Thank you to Secretary Ng for welcoming Britain to the Ottawa Group. I am happy to attend my first meeting today. Thanks also to Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for his encouraging and challenging comments.
The WTO, the global trade system, and free and fair trade are at the heart of our common prosperity. However, the WTO is under pressure and needs to reform world trade rules. It is important that the 12th WTO Ministerial Meeting (MC12) works together to ensure the real change we all desire. It is important for all of us to restore a better condition by supporting our continued recovery and future prosperity through free and fair trade.
We must face the fact that the WTO has not kept pace with the trade opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, and reforming the WTO is important. This is why the UK uses the G7 Presidency this year to put WTO reform at the center of the debate.
We must also show that the WTO can deliver the results our people expect. At MC12, we need to close the multilateral fishing negotiations and make significant progress on joint initiatives. Covid has proven the importance of digital trading and making significant progress in e-commerce should be our top priority.
Our citizens cannot believe free trade is not fair. We need to bridge the gap in the WTO rulebook so we can eradicate harmful trade practices such as unfair subsidies that give trade notoriety.
We need to see how we can proceed with the EU-US-Japan trilateral work on trade distortion practices and bring them to a wider range of WTO member states so that they can have a real impact as we move to MC12. We also need to be aware of the predictable future risks of carbon leaks, their impact on the global trading system, and the best ways to address them together.
We need to get the WTO dispute resolution system fully functional again, and it’s very important that the moguls don’t set the rules. It is important that WTO dispute resolution is binding, enforceable and fair.
We must be aware of the concerns raised by the parties with respect to the Appellate Body, but we must also agree on a roadmap on how the WTO can address the current deadlock. The UK will use the G7 Presidency to find common ground on this issue.
With Covid, we saw a flaw in the global trade system that was exploited during the epidemic by countries that raised trade barriers that the UK completely rejects. The need to maintain free trade flows is greater than ever.
We shouldn’t beg the neighbor’s policy. This is a global challenge that we must work together to overcome. The UK is dedicated to this agenda. At the peak of the Covid crisis, we advocated transparency over trade restrictions and encouraged the lifting of these restrictions in the G20 and WTO.
The UK took note of the Ottawa Groups Covid-19 action plan in June. We support that approach and want to continue working together as the group evolves. It is important that Ottawa Group members follow the principles set out and set an example.
This year is an important year for the global trading system. We know the challenge and what we need to do. The UK looks forward to working closely with all of you so that we can address these issues together.
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