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WTO conclude 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi

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WTO conclude 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi
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WTO 13th Ministerial Conference concluding ceremony in Abu Dhabi / WAM

Abu Dhabi: The World Trade Organisation (WTO) members have wrapped up the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi, with the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration outlining a forward-looking reform agenda for the organization.

Nearly 4,000 ministers, senior trade officials and delegates from the WTO's 164 members attended the conference, which was extended to finalize outcomes on various key issues.

During the conference, members adopted the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration, emphasizing the importance of preserving and strengthening the multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core, to address current trade challenges.

The declaration highlights the significance of the development dimension in the WTO's work, aligning with the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. It also highlights the role of women's economic empowerment and their participation in trade for sustainable development.

Additionally, members acknowledged the critical role of services in the global economy, encouraging relevant WTO bodies to continue reviewing lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to devise effective solutions for future crises.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade and MC13 Chair, expressed gratitude for members' active engagement, noting that although all objectives couldn't be achieved, the commitment displayed will bolster the multilateral trading system.

On dispute settlement reform, members endorsed a Ministerial Decision aimed at achieving a fully functioning dispute settlement system by 2024. WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala urged continued efforts to advance reform and meet the set deadline.

Further, ministers addressed the special and differential treatment provisions for developing and least developed countries, aiming to enhance their effectiveness and precision, which was hailed as a significant win for development.

In a groundbreaking move, ministers discussed trade's role in sustainable development and socioeconomic inclusion, emphasizing its potential to empower women, support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), and drive sustainable development in economic, social, and environmental dimensions.

The conference also witnessed the approval of new WTO membership terms for Comoros and Timor-Leste, the first new members in almost eight years. Moreover, significant decisions were made regarding electronic commerce and the extension of moratoriums on certain trade-related matters.

While challenges persist, the momentum behind the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement is growing, with several new members endorsing the agreement, bringing it closer to entry into force.

"While I had hoped that we could finish these negotiations in Abu Dhabi, you have prepared the ground for its conclusion at the next Ministerial Conference, if not earlier. The livelihoods of 260 million people who depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries are at stake”, said DG Okonjo-Iweala.

Despite unresolved issues in agriculture negotiations, DG Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the progress made and thanked members for their efforts amid global uncertainties.

In conclusion, the WTO reaffirmed its role as a stabilizing force amid economic and geopolitical uncertainties and emphasized the pivotal role of trade in improving lives and addressing global challenges.

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