EU Trade Commissioner Advocates for Stronger and Reformed WTO in Face of Global Challenges

In an FT article, EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis has stressed the significance of the WTO in maintaining a healthy multilateral trading system, and has called for updating the rules of the WTO so that it can maintain its relevance

EU Trade Commissioner Advocates for Stronger and Reformed WTO in Face of Global Challenges

In a Financial Times article, Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Union's Trade Commissioner emphasizes the crucial role of global trade in driving prosperity and reducing poverty over the past few decades. The Commissioner asserts that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been at the heart of this progress, making multilateral cooperation within the WTO more valuable than ever amid current geopolitical tensions and the growing weaponization of trade.

Dombrovskis claims that the EU is positioned as a leading advocate for the reform of the WTO, recognizing the need for an updated rule book to address the distinctive challenges of the 21st century. The Commissioner highlights the upcoming 13th ministerial conference of the WTO in Abu Dhabi as a golden opportunity to give further impetus to the organization.

The Commissioner points out the necessity of reforming the WTO's core functions, particularly the dispute settlement system, which became defunct under the Trump administration. Reforming this system is believed to be critical to the WTO's overall legitimacy and to prevent the erosion of trade rules. The EU has made progress on a set of reforms, but the Commissioner emphasizes the need for a fully functioning system, including the possibility of appeal review.

Sustainability is another key focus for the EU within the WTO. The Commissioner highlights the landmark agreement in 2022 to protect oceans by addressing harmful fisheries subsidies and calls on WTO members to deliver on the second part of the deal to address overfishing and overcapacity. The EU aims for a stronger WTO that positively contributes to tackling global environmental challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Agricultural reform and food security are also highlighted, with the EU urging WTO members to move away from trade-distorting subsidies and embrace sustainable farming practices. The recent geopolitical tensions, especially Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its impact on food supply, underscore the importance of addressing challenges related to food security.

In the digital realm, the EU emphasizes the need to modernize the WTO rule book to address the demands of the business community and renew the moratorium on applying duties on e-commerce. The goal is to ensure that countries and businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, can fully benefit from the growing digital economy.

Beyond these specific areas, the Commissioner stresses the broader role of the WTO in facilitating global policy discussions and addressing challenges posed by industrial policy. Additionally, there is a call to establish an agenda that facilitates the integration of developing countries into the global economy, with a particular focus on least developed nations.