13th Ministerial, Abu Dhabi 2024

The 13th Ministerial Conference of the WTO is scheduled to take place 26-29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Food security, fisherfolk livelihoods, taxing big tech, and multilateralism itself hang in the balance at WTO ministerial. (OWINFS media briefing, 20 February 2024)

Quels sont les enjeux de la 13e conférence ministérielle de l'OMC qui se tiendra ce mois-ci à Abou Dhabi? (Deborah James, 21 February 2024, French; English and Spanish versions coming soon.)

Africa Trade Network (ATN) statement ahead of the thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC13): English, French. (21 February 2024)

Digital Trade

Before digital trade was a significant aspect of global trade, members of the WTO agreed to a “moratorium” on customs duties on electronic transmissions. It’s high time for this tax holiday for Big Tech to come to an end. Countries should have the right to decide if taxing Amazon e-books, Netflix movies, Apple music, Microsoft software, or video games is in their national interest, as these foreign operators compete tariff-free against domestic small and medium business competitors. WTO members should allow the moratorium to lapse, rather than be renewed, at MC13.

Digital trade rules and AI regulation – a primer. (Jai Vipra, IT for Change, February 2024)

Fact Sheet: WTO Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions (Public Citizen, 16 February 2024)

Understanding the Moratorium on Customs Duties on Electronic Transmissions: Fact checking “Digital Trade for Development” (Public Citizen, 16 February 2024)

Are Trade Rules Undermining Taxation of the Digital Economy in Africa? (Karishma Banga and Alexander Beyleveld, February 2024)

Some countries are pushing for anti-development, anti-public interest and pro-Big Tech rules in the WTO under the guise of “e‑commerce.”

50+ Consumer and Digital Rights Groups Urge Countries to Abandon WTO E-Commerce JSI Terms on Data Flows and Source Code. (January 2024)

No volvamos a ser Potosí. (Spanish, by Sofía Scasserra, 30 January 2024)

WTO electronic commerce draft Chair’s text. (January 2024)

Understanding the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce. (updated December 2023)

Letter to Latin American governments: no more digital trade negotiations! English, Spanish, Portuguese. (December 2023)

US trade policy shift on big tech offers hope despite huge fights ahead. (Deborah James, December 2023)

SC Statement on USTR JSI E-Commerce Decision. (South Centre, November 2023)

Free Trade and Digitalization Agreements: English, Spanish (Trade Union Confederation of Workers of the Americas, November 2023)

more on the digital economy …

Development Agenda / SDT

Least Developed Countries and their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. (South Centre Research Paper, September 2023)

Towards a WTO anchored in SDGs. (Mohan Kumar, South Centre Southviews Paper, February 2023)

more on the Development Agenda / SDT …

Fisheries

Negotiations on fisheries subsidies have a long history in the WTO, but were intensified following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a target on eliminating subsidies to Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and prohibiting certain subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing while recognizing appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries. Developed countries are pushing to ignore the second half of that mandate.

In June 2022, the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, an agreement that was intended to address the problematic aspects of subsidies to fishing. While much fanfare was made about this, there is little to suggest that the SDG mandate has been met, with those most responsible for overfishing being let off the hook of any meaningful commitments.

Negotiations for an expanded agreement are ongoing, but it remains to be seen whether the WTO Members will agree on an outcome that truly addresses the problems of overfishing and IUU fishing.

Civil society open letter to ministers on WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations: English, Spanish, French. (Feb 2024)

Q & A: Small scale fishers, and subsidies for fishing capacity. (PANG, 21 February 2023)

Fishing subsidies negotiations towards MC13: Some key issues. (Ranja Sengupta, Third World Network, 20 February 2024)

Open letter from Indonesian Fishermen's Group on fisheries subsidies negotiations at the Ministerial Conference 13th of WTO. (22 February 2024)

Comprehensive considerations and urgent plea for Indian small-scale fishers in WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations at MC13. (National Fishworkers’ Forum, 20 February 2024)

Civil Society Seminar on the eve of WTO MC13: WTO’s draft text will obstruct Bangladesh’s fisheries development. (18 February 2024)

Large-scale fleets should be target of fish subsidies talks, WTO hears (PANG, 15 September 2023)

Q & A: Small Scale Fishers and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (PANG, June 2023)

Empty Harvest: A Briefing Paper on The World Trade Organization Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (PANG, February 2023)

more on fisheries …

Food & Agriculture

Countries should have the right to support the production of food that is consumed domestically. Thus, Public Stockholding programs for Food Security must be considered as part of the Green Box, and thus not subject to limits or reductions commitments. WTO members agreed to find a permanent solution to the public stockholding programs by December 2017. At MC13, WTO members should deliver a positive resolution on the public stockholding issue that allows all developing countries to implement food security programs without onerous restrictions that are not demanded of developed countries’ trade distorting subsidies.

Safeguard food security, food sovereignty and ensure peasants rights at the WTO MC13. (Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, 23 February 2024)

Negotiations on agriculture & food security towards MC13. (Ranja Sengupta, TWN, January 2024)

Extra AMS entitlements under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture continue to confer additional policy space for developed countries. (Ranja Sengupta, TWN, April 2023)

Policy responses for fostering South-South and Triangular Cooperation in response to the food crisis in the area of trade. (Peter Lunenborg, South Centre, February 2023)

Agriculture negotiations at the WTO and key outcomes of the 12th Ministerial Conference. (Ranja Sengupta, TWN, October 2022)

WTO Green Box subsidies: Recent trends and lessons going forward. (Ranja Sengupta, TWN, July 2021)

more on food & agriculture …

Access to Medicines and Knowledge, and the “Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS)” Agreement of the WTO

It is outrageous that some rich countries blocked the approval of a waiver of TRIPS patent monopolies that restricted developing countries’ access to vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and to today.

Members came to an agreement on some provisions in 2022, only for vaccines, but the ‘agreement’ in no way reflected the original proposals, and was designed to be unworkable; in fact, it have not been able to be utilized, as expert CSOs predicted. For MC13, countries, at the very minimum, should have agreed to extend the provisions to diagnostics and treatments, and to keep negotiating on this life-or-death topic. But it appears that Big Pharma and its government allies in Switzerland, the EU and the US, has blocked the extension of even these paltry provisions to tests and treatments.

WTO pens 'Love Letter to Patents' as world suffers from big pharma greed. (14 February 2024)

Reigniting the Spirit of the Doha Declaration: Why a TRIPS Waiver Extension is Key to the Legitimacy of the World Trade Organization. (Rachel Thrasher, February 2024)

Corporate greed and rich countries’ cowardice lead WTO to abandon proposed sharing of COVID treatment technologies. (Global Trade Watch, 31 January 2024)

The WTO will conclude negotiations over TRIPS and COVID 19 without extending the June 17, 2022 decision to therapeutics or diagnostics. (James Love, 30 January 2024)

more on “intellectual property”/TRIPS …

Investment

Making Sense of Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (II), by Avaljit Singh. (20 February 2024)

Making Sense of Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (I), by Avaljit Singh. (28 November 2023)

more on investment …

Trade & Environment

MC13 will feature discussions on “trade and the environment,” in which the largest polluters will use sustainability rhetoric to try to gain market access in developing countries and leave multilateral principles behind, while blocking progress on developing countries’ solutions for climate adaption focused on green technology transfer rights.

Positive Agenda for Trade and the Environment

UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Report 2023 - Chapter 2 underscores the need for "Revisiting existing international trade agreements to create policy space for countries to redesign their production, consumption, and trading profiles to face contemporary global challenges".

UNCTAD issues “positive” trade & environment agenda for BRICS. (D. Ravi Kanth, TWN, 3 October 2023)

Summary of UNCTAD’s Positive Trade and Environment Agenda. (D. Ravi Kanth, TWN, February 2023)

Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD)

Risks in trade as a solution for environmental problems. (Abhijit Das, 28 November 2023)

[Interview] Unpacking WTO’s involvement in trade and environment negotiation at COP28 with Abhijit Das. (28 November 2023)

Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS)

An Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS) is being negotiated in secret. (Jane Kelsey, September 2023)

Dialogue on Plastics Pollution (DPP)

On WTO website:

Unilateral Measures

How the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism discriminates against foreign producers. (Peter Lunenborg and Vahini Naidu, South Centre, February 2024)

Navigating new turbulences at the nexus of trade and climate change: Implications and options for Africa (Rob Davies, African Climate Foundation, 2023)

more on trade & environment …

ITUC / Global Unions on MC13

Global unions statement to the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13): English, Spanish, French. (February 2024)

Stop WTO expansion!

Pro-corporate governments at the WTO are attempting to pursue a failed agenda of WTO expansion. Developed countries are attempting to undermine the core fundamentals of the WTO's mandate as a multilateral institution and alter decision-making procedures by using “Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs)” launched at the Buenos Aires Ministerial and henceforward.

more on WTO-process issues …