Please note that the livestream for each session will open 2 minutes before the start time.
The opinions expressed in these sessions are those of the participants. They do not necessarily represent the positions or opinions of the WTO or its members and are without prejudice to members' rights and obligations under the WTO.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching socio-economic effects. Not only has it increased poverty and deepened inequality across the world, it has also had a severe impact on global trade.
This session will bring together a panel of experts to discuss the effects of the pandemic on trade and how the multilateral trading system can help countries build resilience to COVID-19 and promote inclusive recovery from this and future crises. The panellists will discuss how trade can contribute to keeping supply chains operational to ensure equitable and affordable global access to medical supplies and equipment. They will reflect on how the WTO should collaborate with different stakeholders to scale up and scale out vaccine production, particularly in developing countries. The session will also consider how governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector and civil society can work together to promote sustainable trade and support the protection of the environment.
This session will discuss the elements of copyright policy that is needed to respond to the COVID pandemic and other emergencies, and how trade and international intellectual property law should accommodate such measures. Copyright is implicated in the treatment, prevention, and containment of COVID and in the response to other emergencies. Many countries lack express rights in their copyright laws to enable remote and digital uses of works for education and scientific research, impede the repair of medical devices requiring software, and have no provision for public health use of tools, such as computational algorithms, needed to produce vaccines. This session will discuss how countries can respond to these challenges within the confines of the WTO TRIPS agreement and whether further clarifications of such flexibility is warranted to ensure that emergency action can be taken now and in the future.
How can different sectors work together for more sustainable international trade, particularly within the framework of sustainability standards? In the face of environmental changes and the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for sustainable business has never been greater. From pre-competitive platforms to multi-stakeholder initiatives, how can businesses, NGOs, research institutions and governments collaborate for increased sustainability? And what are concrete examples of successful collaborations? This session will bring together business leaders, high-level officials and changemakers to explore how different kinds of collective action – within industries, across sectors, and beyond borders – can lead to a greener and more sustainable future for trade, globally.
This session will first introduce the importance of services in international trade of healthcare products and demonstrate the crucial role that they play in making possible their delivery to where they are needed, looking at the whole supply chain (health care services, transport and logistics, ICT services, financial and insurance services, etc.). It will present the proposed initiative for launching negotiations for a WTO agreement on "trade in healthcare products". It will then make the case for including crucial services in any future deal, to set the rules that will smooth the way to fight future pandemics and avoid mistakes made at the surge of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020.
The multilateral trading system is not fit for purpose and has contributed to skyrocketing inequality, along with a race to the bottom on rights and regulations. To rebuild trust, the WTO must reaffirm its commitment to sustainable development as stated in the Marrakesh Agreement, and explicitly affirm its support for human and labour rights. To tackle the challenges of the 21st century, a reformed WTO must set an enforceable minimum floor on rights and support decent work, while making sure countries are given the policy space to pursue development and full employment goals. Setting a floor on human and labour rights, and environmental standards will ensure fair competition and deliver on improving conditions for working people in both developing and developed countries.
Border carbon adjustment (BCA), also carbon border adjustment mechanism, (CBAM) is a tool of climate policy with profound trade impacts and is the subject of growing international interest, as well as controversy. This session will look past the headlines to explore, with the input of leading policy experts, the possibility of building common ground on principles and best practices in the design and implementation of BCA. It will assess what elements are good candidates for common ground, ask where discussions might take place, and consider what prospects there are for this common ground to act as a bridge between the objectives and principles of climate change action and the multilateral trading system, with particular attention to the principles of special and differential treatment and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
There is an urgent need to strengthen the Multilateral Trading System and ensure that it adapts to new digital realities and at the same time that it is inclusive and representative of all regions. Current digital governance arrangements are dominated by some jurisdictions and some firms and these spillover into trade agreements which are ill suited to deal with complex nature of cross border data flows that touch upon a range of policy issues for which supranational institutions, policies, and regulations have not been designed. The session will bring together a diverse panel of experts from three different regions of the world working in research institutes, think tanks and government to delve into the complexities of digital trade and examine how new types of arrangements can help to facilitate digital trade, promote inclusiveness and ensure that the global trading system adapts to new digital realities.
Agriculture and trade are the backbone of every economy. The agricultural sector has made a significant contribution to the economic prosperity of industrialized countries and its role in economic development of less developed countries is of vital importance. Faced with a rapidly growing world population, farmers are increasingly asked to grow food more sustainably through conserving natural resources like soil and water, preventing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss; all whilst increasing yields on existing arable land. Likewise, international trade is the solution to food security and sustainability. In this session, government officials, farmers, representatives from UN organizations, and the private sector will explore how farmers can grow their food sustainably, and the positive contribution a strong, international rules-based trading system can make. The panel will also consider how to address the complexity and interconnectivity of agricultural, environmental and governmental policies promoting sustainable trade in the aftermath of COVID-19.
Women play an important role in the economy and international trade. Female entrepreneurs tend to grow their businesses faster and employ more people – both men and women – which contributes to economic growth, innovation, productivity, poverty reduction and development. Due to their size and sectoral concentration, women-led businesses have suffered more as a result of COVID-19. In order to promote a fast and robust economic recovery, women must be a part of it. This session will explore the difficulties women are facing to capture segments of global value chains in the post-pandemic world and discuss an inclusive trade agenda that takes into account gender-specific roles and needs.
Fishing communities and fish workers have been among those most exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19. But this year WTO Members have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build resilience of the world’s fisheries by agreeing rules on fisheries subsidies.
Civil society groups from around the globe are supporting WTO DG Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s call for an ambitious agreement this year: it is the greatest single action that WTO Members can take to contribute to building resilience of the ocean and fisheries. Never has there been greater political momentum nor more evidence of the need to act to protect the ocean, and the livelihoods of people who depend on it.
This session will showcase views and perspectives from grassroots fisheries stakeholders and ocean advocates about why a harmful fisheries subsidies elimination agreement would help WTO Members to reignite confidence in the rules-based trading regime, and contribute to protecting the ocean.
Re-start or re-shape? Do we need a more resilient or a more robust multilateral trading system? A more resilient system aims at returning to its earlier equilibrium. A more robust system could imply structural changes. Scientists highlight the difference between resilience and robustness by which the latter ensures a resistance to shocks while resilience may only lead to reacting to them. This session aims at translating this theoretical debate into a practical approach on reforming the WTO and trade policy. The purpose of trade policy is not to please trade policymakers. Its purpose is to serve the entire society. Behind any trade policy measure however complex and technical it may be, lies the obligation to empower people in their economic and social development. Trade policy has to be rights-based, human rights based. Speakers of this session will offer realistic blueprints and guidelines by analysing lessons-learned from the current COVID-19 pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technologies have played a crucial role in keeping trade flowing. From cross-border e-commerce and digital payments, to teleconferencing around the world, to replacing physical documents with electronic records, TradeTech is more important than ever.
The next generation of trade growth will come from integrating new technologies into trade – both in supply chains and in trade facilitation. Under the auspices of the WEF, business leaders and public stakeholders came together last year to kick off the conversation on TradeTech globally.
As a second phase of this project, the WTO and WEF are providing a space for this community to identify regulatory gaps in trade policy and trade agreements that deserve attention as to facilitate further TradeTech adoption. In addition to efficiency gains, TradeTech should help maximize sustainable development. This session will present insights on TradeTech and present options for a cutting-edge trade agenda.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the damage the WTO has wrought, from brittle, hyper globalized supply chains to expansive monopoly protections that have made the world less able to protect people. Rich and poor countries alike have been unable to make or obtain vaccines, medicines, tests, ventilators, PPE and other necessary equipment. The COVID crisis was a stress test that exposed what many people around the world already knew: The WTO’s hyper globalization rules shaped a global economy that is not working for most people. The result is a WTO that teetertotters between being irrelevant and being damaging. These experts from across the political spectrum and around the world urge governments to create a multilateral framework that provides policy space for diverse national approaches to the challenges of our time from economic inequality and hyper-financialization to the climate crisis and global corporate monopoly while delivering the benefits of trade to more people.
Over the years, the World Spirits Alliance members have been proudly telling our story about how open and fair trade benefitted consumers, stimulated innovations and sustainable investments, lead to improved tax collections and reduced harmful illicit trade; generated jobs and eventually increased standards of living. As every element of this success story is now challenged by the COVID crisis, the business community wants to have a constructive dialogue with the WTO and its Members about the impediments for recovery. The objective of this session will be (i) to give a voice to sectors whose prosperity depends on the ability to trade and who could showcase how they could contribute to economic recovery if the conditions are right; (ii) to discuss real life obstacles to economic recovery that often worsened during COVID-19 (iii) generate a reflection from decision-makers and the academic community about how WTO could contribute into addressing these obstacles.
This session is organized by the Italy B20 and ICC to share views on the future of the WTO and on its reform ahead of the Business Forum that will take place alongside the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12). It builds on the 23 June WTO “Trade Dialogues” outcome. The session will focus on most urgent actions and decisions to be brought to the attention of MC12, setting the stage of the debate among members and stakeholders and gathering further ideas and priorities. The session intends to start developing the draft business recommendations to be conveyed to the WTO Ministers in December.
The COVID-19 crisis acted as a supply shock for FDI, which is a key source of income for developing countries and will be an important part of the response to the pandemic for supporting economic recovery towards more resilience. Investment facilitation plays a key role in helping governments attract FDI for restoring GVCs, enhancing export capacity and promoting sustainable growth.
Trade and investment are two major engines for development and therefore, addressing them in a mutually supportive manner is key. Negotiations on Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD) in the WTO aim at creating global benchmarks for promoting transparency and reducing administrative bottlenecks for investors while supporting governments' efforts to put in place and benefit from investment facilitation reforms. The working session will explore how such an IFD Agreement can promote economic recovery and sustainable development, and update participants on the IFD negotiations in the run-up to MC12.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, expectations were that seaborne trade, including containerized trade, would experience a strong downturn. However, changes in consumption and shopping patterns have led to increased import demand for manufactured consumer goods, a large part of which are moved in shipping containers. The increase in demand was stronger than expected and not met with a sufficient supply of shipping capacity. (UNCTAD. Policy Brief 84. April 2021). As a result of this, transit shipments and transport operations have been delayed and container freight rates significantly increased in many parts of the world specifically in landlocked developing countries. This session will address challenges caused by shortage of containers and increase in freight rates and identify practical recommendations in this regard including establishment of dry ports in landlocked countries to facilitate transit and transport operations.
How to develop tailored crisis-mitigation provisions in trade agreements to build resilience and better preparedness for future crises? This Session will answer this question. It is organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in cooperation with experts from the Asian Trade Centre, CUTS, Georgetown University and Hinrich Foundation. The session will present the results delivered from the global Initiative on Model Provisions for Trade in Times of Crisis and Pandemic launched last year by ESCAP together with 5 UN Regional Commissions, UNCTAD, WTO, and other organizations. The discussion will focus on the role of trade agreements in enhancing trade resilience in times of crisis; and options for incorporating such provisions based on a new handbook for trade negotiators.
This session will showcase the work of the recently created WTO Gender Research Hub. It is anchored in a collaborative paper drafted by 27 Hub participants drawn from 7 international organizations, 3 WTO chairs (Mexico, South Africa, Chile) and 11 universities. Using the collaborative paper, the session will start with a scene setting presentation on the place of female entrepreneurs, farmers and workers in trade across regions and development levels. The session will further take up the Hub’s proposed “research pathway to gender action” by highlighting key research done by Hub members and documenting how research findings are being integrated into trade policies and trade support programmes with a view to scale-up women’s empowerment in trade. The session’s format will be highly interactive, innovative and associate the multiplicity of voices from Hub participants and the stakeholder community concerned by the trade and gender policy interface.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has had disproportionate consequences on vulnerable low-income households, especially in the developing world where unemployment has soared and safety nets are lacking. Unleashing the positive contribution of trade in the recovery of this and future crises will require bold action from both national governments and the global community, including at the WTO.
Beyond immediate responses to COVID-19 recovery, this session will explore how to ensure that the trading system is better prepared for such systemic shocks in the future, while minimising their negative impact in developing countries.
What can we change now to be better prepared the next time? How can trade policy makers craft more resilient approaches? How can developing countries be supported in this regard? Should global rules governing trade and health be adapted? What role can the WTO play in this regard? These questions will be at the heart of discussions.
This session will be an opportunity for the audience to learn more about this important matter, that is often not well understood and often difficult to bring to the attention of the political decision makers, but that is crucial for services exporters and investors. Participants will hear about:
• state of play of the WTO negotiations;
• perspectives of business and industry experts on the practical value of the disciplines for facilitating and expanding their operations; and
• perspectives of participating WTO Members on the importance of the disciplines in improving their domestic business environment and increasing their trade competitiveness.
This working session brings together leading experts and practitioners from international organizations, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations, to critically review and discuss national law responses and experiences addressing intellectual property challenges in a global pandemic and the role of WTO. These would include national law and policy reform processes in several countries, including Brazil, Russia, and the ongoing discussions in the European Union concerning obstacles in using compulsory licensing; as well as the role of TRIPS waiver in a pandemic. It intends to conclude with a discussion on how these experiences should inform the reform of international trade rules beyond COVID19. It aims to offer specific recommendations on what steps can be taken by different stakeholders.
This panel tries to assess how trade policies supported by the WTO could help build better resilience to external trade shocks for Africa’s most vulnerable groups, with a special focus on how to promote women’s participation in trade and create more resilience.
While the tremendous suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequent economic recession calls urgently for swift actions to strengthen the multilateral trading system, there is currently a lack of consensus among WTO Members on several major issues that may be subject to further reform. This session focuses on newly raised and core topics that are China-related, including disciplines on industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), reform of the dispute settlement mechanism, imposition of carbon border adjustment tax, and the preferred ways and pre-conditions for successful initiation of future WTO reform negotiations. The session devotes itself to the ultimate goal of building common grounds and exploring ways forward to build consensus within and enhance resilience of the multilateral trading system.
SDG 12 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls to "[p]romote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities" (target 12.7). Green government procurement directly supports this goal. But there is scarcely any debate about how this fits with the open international trading system. Do international trade rules, including those in the WTO's Government Procurement Agreement 2012 and FTAs, support or hinder countries in achieving this goal? What should be done, and how, so that government procurement can be deployed to make international trade more sustainable and at the same time to help countries to make the shift towards more low-carbon and circular economies (i.e. build back greener)? How best to reconcile trade and the environment in the field of government procurement and "ensure that the WTO best supports the green and circular economy" (WTO DG Okonjo-Iweala)? This debate is both timely and pressing.
Trade is a well-established driver of growth and poverty reduction. Also changes in trade policy have distributional impacts that create winners and losers. It is vital to understand and clearly communicate how trade affects economic well-being across all segments of the population, and how policies can effectively ensure that the gains are distributed more widely.
This study provides a deep understanding of the distributional effects of trade across regions, industries, and demographic groups within countries. It includes an overview; a review of innovations in empirical and theoretical work covering the impacts of trade at the subnational level; highlights from empirical case studies on Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Sri Lanka; and a policy agenda to improve distributional outcomes.
A better understanding of how trade affects distributional outcomes can lead to more inclusive policies and support the ability of countries to maximize broad-based benefits.
In a world largely characterised by rapid technological change, knowledge-driven economies, global environmental issues and growing consumer influence on the production of goods and services, it is important to strengthen the multilateral trading system in order to tackle issues of the 21st century.
This session will bring together a panel of Ministers and experts to discuss a reform agenda that will equip countries with the necessary tools to deal with COVID related challenges and rebuild confidence in the multilateral trading system. Panellists will consider how to make the multilateral trading system more inclusive by integrating women, youth and small businesses into the global economy. In addition, they will discuss how WTO strengthened rules can deliver positive results for developing and least-developed countries including through raising living standards and reducing poverty.
This session will discuss the importance of building resilience in the post-COVID-19 era through the promotion of sustainable agricultural trade, focusing on Brazil’s experience. During the pandemic, calls for increasing resilience have often been interpreted as the need to reshore critical supply chains and increase self-sufficiency to reduce dependence on global markets. Providing food security solutions that reconcile enhancement of local production with abundant and affordable food supplies on global markets thereby stands as an important challenge. As countries focus on promoting a sustainable economic recovery, agricultural production and trade are important parts of this equation. International agricultural trade can be critical for global food security and poverty eradication, and thereby for the 2030 Agenda. Experts from government, academia and the private sector will discuss WTO’s role and potential contributions to sustainability in agricultural trade, and Brazil’s experiences, as inputs for multilateral discussions on best practices, methods and common goals.
The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses has been colossal, with considerable disruption of global supply chains. The herculean task of reconstruction cannot be undertaken in isolation, and the expertise of all relevant stakeholders will be a decisive factor.
The panel will discuss how Customs administrations can emerge from the global pandemic and support people and businesses by strengthening global supply chains and facilitating the ever-growing volumes of e-commerce. It will discuss the importance of partnerships and reinforcing collaboration, harnessing technology and putting 'people' at the centre of the transformation process.
Lastly, Customs administrations, being uniquely positioned and mandated at the borders, can support an effective and equitable transition towards more inclusive, resilient and sustainable supply chains. The speakers will explore initiatives, programmes and tools for building Members’ capacity towards that goal.
This session will highlight the importance of regional integration in building Africa’s resilience to global economic shocks. In particular, by harnessing operational instruments of AfCFTA implementation, African private sector will be better equipped to identify and build new trade and value addition opportunities within the continent. The session will take stock of progress towards enhancing economic integration across the continent, and explore the available tools for helping businesses navigate the journey towards greater regional integration.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted immense harm to health and economies worldwide. Vaccination offers a way out of the pandemic, yet production of vaccines and other health products has been insufficient to meet unparalleled global demand. In this context, momentum has built behind a waiver of provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to address intellectual property barriers affecting the scale-up of production of health commodities.
This session will examine the debate surrounding TRIPS waivers as a mechanism to expand the supply of health commodities. It will explore how TRIPS has historically operated in health crises, how waivers might be used to expand production in a pandemic, and what the downsides might be. It will also consider alternative or additional efforts that might be required, and discuss the implications of TRIPS waivers for incentives to innovate and the future of the global intellectual property system.
This working session aims to: (i) take stock of what digital technology has achieved over the last few months in terms of keeping economies running and fighting off the pandemic or curbing contagion; (ii) explain why it is of critical interest to strengthen the Multilateral Trading System and how to do it; (iii) expand on a few examples of digitally enabled operations in less developed countries to demonstrate that enhancing resilience beyond COVID-19 is within our reach.
This panel will feature experts in healthcare, trade law and economics, as well as business executives. By combining their most diverse experience of digital trade, the scene will be set for a rewarding debate on practical ways to make governments, multilateral institutions, civil society, and business work together toward a borderless world where everyone will enjoy the benefits of seamless trade, a world where only viruses will be off-limits.
Provisions on labour rights have played an increasingly important role in bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements concluded in recent years, as part of the general trend towards more sustainability in international trade. This session aims to explore the implications of this trend for the multilateral trading system.
The Uruguay Round made the varied architecture of the Tokyo Round Codes multilateral and established the principle of the “single undertaking”. There seemed to be an overall sentiment that multilateralism was the way forward.
After 26 years, the most recurring criticism of the WTO is that its negotiating function has been paralyzed. Consensus within a large and diverse membership has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible. Revitalizing the negotiating function of the WTO is crucial to its credibility, but it now requires a new architecture. WTO reform, therefore, may need to include the possibility of certain Members reaching agreements with each other. The Joint Statement Initiatives subscribed by WTO Members could be a flexible and complementary means of negotiation at the organization. With transparent and inclusive procedures, negotiations may advance at different speed. The multilateral trading system cannot wait until everything is agreed.
According to FAO, one-third of fish stocks are already exploited beyond sustainable levels, and the trend for decades has been ever downwards. While harmful subsidies may be aimed at helping coastal communities, they can instead encourage fishing beyond profitable and sustainable levels in coastal waters and on the high seas, degrading the resources on which these communities depend and jeopardizing the future of the industry they set out to support.
A successful WTO agreement on curbing subsidies for overfishing could pave the way for a stronger multilateral trade and environment agenda by demonstrating how existing rules can be built upon. The proposed event will provide expert views and a forum for discussion of what the new agreement means, and why it matters, for the ocean and for the multilateral trade system, including forward-looking questions of how its implementation will be a catalyst for sustainable trade – and a sustainable future.
This workshop explores systemic challenges and opportunities for the trade regime, inter alia, to foster climate action, circular economy, poverty reduction, and economic fairness. Although human impacts of trade are rarely openly discussed in the WTO, justice is often implicitly assumed to be engrained in WTO principles such as the ones on non-discrimination. Still, there is a growing need for making trade policies more supportive of decency, improvement of standards of living, human rights, and environmental sustainability. The assumption underlying this workshop is that we need strengthened resilience while achieving ambitious reforms of the WTO based on connecting high-level policy discussions at the WTO with impacts ‘on the ground’. The workshop will raise concrete ideas with the participants regarding the direction WTO members could take in shaping the future of a peaceful, humane, and sustainable global trading system through holistic and integrated approaches.
Technology is transforming lives, economies, and trade worldwide. Due to the pandemic, discussions on digital trade and e-commerce have accelerated and become more relevant, given the social distancing measures adopted. This working session will discuss Digital Trade for Economic Recovery in Developing Countries, analyzing how technology can enable countries to integrate into the global digital trade value chain and build resilience in the post-pandemic world. The panel will be hosted by experts from international organizations, government authorities, and the private sector to address the key challenges and opportunities presented by digital trade frameworks and policies throughout and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the linear “take-make-discard” approach is still the dominant approach to economic activity, there is an increasing interest in a more circular approach – especially as an additional policy option in the drive towards greater sustainability worldwide. This session will explore options to overcome barriers to scaling up the global transition to a more resource efficient, circular economy, including those faced by companies in transitioning to a circular approach as well as obstacles to the scale up of circular business models. It will then look at the role of international actors in identifying and implementing solutions to these barriers and in ensuring trade and the circular economy become mutually supportive.
The session will offer suggested answers to the following questions: What trade policies currently inhibit the transition to a circular economy? How can trade policy serve to enable the transition? How should these issues be progressed at the WTO?
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend towards the digitization of trade has accelerated exponentially worldwide. However, the opportunities and challenges facing developing countries in LatAm deserve particular attention, especially with respect to the digital transformation of MSMEs, the engine of their economies. This session, focused on the markets of Argentina, Brazil and México, will: analyze the impact of the aforementioned process on export-oriented MSMEs; consider the role e-commerce platforms play in this respect; and showcase successful public-private projects to enhance MSME exports through cross-border e-commerce.
Government support has long been a concern of the trading system, across agriculture, fisheries and industrial sectors. Debates have focused on the impact of government support on the level playing field for international competition and whether trade rules are sufficiently strong to prevent competitiveness from being determined by the deepest pockets. At the same time, there are new debates about when government support may be needed – for example, to deal with crises such as COVID-19, for the digital and green transformations, or in response to a range of market failures or public goods.
Against this background, this session will consider the following questions: when is government support justified? What do we know about the design of “good” government support? What kinds of support give rise to the biggest concerns? How can strengthened multilateral trade rules allow the right kind of support, while avoiding the wrong kind?
Trade is a crucial contributor to recovery from the pandemic: it plays an essential role in economic development, supports peace and is an engine for achieving the SDGs. As climate change and unsustainable consumption of natural resources are interlinked, transition to a circular economy is a necessity and an opportunity for a sustainable economy. Several countries, including Colombia and Finland, have taken steps towards circular economy and productive transformation. This interactive, inclusive session focuses on 1) opportunities provided by transition to circular economy for sustainable growth with the help of trade; 2) the role of collective action such as national, regional and international policies and cooperation in supporting the transition; 3) impacts of circular economy transition on strengthening resilience and tackling challenges related to climate change and resource scarcity. The session highlights the importance of aligning circular economy transition and sustainable post-COVID recovery policies as countries are rebuilding their economies.
Disciplines on intellectual property protection are part of the multilateral trade system through the WTO TRIPS Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear again the tension between the protection of intellectual property rights and public health, which had been addressed in 2001 through the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public health. Having in view the TRIPS flexibilities, this session will discuss the role of interpretation, temporary waivers and amendments in dealing with such tension and what further actions could be taken under the WTO rules in order to promote access to medical products for all.
As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and workers in Latin America, Asia and Africa, small-scale producers have shown resilience, innovation, and bravery, from building their e-commerce capability, to using agricultural equipment to sanitize public spaces. What are the lessons learnt from the disruption caused and from the adaptive mechanisms that emerged? From safety-nets for ensuring basic needs to responsive political will - what truly counts in building producers’ resilience to this pandemic as well as to the climate and market fluctuation crises? How can global trade build back fairer for global food supply chains shouldered by smallholder farmers and agricultural workers? Join us to debate on how best to apply these lessons for a fairer trading system - fostering more inclusive and resilient livelihoods and leaving no one behind.
WTO and OECD terms COVID-19 as the largest threat to global economy since the 2008–2009 financial emergency, as the African Union predicts a negative economic spinoff for the continent with 1.5 points drop on economic growth, against earlier predicted 4.0 (2020) and 4.1 (2021) GDP growth. In the midst of extraordinary challenges, and the need to build more resilient and sustainable economies to save lives and livelihoods, quality Infrastructure, for appropriate regulatory framework (standards, Conformity Assessment) remains the invisible architecture. More so in Africa for resilience and self-reliance, the pandemic has magnified the potential of regional value chains in key sectors as pharmaceuticals and Agriculture, based on comparative advantages and economies of scale. The ARSO-Afreximbank-ITFC initiative on Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices standards harmonisation, in the context of WTO/SPS Agreements, African Union Africa’s Pharmaceutical Plan, WHO Traditional Medicine 2014-2023 Strategy, AfCFTA Agreement, rekindles Africa and global hope.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given the international community a lesson that a global mechanism and actions are needed to collectively fight against future public health crises of international concern and to build resilience for vulnerable economies so as to further facilitate global prosperity. This session discusses the ways of turning our shared COVID-19 experiences into collective multilateral actions to build resilience for vulnerable Members and groups. It focuses on reviewing the existing tools and identifying possible adjustments to remedy/complete the multilateral trading system for the WTO and its Members to tackle this global crisis and ones of similar nature in the future. Through the panel discussion, this session will also talk about building resilience of vulnerable groups and Members, in terms of women empowerment, trade facilitation in healthcare products and the use of technology and its enhancement.
Prior to COVID-19, several LDCs were displaying initial signs of structural transformation with the strengthening of manufacturing and higher-productivity services. These trends were taking place not only in Asia (home to the majority of graduating LDCs), but also in several African LDCs. A year and a half into the pandemic and ensuing shockwaves, crucial questions arise: (i) How resilient has this incipient process been? and (ii) Has COVID-19 triggered instances of creative destruction? While it is too early to give definitive answers, certain industries were able to adapt, pivoting core business, diversifying sale channels or target markets, adopting innovative technologies. Building on concrete examples from selected LDCs, the discussion will highlight key coping strategies, elaborate on related drivers, and draw lessons for a resilient recovery, ahead of UN-LDC 5. The debate will also underscore the importance of productive capacities and innovation in shaping the scope for transformation and resilience building.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique opportunity to assess the place of MSMEs in international trade. Small businesses have proved to be resilient and dynamic in the face of unprecedented global economic disruption but need support to recover and thrive. A renewed understanding of the needs of MSMEs in the context of global trade is needed to ensure that the multilateral trading environment delivers for small businesses, to support short-term recovery and long-term resilience. With due regard to the package of declarations and recommendations adopted by the WTO Informal Working Group on MSMEs in December 2020, this session will bring together speakers from across the global MSME community to identify the barriers preventing small businesses from entering the global marketplace and to explore what actions should be taken to support them on their trading journeys, from tangible support measures to updated trade rules.
The existential crisis of the WTO dispute system has influenced greatly on Member countries such that now more countries tend to formulate and implement their trade policies without regard to the multilateral rule of law. As legal obligations cannot be enforced effectively in the WTO, each member is opting to fight ‘out of the ring’, rather than ‘in the ring’ of WTO dispute system. KITA believes that restoring the ability to settle trade disputes is perhaps the most imminent issue to be addressed for the business community as well. In this regard, this session aims to identify diverging views on the cause of the current Appellate Body crisis and to discuss lessons from the past two years. Panellists from a variety of perspectives will explore possible paths forward to restore and upgrade the WTO dispute settlement mechanism so that it can work more effectively.
Food value chains depend on a responsible and common action of all actors of the food chain, from producers to consumers and their understanding on the importance of cooperating in order to produce and consume more sustainably. Experiences show how connecting farmers to consumers directly can encourage more sustainable production and consumption patterns, both in long and short value chains. On this basis, with this working session, WFO would like to stimulate an open and fruitful exchange on how to better link farmers and consumers directly to drive actions towards sustainable trade focusing on among others, innovation, education, direct access to markets and food, balance between short and long supply chains. The objective is to discuss: - Policy developments and related action needed - Innovation to enable action - Sharing experiences with the aim to learn from one another.
Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 has given a clear mandate to the WTO to take action on the issue of fisheries subsidies while respecting the mandate of special and differential treatment so that the interest of small fishers in developing and least developed countries are protected. Any collective action on sustainable trade relating to fisheries subsidies must get the balance right for Developing Countries, Least Developed Countries and Small Island States to be able to develop and support their domestic industries with the need to reduce levels of unsustainable fisheries subsidies. This session will discuss the current negotiations and provide insights from affected coastal communities, examining how an outcome that promotes sustainable fishing, equity and the policy space for development, including Special and Differential Treatment for developing countries, is the best outcome.
Fish is currently the most traded animal protein worldwide in value terms, characterized by a wide range of product types and participants, making trade global, diverse, and complex. The fisheries and aquaculture sectors expanded significantly in recent decades, with an overall increase in production, trade, and consumption, with many transformations, including production, key producers and traders, and consistent growth importance of developing countries. The sector emerges from the pandemic more resilient and exploring new market opportunities. This Working Session will show how innovation and alternatives in the complex fisheries and aquaculture value chains created business opportunities. It will also present how having WTO rules on fisheries subsidies can contribute to sustainability gains linked to a common good and enhancements of the multilateral trading system. This Working Section will also demonstrate how the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries gained as a significant sustainability catalyzer in 2021.
This session will focus on the sub-theme “Strengthening the Multilateral Trading System”. The panellists will assess how plurilateral agreements and plurilateral initiatives could be fully multilateralized or remain plurilateral outside the WTO context and what impact either option would have on the future of the WTO.
What impact would either solution (more plurilaterals or multilateralizing of plurilaterals) have on the trading system and on society? Would integration of new plurilaterals (TISA,EGA,IFA) into the WTO lead to more member countries availing themselves to more Cross-sector concession making which in turn could make the WTO more stable and more fitting to face the challenges of the growing complexity of the world trading system?
Would the WTO become a more inclusive, multistakeholder, sustainable organization if plurilaterals were multilateralized or would the trading system become more fragmented without such integration of the pluritalerals and of the WTO+ features of FTAs/RTAs?
Rising geopolitical and geoeconomic tensions are undermining the rules-based multilateral trade order and threaten the ability of the WTO to fulfil its functions. This session draws on the findings of a recent project, to be published as a VoXEU e-book in summer 2021, bringing together Chinese and European researchers and practitioners to explore possible paths forward to reboot multilateral trade cooperation. Pursuit of issue-specific cooperation on a plurilateral basis is part of the solution but does not remove the need for balance in the choice of issues put forward for deliberation and negotiation and for systemic WTO reform. Speakers will present specific suggestions for initiatives on matters of common interest to China and the EU and that are critical to revitalizing the ability of the WTO to support efforts to build back better while attenuating key sources of policy tension among WTO members.
The COVID-19 crisis exacerbates the multilateral framework's shortcomings. The WTO must embrace its full potential, delivering a fair-trading system that is about people. This means supporting international trade rules, that boost – rather than undermine- social and environmental standards. This session will show complementarity and inseparability of such standards. Supply chains, heavily hit by the COVID crisis, are a striking example of how the three components, trade, environment and social, must come together in the world quest for sustainability. The session will also consider how the WTO can help strengthen institutional cooperation to promote coherence and clarity of rules, recognising the strong, complex and crucial links between trade, social and environmental policies. Organised European Civil Society wishes to explore ways for the WTO to get stronger and more resilient, by reflecting the needs of our societies in the design of a New Sustainable Multilateral System.
Global agricultural production and trade, though relatively stable during the pandemic, are soon expected to be severely impacted. FAO has pointed towards the threats to food security, livelihoods and incomes and the need for corrective financial & trade policies. Key outstanding issues are on the table as we go towards the 12th Ministerial Conference. There are also new recommendations from 2020 suggesting an open trade regime. However, addressing the real needs of the pandemic necessitates a methodical assessment of the current needs vis a vis the current negotiations, mapping of the range of Member States’ positions and designing a responsive architecture for agriculture. The Working Session will explore; how MC12 can address the additional challenges posed by the pandemic, and what a reshaped agricultural trade agreement or negotiations spanning outstanding issues on the table along with newer solutions could look like, and what will be its key elements and principles.
Informed by key findings from the World Bank Group’s flagship 2021 World Development Report entitled Data for Better Lives, this working session addresses the development dimensions of digital trade and the needs of low-and-middle-income countries for international support to build their capacity to engage in and benefit from e-commerce and the digital economy. This session will first discuss the development dimensions of digital governance before considering possible implementation challenges and the technical assistance support that may help realize the development opportunities associated with global e-commerce norms under discussion among WTO members.
This book, by Gregory Shaffer, shows how international trade law changed China, India, and Brazil – and how these countries in turn changed trade law. It thereby sheds light on how the United States, the predominant power behind the shaping of the current international trade regime, came to see itself as a victim of it. It develops and applies a new theoretical framework for studying the recursive interaction between international and domestic processes of trade law and policy, which leads to the settlement and unsettlement of a transnational legal order - that of trade law.
It provides a conceptual tools to study the transnational flow of legal norms and their institutional effects within countries and their implications for global governance; and maps and explains similarities and differences in the formation, institutionalization, and impact of trade law norms in the most important of the emerging powers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on business, particularly on small and medium-sized enterprises. As economies recover, it is important to find innovative ways to become more resilient and build back better. In this session, small business representatives will share their experiences on how the pandemic impacted their businesses, how they managed the risks and the lessons learnt for building resilience against future crises. Experts including senior government officials, will speak about measures which can mitigate pandemic related challenges and what role trade can play in better integrating small businesses into the global economy.
TMEA has been in the forefront of advocating and supporting paperless processing of trade documents in the region. The current COVID-19 crisis has in our view added impetus and an urgent need to adopt paperless trade facilitation. This is important because it increases transparency, efficiency and reduces the potential for corruption. The goal is to anchor the sustainable and inclusive trade on building cross border interconnectedness and networking through the establishment of a network of trade corridors connecting areas of production/manufacturing to markets and consumption points within and outside the continent. This TMEA session will share some of the lessons learnt in promoting contactless trade and building digital trade corridors and some considerations for recovery. The session will also showcase innovative solutions that have facilitated trade and helped mitigate trade impacts of COVID-19.
Sustainable and inclusive Innovation and Technology refer to technologies, business models, policies, markets, products and services to address sustainability challenges. Such innovation presents enormous potential to further advance sustainable global trade via goods, services, technologies and exchange of ideas.
Similarly, global trade and rules-based multilateralism can contribute to innovation and technology by removing trade barriers, developing standards, protocols, enhancing intellectual property rights, and advancing transparency.
Thus, there is an interdependency between global trade and innovation. This session brings together a diverse panel of experts to jointly explore opportunities, challenges and interdependency of innovation & technology and global trade. Questions to be addressed will cover topics such as policies and frameworks for policy makers needed to spur innovation, trade-offs, business models for private sector to pursue, the role of consumers and public in increasing demand for innovation.
Even before COVID-19, e-commerce was already the most important engine of world trade. A few countries and companies, however, have garnered the lion’s share of benefits from this ongoing process - especially the US and China and their digital platforms. The COVID crisis has not changed this undesirable development, and may possibly accelerate it.
At the same time, trade talks are ongoing at the WTO towards a plurilateral agreement on e-commerce. While transnational corporations are calling for a free flow of data, India, South Africa and some other developing countries, and even the EU, seek to establish data sovereignty. They are presenting new policies in this regard, including with data localisation requirements. Does there exist an in-between solution that would be best for developing countries? How should digital trade and data laws be designed for inclusion and poverty reduction? What could be WTO’s role in achieving this goal?
The global chemical industry is at the heart of almost all supply chains, contributing to 96% of all downstream manufacturing. The members of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) have created a consensus and progressive set of recommendations to restore the WTO's leadership, improve current functions, and advance critical negotiations on emerging trade areas such as sustainability. The primary objective of this session is to raise awareness and discuss concrete ideas that demonstrate the criticality of comprehensive efforts to promote supply chain resiliency, from inputs to final finished products. This session will also explore how freer trade in chemicals through the WTO can contribute to a wide range of important international objectives. This discussion will build on the commitment to engage industry expertise, allow the ICCA participants to more directly engage with the WTO, and discuss opportunities for further partnership.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened obstacles for traders. Analysis conducted by the TFWA Program found that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected West African traders, especially women. These traders faced dramatic drops in demand for their products and were negatively affected by border closures and mobility restrictions. Additionally, being largely informal, many traders were left out from cash transfers and other relief measures introduced by West African governments. With a focus on COVID-19 and the post-COVID trade landscape, distinguished speakers will unpack the topic while providing insights on trade facilitation in West Africa. Specifically, the session will explore how we can protect traders from the short and long-term burdens triggered by the pandemic and how trade facilitation and policy reform can strengthen and increase opportunities for inclusive growth and economic empowerment.
Today, humanity faces two major ongoing threats: the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. Youth entrepreneurs can be a driving force to build back better, for a green and inclusive transition. To do so, they must be granted the resources, networks, and conditions to succeed. Without collaboration across the ecosystem, key roadblocks that youth encounter will be difficult to resolve. Challenges include access to resources and the regulatory and legal environment. Developing concrete solutions that empower youth to act, and which ensure they are crucial players in building the green economy of tomorrow is paramount. In this session, youth entrepreneurs in the green economy, policy makers and key support organisations will discuss how stakeholders must align to encourage and support green youth entrepreneurship. This session will close with speakers formulating a series of calls to action to build back better and advance the green transition with youth at the centre.
The purpose of this session is to spur forward-looking discussion on what governments can do at the multilateral level to ensure trade and trade policy advance progress on shared environmental goals, the SDGs, and a green recovery. In particular, it aims to highlight the growing political focus on what specific environmental deliverables governments could pursue at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference? Further, it aims to illustrate the interest of business and environmental stakeholders in this agenda and their support for stronger engagement of governments on this topic.
WTO members face a huge challenge to tackle declining FDI flows as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since a fundamental component of the recovery will be to boost FDI, the significance of the negotiations of WTO members on an agreement on investment facilitation for development is crucial. A successful outcome of this Joint Statement Initiative, launched at the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2017, can contribute to revitalizing the global investment landscape through enhanced transparency and predictability, streamlined procedures, use of e-government services and strengthened international cooperation, with a view to advancing sustainable development. This session will look into how a reform agenda on investment facilitation for development can deliver positive results for developing and least-developed countries, and help countries recover from the pandemic and support sustainable development. The session will also focus on the importance of technical assistance and capacity development for developing and least developed countries.
The purpose of this workshop is seeking the most effective ways to interact with civil society organizations (CSOs) for strengthening the multilateral trading system and achieving the SDGs. The workshop will bring together representatives of governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, academia, business to discuss the following issues: The role and current status of CSOs participation in the WTO and other trade-related international fora; CSOs participation in international, multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations: good examples and challenges; ways to improving access and participation of CSOs to make the international trading system work for SDGs, climate and environment agendas.
The panel will explore ways in which innovation policy issues intersect with trade policy especially regarding development and harmonization of standards as accelerators for digitally-enabled trade in services and cross-border data flows. In the digital age, adoption of international standards can accelerate the use of digital technologies at different stages of the supply chain, which in turn can increase the scope, speed and scale of trade. For businesses, especially SMEs, there is a need to reduce regulatory compliance costs and other constraints to firm flexibility including for rapid business model adaptation for the digital age. Interoperability of digital standards and regulations is becoming all the more important. Many chapters in recent FTAs are relevant: chapters on Technical Barriers to Trade, Regulatory Cooperation, E Commerce/Digital Trade and side letters encouraging collaborative work on digital standards or best practice regulation and interoperability on a variety of digital trust issues.
Women-owned businesses benefit disproportionately from engaging in global markets. Join global small business and government leaders, Vital Voices and NFTC’s Global Innovation Forum to explore how digitally-enabled networks, tools and trade policies can be transformative for women, increasing resilience, combating discrimination and bolstering access to new partners, markets, funding and skills.
How can you determine which sectors or products could be at risk in your economy, and how do you build resiliency? Global Affairs Canada will share its Supply Chain Vulnerability Index, a tool to assess supply chain risks, both upstream (the sourcing of inputs for production) and downstream (sale of product as an input to another firm, or as a final product to consumer). The United Kingdom will present its Global Supply Chains Intelligence project, which aims to develop a data driven approach to linking product, sector and country dependencies and interlinkages across supply chains. The African Medical Supplies Platform developed under the leadership of the African Union and powered by Janngo and Vaya provides a great example of how to build resiliency. Finally, we will see how digital tools such as B2BeeMatch can enable SMEs to connect to international markets and be part of the solution in building resiliency.
This session aims to identify and articulate digital trade priorities of the African private sector to trade negotiators and policymakers, particularly given the rapid acceleration of e-commerce post-COVID 19 globally. The panel brings together international experts and high-level policymakers to present and discuss new evidence on the a) implications of current e-commerce proposals in practical terms for African businesses, particularly SMEs; b) priorities of an AfCFTA e-commerce protocol, as identified by the African private sector itself; and c) design of digital trade provisions in existing trade agreements and lessons AfCFTA can draw from this in developing a comprehensive and inclusive e-commerce protocol that works for SMEs, youth and women.
MC12 offers a unique opportunity to reanimate the WTO’s negotiations on a variety of issues that directly affects the lives of the citizens of Members, and will be determinative regarding the future of the WTO’s claim to multilateralism. Will Members prioritize human life over pharmaceutical profit by agreeing multilaterally to a TRIPS waiver? Will members conclude multilateral agreements to ensure Members can utilize trade for development, such as through agriculture, fisheries, and the development agenda? Will some members threaten the very multilateralism of the WTO by insisting on plurilateral “JSIs” in spite of the fact that there are multilateral mandates on all of the issues covered? How will new administrations in many countries affect the potential outcome of negotiations at MC12 and multilateralism in general? Ambassadors to the WTO and civil society experts will share insights about what outcomes at MC12 could revive multilateralism to the benefit of all Members.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) host this session, ahead of COP26, in order to address the challenge of incorporating climate into trade policy. This session will explore how we can accelerate the race to net-zero by using trade policy to support trade in low carbon goods.
Traditionally trade has been seen as a contributor to climate change rather than the solution. This session will explore ways to transform this narrative, by ensuring that the trading system allows for mechanisms that would help achieve sustainable trade practices and encourage liberalised trade of green goods and services to achieve global net zero targets.
The discussion will look at how best to relaunch work on the WTO’s Environmental Goods Agreement and seek an agreement on the list of goods. Discussion will also focus on non-tariff barriers, as well as on harmonising regulatory issues to promote international standards of environmental goods.
This session will discuss the trade-related impacts of climate change in developing countries. It will explore how future trade opportunities will be affected by changing climates and mitigation responses. Panellists will discuss how trade provides the goods and services that can drive mitigation efforts, the challenges such efforts entail for developing countries, but also the opportunities for promoting trade diversification supportive of a transition to a low-carbon world. Governments and firms are increasingly supporting the adoption of measures aimed at reducing carbon footprints. Because such measures can affect trade, developing countries need to have a substantive stake in their design and implementation. The session will explore how developing countries can best balance the pursuit of their developmental objectives whilst adapting to climate change. Suitable trade and environmental policies can offer the right economic incentives for attaining both sustainable growth and poverty reduction through trade.
Since the plurilateral Joint Statement Initiatives were launched at MC11 in Buenos Aires there have been quite intense discussions about their substantive and legal implications, especially for developing countries, as well as for the multilateral trading system more broadly. This panel will bring different insights to questions from diplomatic, academic and NGO perspectives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore numerous frictions along healthcare supply chains, including the distribution of PPE, vaccines and ancillary equipment. While political will is a key barrier to the equitable access to medical supplies, cumbersome trade procedures also hinder their timely distribution.
Over the last year, multi-stakeholder coalitions have emerged to support the successful and equitable distribution of medical supplies. These include the COVAX Facility and trade facilitation related efforts led by the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation, which recently launched projects to support the import of vaccines and rapid test kits for HIV/AIDS and malaria into Mozambique.
This session brings together representatives of public-private coalitions to share success stories and lessons learned to strengthen healthcare supply chains beyond COVID-19. How can trade strengthen resilience and recovery? What is the role of trade facilitation in enabling equitable trade? How can we keep trade flowing while protecting populations?
Subsidies to goods, covering agriculture and industry, have been on the WTO agenda for long. Escalating geopolitical competition and the COVID crisis have led to a further increase of subsidies. There is the need to address the issue after the end of the crisis. The USA, EU, and Japan recently suggested changes to the WTO Agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures (SCM). The Chinese government worries that subsidies reform means “China reform” and itself is concerned about agricultural subsidies. This constellation forms a complicated deadlock.
The session takes this setting as impulse for an open discussion with the following questions: i) How can we ensure that crisis related subsidies will not turn into permanent ones? ii) What should be the general principles and procedures of reforming the SCM? iii) What are the institutional and political bottlenecks to addressing reform? iv) How could the concerns of developing countries be included?
Global plastics pollution is one of the shared trade-related challenges facing WTO Members in meeting sustainability goals. Bridging trade and environmental objectives must be a key part of WTO reform if the multilateral trading system is to remain relevant to the 21st century, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19. Tackling plastics pollution from trade in the entire plastics' life cycle at the WTO provides tangible opportunities for the use of environmentally sound technologies, more robust environmental standards, and the circular economy that promotes green exports and improves returns for green value chains. This working session is a key part of broad adaptive discussions to advance the role of the WTO in globally concerted efforts to reduce plastic waste. It aims to promote a multi stakeholder global conversation and dialogue on topics centred on synergies and coherence in the existing and potential governmental, non-governmental, intergovernmental dimensions of collective trade action.
In the period of severe downturn for SMEs there has been a silver lining - Fintech, which has been a natural response to a quarantined economy. Throughout the global lockdown, MSMEs needed Financial Technology (fintech) to keep business operations going. FinTech companies also provided an intrinsic relief to business owners that were at risk of getting sick by continuing to operate manually. Not just the 24-hour convenience but that eliminating the risk of COVID-19 exposure for many people made it popular. This session will focus on the main impacts of Fintech during the COVID-19 for MSMEs, their approach, and the support received from fintech in current situation. Discussions will provide an opportunity to identify a set of priority policies and measures for promoting fintech for SMEs, in order to facilitate resurgence, and develop a longer- term economic recovery strategy where the MSMEs play a central role.
Data is universally spoken of as the key economic resource today. Strangely enough, this is not the way data is treated in global digital trade discussions. This paradox is the reason for the global stalemate on the ‘data issue’, inadequately represented as a contest between ‘data flows’ and ‘data constraints’, respectively as good and bad things. Progress can only be made by bringing centre-stage in ‘e-com discussions’ data’s nature as a prime economic resource in a digital economy. Continually discussing data only in terms of privacy, security, trade facilitation, etc., is no longer adequate. Earlier mostly a developing countries’ concern, recent policy developments in some developed countries also highlight the need for focusing directly on economic dimensions of data at the WTO. This Working Session seeks to do so by bringing in experts from both the South and the North.
As part of the "Collective action towards Sustainable trade" sub-theme, the Global Business Coalition (GBC) wishes to tackle the urgent challenges associated with sustainable trade and carbon border adjustment mechanisms. As a global business federation advocating since 2012 on behalf of almost 7 million companies, large and small, worldwide, with the support of prominent business federations engaged in B20/ B7 task forces addressing Sustainability & Trade, the GBC thinks sustainability is a powerful driver for the resilience the world needs in the aftermath of the crisis. And businesses are ready to play their part!
In this session, we will give the floor to Emissions-Intensive and Trade-Exposed industries, inviting them to review major challenges (conciliating trade & environment, protecting biodiversity, promoting circular economy, reducing carbon footprint), illustrate how companies can manufacture & trade responsibly and make concrete proposals for regulatory and policy principles to consider when thinking of carbon border adjustments.
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of a great number of businesses, including MSMEs. Greater digital interconnectedness brings increased benefits – however, those without the requisite hardware or know-how will fall even further behind. Worldwide, women are still 8% less likely than men to own a mobile phone, and there are still 300 million fewer women than men who have internet access. Women, their communities, and national economies will not be able to realize their full potential in digital economies if inequalities in the affordability, access, use, and ownership of digital tools are not addressed. This session provides insights into the experience of women entrepreneurs on the ground during the pandemic, with an emphasis on digitalization as well as what governments can do to support them. Speakers from the ITC, Colombia, Nigeria and Uruguay will share how gender and digitalisation is factored into planning for the post COVID-19 recovery.
COVID-19 had initially delayed implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, but now it is imperative it provides the stimulus needed and sets economies on greener trajectories as outlined in the African Union Green Recovery Action Plan.
Greater alignment with countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and trade policy is imperative for African countries in order to secure climate compatible trade as part of Africa’s green recovery efforts. In addition, African countries will need to adapt to measures adopted elsewhere as part of green recovery endeavours.
There is now a strategic opportunity to advance green recovery efforts through the provisions included in the AfCFTA, as well as advance more aligned African trade and climate positions at the WTO.
This session will explore these aspects with specific reference to African-case studies, including Least Developed Countries, and draw out the broader implications for WTO members in securing climate compatible trade.
The WTO needs a reform agenda to start to break impasses and tackle the urgent and encompassing challenges of the 21st century. As part of this process, updating or establishing new global trade rules is key to continue to provide assurance and stability to the multilateral trading system. For instance, as part of the competitive neutrality agenda, new rules on industrial subsidies are essential to address the negative effects of protectionist interpretations of global trade, which can generate distortions of competition and disturb supply chains. With the objective to contribute to a proactive reform agenda, this session will look into the revision of rules to rebuild trust in the trading system: Why strengthening global trade rules is key to solving the WTO impasse? Which are the rules in most urgent need of update? How can we move forward and make that revision, especially in achieving competitive neutrality, a reality?
The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath are expected to further damage the existing geopolitical and geo-economic equilibrium. Given this situation, it is all the more important for the global trade governing body to become more functional by making its dispute settlement system effective again. We need to go to the root cause of why the U.S. has expressed its displeasure at various junctures on account of long delays including interpretations of various provisions of the WTO agreements by its Appellate Body. This has challenged the functioning of the rules-based multilateral trading system and raised questions concerning the relevance of other multilateral institutions as well in the current geopolitical environment. The responsibility of strengthening the multilateral trading system lies with the member countries. There is no alternative but to reform the WTO’s dispute settlement system to rebuild a modern and dynamic WTO.
Several UN SDGs exhort Members to, directly or indirectly, work towards trading sustainably. In light of the recent initiatives to mainstream issues related to environment and labour at the WTO, how should developing countries respond? What are the likely consequences of linking trade with sustainable development for the developing countries? Importantly, what are the essential elements that should to be taken into account to make any sustainable trade policy development friendly? What is the appropriate international forum to discuss the issue of sustainable trade? These are some issues that this session will explore.
This book explores world trade law in the post-COVID-19 era. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an important context, the book makes original and critical contributions to the growing debate over a range of emerging challenges and systemic issues that might change the landscape of world trade law in the years to come. The book asks: do these unprecedented times and challenges call for reengineering the world trading system and a further retreat from trade liberalisation?
Authors offer a rigorous and insightful analysis of whether and how the existing trade institutions rules, including their latest developments, may provide room to deal with pandemic-induced trade-related issues, SDGs, future crises and other existential threats to the multilateral trading system.
The book reinforces the importance of international cooperation and the pressing need to reinvigorate the world trading system.
COVID-19 has shed light on the fragility of Africa’s supply chains, highlighting the urgency to develop more resilient and sustainable regional value chains that can withstand future climate change shocks and respond to growing demand for green goods and services. In building back better, Africa can take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement to advance the green transition. Integrating environmental considerations within the AfCFTA protocols and strategies for implementation also offers an opportunity to develop common African environmental sustainability priorities at multilateral fora, including the UNFCC and WTO.
This session will answer the following questions: What actions are required by African policymakers and businesses to fully harness the AfCFTA to further the green transition? How can the AfCFTA be implemented in a way that supports the adoption of environmental standards? How can the AfCFTA be utilized to develop a common African position on trade and environmental sustainability?
The importance of e-commerce has grown immensely over the past decade. The COVID-19 Pandemic has only given further impetus to these developments. Although some existing WTO rules apply to digital trade, more needs to be done to make WTO rules fit for 21st century trade. This session will in a vibrant, interactive and dynamic way discuss the concrete benefits that the JSI on e-commerce may provide for entrepreneurs, in particular for MSMEs in developing countries. Topics to be discussed include affordable connectivity, trade in ICT-goods and market access, and the importance of trust and security in the digital economy. Negotiators have already been able to agree at a technical level on a number of topics, including on spam and e-signatures. These promising results highlight the excellent opportunity to contribute through these negotiations to closing the digital divide, with direct benefits for businesses and consumers.
To keep trade flowing during the pandemic, governments rushed to transform paper-based documents into digital ones. For example, some governments started accepting PDF versions of phytosanitary certificates. There was also a four-fold increase in the number of countries using the ePhyto Hub and digitising other types of certificates also gained traction.
Digital solutions help reducing time and cost of trade, support safe and fair agricultural trade, and allow for contactless processes. However, a year and a half on, it is evident that the digitalisation triggered by the pandemic is insufficient for creating resilient food systems in the long term and for realising the full gains from paperless processes. For this, trade processes need to be fully, truly digitalised.
This session brings together public and private sector experts to delve into what it takes to fully digitalise a trade process and how implementation can be expanded globally.
This session has the objective of identifying similarities, common goals and possible sources of conflict between FTAs and the greater WTO context in the area of sustainable development. The WTO has already contributed to global sustainable development, but much more can and should be done to meet to the challenges of today and tomorrow. As more and more countries include trade and sustainable development (TSD) provisions in their trade agreements, it becomes vital to discuss ways countries can align the goals of their TSD chapters to the greater WTO aims. Now that the structured discussions on trade and environmental sustainability have been launched, it is relevant to discuss concrete areas and provisions in FTAs that would fit into this discussion.
Public and private sector representatives from Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden and the European Commission will discuss this with a focus on TSD chapters in FTAs of their countries/the EU.
Women setting examples and leading other women can be a major driving force for a more gender equal world. Trade has been faring worse than some other fields in gender equality, though with the Buenos Aires Declaration, trade agreements with gender inclusion, and other ongoing work it seemed to have changed, until the COVID-19 pandemic showed that there are more and deeper changes needed to make this progress sustainable. This all-female panel will discuss their own experiences trying to lead the world to a more gender-inclusive trade policy. Rebalancing the global economy that has started in 2021 has to incorporate the best of best practices to make this time the world more robust in gender equality. The diversity of the speakers, which goes beyond their regional and professional backgrounds, will offer the audience an interesting variety of perspectives on these topics.
The COVID-19 has exposed the world to new challenges in public health that call for use of a range of medical products – PPEs, diagnostics, medical devices, therapeutics and vaccines. Access to these products is highly inequitable and scaling up of production faces some major challenges including from intellectual property rights (IPRs). The compulsory licensing provision of the TRIPS Agreement is extremely cumbersome when several patents covering the product are spread across the value chain. The Agreement does not provide for public health exemptions in the case of other IPRs involved in the COVID-related products – copyrights, industrial designs and undisclosed information. Addressing these challenges would require the integration of various kinds of technologies. This session seeks to discuss the reforms of the Agreement that may enable it to respond to such public health challenges, the incidence of which is likely to rise in the future with climate change.
Gender equality is an important part of the recovery strategy. Supporting women business-owners, helping them adapt to the new realities, and providing them with the tools to serve their customers domestically and abroad will be critical in rebuilding economies and societies. In this regard, action can be taken at the multilateral level to promote meaningful change on trade and gender issues. “Applying a Gender Lens to COVID-19 Economic Recovery”, is a one-hour working session to address how trade can be a policy instrument to advance gender equality and promote resilience trade. The participation of representatives of the International Trade Center, Chilean Government, Women Own Business and NGOs, will share their experience and good practices to identify recommendations for WTO members to apply a gender lens in their recovery path for inclusive and resilience trade.
This working session will explore the impact of the pandemic on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and their development prospects, and the policies and measures required to build resilience. Panellists will address the role of export diversification and structural transformation in achieving inclusive growth and building resilience. In this context, the session will outline the role of productive capacities in the development process and highlight UNCTAD’s new Productive Capacities Index (PCI) as a tool to inform policymakers. The session aims to identify policies and measures that LLDCs and their development partners can employ to support the building of productive capacities in LLDCs. A particular focus will be on the role of trade and aid for trade in LLDCs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 38% of organisations globally have paid less attention to environmental sustainability, while 18% put it on hold completely. At the same time, 46% of organisations have increased their focus on digitalisation. This should not be a zero-sum game: while climate change has to remain an urgent priority, digitalisation can be a powerful tool to help achieve climate objectives. This session will bring together a panel of experts to discuss the environmental potential and impacts of digital technologies and how they relate to the digital trade agenda. It will discuss how countries can make best use of digital trade provisions to support effective climate action and how they can work together to cut down electronic waste and mitigate negative impacts of technology. Lastly, the session will cover what a WTO plurilateral negotiation on trade and the environment should focus on.
Negotiations in agriculture have proven to be particularly intractable and have become a stumbling block to the multilateral system's ability to deliver comprehensive liberalisation beyond the Uruguay Round, and to its ability to tackle new and complex issues. This session will explore options that have been designed by a group of academics, and former officials and negotiators. The ideas to be presented constitute a "reset" to reflect the vast geopolitical changes that have occurred since the Uruguay Round, they address grievances, and propose innovative approaches that overcome conceptual and technical issues that have arisen in implementation of the 1994 agreements. In particular, the session will explore win-win solutions that contribute both to growth and development through trade and allow countries ample scope to pursue other domestic objectives in relation to food security, climate and environment.
This session will explore how the WTO can contribute to addressing the problem of climate change and to a green recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic through multilateral or plurilateral negotiations on issues important for the climate transition, such as climate-friendly goods and services, non-tariff barriers, and fossil fuel subsidies. Which substantive issues should be included? How do we design a multilateral or plurilateral agreement from a legal point of view? The session will finally turn to how the WTO could facilitate ways forward by reflecting on how such an agreement should be designed in order to deliver positive results for developing and least-developed countries and the possibilities for the developing countries to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
During the pandemic, digitalization and automation accelerated across 85 percent of companies and one in three MSMEs reported that their business would not have survived without access to digital tools. Still, in 2020, twice as many restrictive policy changes were implemented that impacted cross-border trade in services. Join the National Foreign Trade Council and the Informational Technology Industry Council to explore the importance of expanding services market access commitments across key sectors and the extensive benefits for MSMEs, developing economies and traditionally underrepresented communities. The session will explore themes contained in a recent ITI-NFTC paper, "The Case for Ambitious Services Market Access Commitments as Part of the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce," and highlight the potential benefits for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), developing economies and traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, ethnic and racial minorities, and Indigenous peoples.
Trade in services and goods has been under significant strain, but things could have been much worse had it not been for the innovative and creative output of many of our companies, and the way they mobilized vast resources and worked in partnership with governments. Some have argued that suspending intellectual property (IP) rights would lead to a faster and more effective response to the pandemic, and enable a sustainable economic recovery. These arguments have culminated in one proposal before the World Trade Organization for a global "waiver" on COVID-19-related IP rights. We will explore how IP protections have underpinned many of the technologies and creative outputs that have mitigated some of the worst effects of the pandemic, as well as consider some of the assumptions and likely consequences should an IP waiver be agreed and implemented around the world.
The Organisation of Women in International Trade, UK Chapter (OWIT UK) and Women’s Economic Imperative (WEIForward) are hosting a joint working session during this year's WTO Public Forum. This session will look at ways in which government and private enterprise can collaborate to ensure that the broadest range of opportunities remain open to all women to acquire digital skills, build resilience and ensure sustainable growth in international trade following the disruptions and further inequalities in supply chains caused by the pandemic.
The panel discussion will feature expert representatives from the UK government, NGOs, organisations, academia and private enterprise.
Outcomes from the session will suggest possible collaborative areas such as digital transformation and solutions which can then be implemented and shared as best practice globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply increased the gender divide, pushing women in their economic and social spaces even further to the bottom, while overlapping and interacting with global trade policy, which has played a crucial role in the pandemic. In light of the pandemic and its impact on women, there is much that global trade policy can deliver; both on traditional, mandated issues in the WTO such as agriculture, fisheries, NAMA, services, and intellectual property rights; as well as in new issues such as e-commerce, investment facilitation, government procurement and others. This session, being proposed by a coalition of key Women’s Rights Groups across the world, will lay out snapshots of the impacts of the pandemic and its interaction with trade policy on women’s lives in multiple sectors and multi layered contexts, and will then identify key issues that global trade policy can address and how.
The smaller the firm, the harder it was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two out of three micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) reported their business operations had been strongly affected, compared to less than half of large companies. Despite the bleak picture, some MSMEs were able to absorb the shock, react to the new conditions, and emerge from the crisis as strong, or stronger, than before. Insights into the factors that enabled these resilient MSMEs to survive the storm can inform programmes to make MSMEs in Least Developed Countries more resilient to future crises, including those provoked by climate change. Drawing on the green recovery plan to support small businesses presented in ITC’s 2021 flagship publication, this session will explore how small businesses, and the policy makers, lead firms and business support organizations that support them, can prepare now for good, stable future trade for MSMEs.
It is no secret that digital services helped the world to cope with the COVID crisis and that the data-driven global economy has led to economic growth. But telecommunications services and infrastructure underpin everything. Without telecommunications, there would be no internet, no e-commerce, no remote working, no digital trade, nor the modern economy as we know it today. A cornerstone of modern telecommunications is grounded in the WTO Reference Paper on Basic Telecommunications. With sound transparent and non-discriminatory regulatory principles, it helped open up telecoms markets. It contributed to revolutionising a sector that was up to then characterised by state-owned monopolies. 25 years later this working session takes a fresh look at the WTO telecoms rules, what they have achieved, and whether it is time for reform given technological and market developments. Several parties in the e-commerce negotiations submitted such proposals. The session also looks at the lessons learned during COVID.
Apparel is a $2.5 trillion global business, involving over 120 million workers worldwide and playing a uniquely critical role in the post-COVID economic recovery. This session intends to facilitate constructive dialogue regarding the progress, challenges, and opportunities of building a more sustainable and transparent apparel supply chain in the Post-COVID world, which matters significantly to ALL stakeholders, from fashion brands, garment workers, policymakers to ordinary consumers. The session will help you understand: 1) Why building a more sustainable and transparent apparel supply chain matters in the post-COVID world? Who the stakeholders are, and what the impacts are? 2) What significant progress has been achieved in making the apparel supply chain more sustainable and transparent? What key challenges remain and why?3) What needs to be done further to make the apparel supply chain, sourcing, and trade more sustainable and transparent, particularly in the setting of the post-COVID world?