Trade & investment

ICC responds to MC13

  • 2 March 2024

ICC has issued a statement upon conclusion of the World Trade Organization's 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said:

“We need to be clear that the largely disappointing outcome to this ministerial is not a failure of the WTO – it is, rather, a failure on the part of governments to make the common-sense compromises needed to get trade- and welfare-enhancing deals over the line. The quick take is that base domestic politics have trumped effective international cooperation this week in Abu Dhabi.

“We are, of course, particularly concerned by the decision not to explicitly renew the WTO’s longstanding moratorium on the application of tariffs to cross-border data flows. Preserving the protections it offers until the next ministerial conference is, certainly, a welcome move to avoid a cliff-edge scenario. But today’s decision introduces a degree of uncertainty that risks chilling investment in an already fragile economic environment.

“Placing tariffs on data flows is not an effective means to tax the digital economy. Cool heads must ultimately prevail in recognising the economic and social importance of keeping the internet free of tariff barriers.

“This was always going to be a challenging ministerial given prevailing geopolitical frictions and the sheer number of countries going to the ballot box in the coming months. The unexpected weakness of the overall package should, however, serve as a wakeup call on the need for a more nuanced and constructive debate on the role of trade in society – both locally and globally. No country stands to gain from a weakened multilateral trading system.”