05 March 2024

WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference at Abu Dhabi – Key highlights

The WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) was recently held from 26th February to 1st March. The key takeaways from the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration and other Ministerial Decisions are as follows.

  • 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, whichever is earlier. The moratorium and the Work Programme will expire on that date.
  • TRIPS Non-Violation and Situation Complaints – Moratorium on non-violation and situation complaints regarding the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was also extended until MC14.
  • 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. Plan is to achieve to have a full and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all Members by 2024.
  • Transition support to countries graduating from LDC category – Member graduating from LDC category shall continue to benefit from special procedures available in Dispute Settlement Understanding, for three years after the date when the UN General Assembly decides to graduate that Member from the LDC category. The Member will also be eligible for LDC-specific technical assistance and capacity building provided under WTO’s Technical Assistance and Training Plan for this period.
  • Agriculture – Divergences remained on public stockholding (PSH) for food security purposes and in respect of timelines, expected outcomes and the scope of the flexibility to be provided to food imports by the most vulnerable countries from export restrictions.
  • Special and differential treatment for Agreement on Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade – Officials instructed to continue work in the WTO Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session, the SPS Committee and the TBT Committee, towards enhancing the implementation of S&DT for developing Members, including LDCs, in the SPS and TBT Agreements and report on any progress by December 2024.
  • Fisheries Subsidies Agreement has been formally accepted by some 71 WTO Members till now.
  • Services Domestic Regulation - Good regulatory practice for services markets – The disciplines on services domestic regulation entered into force for a group of some 72 WTO members.
  • Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement – Joint Ministerial Declaration issued by some 125 WTO members on finalisation of Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD) Agreement. According to the text of the Agreement made public, it seeks to improve transparency of measures, streamline administrative procedures, adopt other investment facilitation measures and promote international cooperation, as a means of facilitating the flow of foreign direct investment between the Parties, particularly to developing and least-developed country Parties, with the aim of fostering sustainable development.
  • Plastics pollution, environmental sustainability, and fossil fuel subsidy reform – Members called for increased transparency and continued work on the subjects. Concrete action outlined to tackle plastic pollution.
  • Women in international trade - WTO and the International Trade Centre (ITC) launched a USD 50 million global fund to help women tap into opportunities in international trade and the digital economy.

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