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October 29, 2018

13 Nations, Including Canada, Calls For WTO Reform

After a one-day meeting last Thursday in Ottawa, trade ministers from 13 countries issued a statement calling for reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO). While arguing the WTO “marked the beginning of an unparalleled chapter in global prosperity, growth, and job creation around the world,” the trade ministers said they are “deeply concerned by recent developments in international trade, particularly the rise in protectionism, which negatively affect the WTO and put the entire multilateral trading system at risk.”

The ministers identified three concerns that must be addressed:

  • Unblocking the appointment of Appellate Body members in order to ensure a strong dispute settlement system;
  • Reinvigorating the negotiating function of the WTO by considering flexible and open negotiating approaches toward multilateral outcomes; and
  • Strengthening the monitoring and transparency of members’ trade policies to ensure compliance.

While U.S. officials were not invited to the meeting, in a press statement also issued last Thursday, Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Calif.), who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade policy, also called for WTO reform to ensure greater compliance.

The 13 trade ministers said these objectives “will only be reached through sustained and meaningful political engagement and through dialogue with all WTO members.” They concluded their statement by arguing, “The current situation at the WTO is no longer sustainable. Our resolve for change must be matched with action: we will continue to fight protectionism; and we are committed politically to moving forward urgently on transparency, dispute settlement and developing 21st century trade rules at the WTO.”

The 13 countries that signed the statement were Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, European Union, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and Switzerland. They will meet again in January 2019.

In related news: the Economic Policy Institute last week released a study that argued the United States’ entry into the WTO resulted in a higher trade deficit with China that led to the loss of 3.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs.