• Korea's Trade Minister meets the WTO Director-General, reaffirms commitment to multilateralism
    2021-09-09 hit 321

    Korea's Trade Minister reaffirms "commitment to the restoration of multilateral trading system" to the WTO Director-General

    A virtual meeting upon the request of the WTO

    Subjects discussed include Ministerial Conference, scheduled to be held in four years

    Shared concerns over diminishing role of the WTO and the “need for reform”



    Yeo, Han-koo, the Trade Minister of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy mentioned, “Korea, as the beneficiary of multilateral trading system, is committed to contribute to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the restoration of multilateralism” during a virtual meeting on the 1st with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of WTO.


    The virtual meeting between Minister Yeo and the Director-General of the WTO was held upon the request of WTO after Minister Yeo was appointed to his current position. The two discussed matters regarding the preparations of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) scheduled to be held on early December this year and possible avenues to restore and strengthen the WTO’s role. The WTO Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making body of the organization and traditionally has been an biannual event. However, due to the Covid pandemic, the WTO Ministerial Conference to be held later this year will be the first such conference to be held since 2017.


    Minister Yeo stressed, “The WTO Ministerial Conference, the first Ministerial Conference to be held in four years, shall serve as an opportunity to restore the WTO and multilateralism by delivering tangible results.” He also mentioned, “The WTO should play a larger role in mitigating the risks arising from COVID-19 and its far-reaching impact on the global economy and every aspect of our daily lives.” He added, “Discussions should continue based on Korea’s suggestion to respond to the Covid pandemic, which is proposed with other WTO member countries.”


    Korea, along with other WTO member countries including Canada, EU and Japan, has proposed “Trade & Hygiene Initiative” to WTO on December last year. Main points of the Initiative include refraining from implementing export restrictions on essential medical products, strengthening public-private partnerships and cooperation among international organizations to expand vaccine production and sharing best practices of resolving trade bottlenecks.


    Discussions took place on fisheries subsidies, which aims to ensure sustainability of the maritime ecosystem and protection of fishery resources. Minister Yeo highlighted, “Negotiations on fisheries subsidies is meaningful as it is the only negotiation involving engagement of every single WTO member country” and hoped “negotiation on fisheries subsidies to continue during the upcoming Ministerial Conference and expand WTO’s contribution to environmental issues such as the protection of fisheries resources.” Minister Yeo and the Director-General of WTO both expressed concern on the current situation of weakened multilateral trading system triggered by diminished role of the WTO.


    The two also agreed on the necessity of across-the-board reform of three main functions of WTO: legislative function (introducing rules through negotiations), administrative function (monitoring actions imposed on members countries regarding trade and strengthening transparency) and judicial function (settlement of disputes). Minister Yeo mentioned, “The global trading environment is changing dramatically triggered by digitalization, climate change, Covid and the spread of protectionism” and stressed “The WTO should rediscover itself as a relevant organization with capabilities to respond to these changes.”

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