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02 January 2018

Highlights of 11th Ministerial Conference held in Buenos Aires

The 11th Ministerial Conference (“MC’11”) was flagged off on 10 December, 2017 at Buenos Aires, Argentina. MC’11 has been held at a time when the Trade Facilitation Agreement has entered into force mandating (for the first time ever) a revision of the WTO Rule Book, the WTO Members have eliminated agricultural export subsidies, adopted measures to support LDCs (especially with respect to cotton trade) and expanded the Information Technology Agreement to eliminate substantial tariffs on trade.

MC’11 opened with declaration by four Latin American presidents of the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, pledging support for the WTO and its guardianship of the multilateral trading system.

The pledge was also supported by representatives of Colombia, Guyana, Mexico, Peru and Suriname, who also signed the declaration at the conference’s opening ceremony. This was followed up by a larger, 44 Member Joint Statement reaffirming the centrality of multilateral negotiations and their support for the WTO.

On December 11, 2017, The World Trade Organization and the International Trade Centre (ITC) launched an on-line platform for market intelligence for cotton products, which will enable cotton producers, traders and policymakers to better harness market opportunities in the sector.

In furtherance of cotton-related outcomes of the Bali Ministerial in 2013 and the Nairobi Ministerial in 2015, the Cotton Portal provides a single online entry point for all the cotton-specific information available in WTO and ITC databases, including information on market access, trade statistics, country-specific contacts, as well as links to other relevant documents and webpages.

On the same day, the ITC, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the WTO unveiled a new online hub – HelpMeTrade.org – the Global Trade Helpdesk providing trade data and practical information on target markets.

The MC11 saw, for the first time ever, a “re-launch” of the WTO Rule Book to include rules pertaining to the Trade Facilitation Agreement as well as certain amendments to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). The new text also includes the revised text for Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft and the Agreement on Government Procurement.

For the first time in the history of the World Trade Organization, WTO members and observers have endorsed a collective initiative to increase the participation of women in trade. In order to help women reach their full potential in the world economy, 118 WTO members and observers agreed to support the Buenos Aires Declaration on Women and Trade, which seeks to remove barriers to, and foster, women’s economic empowerment.

MC11 was wrapped up on 13 December with a commitment from members to secure a deal on fisheries subsidies which delivers on Sustainable Development Goal by the end of 2019. Additionally, three more decisions were taken by three proponent groups. These are:

·         A Seventy-one Member proponent group (accounting for 77% of global trade) took the initiative to explore future WTO negotiations on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce.

·         On investment facilitation, 70 WTO members (accounting for 73% trade and 66% inward FDI), recognizing the links between investment, trade and development, announced plans to pursue structured discussions with the aim of developing a multilateral framework on investment facilitation.

·         On MSMEs, 87 WTO members (accounting for around 78% of world exports) issued a joint statement declaring their intention to create, multilaterally, an Informal Working Group on MSMEs at the WTO that would be open to all members.