The United States is committed to the WTO and wants it to succeed
Reuters – US trade negotiator Katherine Tai affirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying consensus was possible on several trade and health proposals at a major meeting next month .
The 25-year-old world trade organization faces questions about its relevance and chief executive Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is under pressure to put in place swift reforms and secure his first multilateral trade deal in years during the meeting from November 30 to December 3.
“The Biden-Harris administration believes that trade – and the WTO – can and should be a force for good that spurs a race to the top and addresses global challenges as they arise,” Tai said. in a speech on his first trip to the WTO. host city of Geneva, Switzerland.
“We all recognize the importance of the WTO and we all want it to succeed.”
Many observers blame Washington for the paralysis of the top WTO dispute settlement panel whose appointment of judges was blocked by the administration of former President Donald Trump.
The Appellate Body has therefore not been able to rule on a trade dispute since December 2019, and Biden’s trade officials have not since lifted their opposition.
Tai reiterated the panel’s US criticism, saying WTO dispute settlement had become “synonymous with litigation” which she said was “protracted, costly and contentious” and called for a “course correction”.
She said Washington was open to views from other members on how to restructure the dispute settlement system to “give confidence that the system is fair.”
âThere is a feeling of unease here. I think the time has now come to face the discomfort and say: the time has come to reform, so start putting your interests and needs on the table, âshe told reporters, without giving any details. details.
She was optimistic about the WTO reform negotiations, saying the reform could be successful. Several proposals on trade and health should be able to reach consensus in the next six weeks, she added.
Among other agreements, WTO members aim to reach a deal on fisheries subsidies after 20 years of talks at the ministerial meeting.
Overall, Tai called for focusing on ‘commonalities’ and pressing priorities – such as tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for the next one – to help make the professional body more relevant. .
She said Washington shared options to meet developing countries’ demands for “flexibility” in fisheries talks, but would insist that any deal would address the prevalence of forced labor on fishing vessels.
The United States was also working on a draft ministerial decision that would improve the sharing of information, experiences and lessons learned from COVID-19 responses to help border agencies respond to future crises.