral trading system, with the WTO as its foundation, to address present trade challenges.

Issues that were not adequately addressed:
• Delay in appointments: The appointment of new members to the Appellate Body (AB) has been unilaterally blocked by the US. The body was supposed to be reformed by 2024, but that deadline has been missed.
• Fisheries subsidies: Developing countries like Brazil emphasized their commitment to discussions on fisheries subsidies, as the West attempted to ban such subsidies. They highlighted the importance of resolving the issue to advance sustainable fishing practices globally.
• India’s Food Security Challenge: India urged for a permanent solution to the public stockholding (PSH) issue for food security at the ministerial meeting. India stated that resolving the pending issue of PSH is crucial for achieving food security and improving the livelihoods of millions.

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