The Twelfth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization
(Statement by Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa)
June 17, 2022
- The Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which was held in Geneva from June 12, was adjourned today (June 17) after an extension, with the issuance of the Ministerial Declaration. This is the first time in four and a half years that the WTO Ministerial Conference has been held. Since MC10 in December 2015, a Ministerial Declaration has been issued for the first time in six and a half years, and it is significant that it shows unanimous direction toward which the WTO should work, among its members.
- During MC12, the WTO confirmed its role as a trade institution in addressing the challenges currently faced by the international community, such as the Covid-19 crisis and food supply issues caused by Russia's aggression in Ukraine, while also discussing the role of trade in responding to future crises and in the process of economic recovery. Discussions were also held on rule-making in areas such as fisheries subsidies.
- Based on these discussions, the WTO’s 164 member states and regions have unanimously issued the Ministerial Declaration to indicate the direction for WTO efforts in key areas, including trade and health and food security, and to provide momentum for its future efforts, including WTO reform. I highly value the WTO for its achievement, as it demonstrates that the WTO continues to retain its functions in delivering meaningful outcomes on international issues.
- In addition, MC12 brought more than 20 years of negotiations on fisheries subsidies to an agreement in the text as a first but significant step. The prohibitions of subsidies for IUU fishing (illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing) and the prohibition of subsidies provided to overfished stocks without any resource restoration efforts have been agreed upon among Members as a whole, which will contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Moreover, this is expected to lead to global fisheries resource management, and I believe it demonstrates that the rule-making pillar of the WTO is continuing to function. Japan will continue to work toward reaching a comprehensive agreement.
- Furthermore, Japan, as chair, along with co-chairs Australia and Singapore, issued the Minister’s Statement on the WTO Joint Statement Initiative on E-Commerce during MC12. This Statement expresses participants remain committed to agreeing on a global set of digital trade rules as rapidly as possible. Moreover, I welcome the fact that MC12 was able to extend the moratorium on imposing tariffs on electronic transmissions, which not only facilitates e-commerce but also contributes to the pandemic response efforts.
- A rules-based free and open multilateral trading system is the foundation on which Japan stands, with the WTO as its cornerstone. Japan will continue to lead in efforts to maintain and strengthen the multilateral trade regime through the WTO.