This annual report on the WTO’s work in 2021 and early 2022 comes a bit later than its usual release in early June. With our Twelfth Ministerial Conference scheduled for the middle of the month, following multiple pandemic-related postponements, it did not make sense to publish this report – much of which deals with efforts to lay the groundwork for ministers to deliver results – only days before the gathering was set to begin.
As we now know, WTO members, supported as always by the Secretariat, made MC12 a resounding success. After nearly six days of negotiations – culminating in a marathon 48 hours of non-stop talks – ministers and delegates adopted a package of multilateral deals that will deliver for people, businesses, and the planet. The scale and scope of the so-called “Geneva Package” of agreements has not been seen at the WTO since the mid-1990s.
I came to the WTO because I was firmly convinced that trade was part of the solution to the global commons problems, from pandemic disease to climate change, that represent some of the biggest threats to our future prosperity. Speaking to members on my first day in office in March of last year, I recalled the fundamental goals of the WTO, as set out in the preamble to our founding Marrakesh Agreement: using trade as a means to improve living standards, create better jobs and promote sustainable development. These goals are fundamentally about people. But one more reason I came here was that I felt the WTO had the potential to do much more to improve the lives of people around the world.
MC12 is proof that the WTO can deliver results. Members have shown they are capable of reaching multilateral compromises and finding solutions to contemporary challenges – provided they have the political will to do so.
The results achieved at MC12 will enhance the role trade has been playing in helping people cope with the multiple problems we currently confront – economic, environmental, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent food security crisis.
The deal on fisheries subsidies – concluded after nearly 21 years of negotiations – is only the second new agreement WTO members have reached since 1995, and the very first WTO agreement to put environmental sustainability at its core. By banning subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as fishing in the high seas and in overfished stocks, the pact represents a major step forward in protecting ocean health and biodiversity. Importantly, it also means that WTO members have delivered on the mandate given to them in Sustainable Development Goal 14.6.WTO Annual Report 2022
To read the full report from the WTO, please click here.