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WTO

World Trade Organization.

The World Trade Organization is an organization supervising, regulating and settling disputes about international trade. Part of the regulating mandate is also further liberalisation of international trade. The organization is the custodian of an impressive number of wide-ranging agreements covering the basic rules for trade in goods, in services and in trade-related intellectual property rights. Some of the specific subjects are agriculture, standards and safety, anti-dumping and subsidies rules, non-tariff barriers, trade facilitation, dispute settlement and transparency of the national trade environment for policy and rules in member states.  Most of the agreements date from the GATT Uruguay Round 1986-94. They were incorporated in the WTO when the organization was established on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement.

25 years after it was established, the WTO stands at a crossroads. The second tier of its dispute settlement system, the Appellate Body, is now no-functional following disagreement between the United States and a number of other countries, including the EU, about its proper functioning.  The negotiating arm of the organisation has suffered from much adversity over the years, the biggest achievement being the Trade Facilitation Agreement from 2013. Within the framework of the UN, member states have committed to SDG 14.6, reaching an agreement on prohibiting harmful fishery subsidies before the end of 2020. As negotiations are difficult and have been further delayed by the Covid-19 crisis, it is doubtful whether a result can be reached in time; however, it is crucial for the future of the organisation and for the state of the global environment that member states achieve an agreement by MC12 in 2021.  Also by MC12, the EU and its´ member states are hoping to see substantial progress in the promising plurilateral initiatives on e-commerce, domestic regulation of services and investment facilitation for development.

Denmark strongly supports the WTO as the key organisation in a multilateral rules-based trading system and hopes that the initiatives of the EU and like-minded countries to reform the organisation will bear fruit over the coming years.  Right now, the WTO is going into an election process concerning its next Director General as the current DG, Roberto Azevêdo from Brazil, is resigning his post by August 31, a year earlier than anticipated. Much will depend on the personal qualities and political standing of the next DG as well as the ability of member states to co-operate in spite of very diverse interests and objectives. For Denmark, the EU and like-minded countries, it is also of paramount importance that the WTO will be able to handle new challenges in areas like trade and climate change/environment as well as trade and health in the light of recent experiences with Covid-19.

June 2020.