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C'bean trade ministers want end to trade protectionist policies, reform of WTO

Friday, October 11, 2019

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LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade ministers have joined their counterparts from the Commonwealth in calling for an end to trade protectionism and an urgent reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which sets the global rules for international trade.

The ministers from the 53 Commonwealth member countries, who met here on Thursday, also declared their collective support for free trade in a transparent, inclusive, fair and open multilateral trading system, with the WTO as its core institution.

The ministers called for an end to the impasse regarding the WTO's Appellate Body – a key panel of judges, whose rulings help resolve the trade disputes.

They highlighted the need to update WTO rules to address new challenges and opportunities, including e-commerce and pledged support for a global agreement that would prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by the end of 2019.

The trade ministers agreed that any WTO reform should take into account the views of all members, underlining the special circumstances of the developing and the least developed countries, as well as small and vulnerable economies, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“We further committed to deepening our collaboration to support all members, particularly the most capacity-constrained members, to participate in the multilateral trading system and benefit from trade-related economic growth to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

We noted the support being provided in this regard by the Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva, and urged that it be continued,” the ministers said in their communique issued after the meeting.

They welcomed the operationalization of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment through the formation of multi-sectoral thematic working groups, or clusters, involving the private sector and other international organisations.

“We commended the bottom up approach to prioritisation, and reiterated the value in this multi-sectoral approach to break down silos to respond to modern policy challenges which are themselves multi-sectoral,” they added.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the multilateral trading system is the only way for Commonwealth countries, as diverse as they are, to trade in a predictable, stable, transparent and fair environment. She said while the global trading system may be far from perfect, it is the surest pathway towards eradicating poverty.

“Building on this, the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda will help businesses, including micro, small and medium sized enterprises, to plug into global trade networks and benefit from world trade. In this way, intra-Commonwealth trade offers immense opportunities to contribute to reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.”

The trade ministers have endorsed the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda Action Plan, and have called for an intensification of efforts to ensure meaningful outcomes as a result of the initiative.

“We agreed that this should be a living plan, responding to developments in the global environment and in our cooperation, and we therefore agreed that the plan be periodically updated to take into account these developments, if necessary.”

The meeting acknowledged that the Commonwealth countries must prepare their national economies for the digital era regarded as the Fourth Industrial Revolution “that will present new opportunities for, and challenges to, prosperity.

“We recognise the importance of infrastructure to digital transformation, and reflected on the role we can play in this regard. We welcomed the initiative…to examine the role of private sector investment. We take note of the work undertaken so far on principles for sustainable investment in digital infrastructure and tasked interested members to continue refining these principles.”

The London-based Commonwealth Secretariat said that the outcomes of the meeting will inform leaders' discussions at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2020.


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