Business & UN

ICC welcomes WTO’s responsiveness to business needs

  • 17 June 2022

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) welcomes the “Geneva Package” that world trade ministers agreed to at the World Trade Organization (WTO) today and applauds the leadership of WTO Director-General Dr Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala for shepherding a significant package of deals.

Today’s agreement is a significant boost for international cooperation, global trade and cross-border commerce, with many of the outcomes corresponding with what ICC has been consistently calling for over the past few years.

In an era so often characterised by geopolitical frictions, protectionist impulses and go-it-alone trade policies, today’s deal reminds us that effective global governance remains possible and that the WTO – with the right injection of political capital – can deal meaningfully with some of the world’s most important challenges.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “We particularly welcome the fact that the WTO has finally – after 20 years – agreed to curb harmful fisheries subsidies. This is a historic agreement that will protect our common oceans and, equally important, reaffirms that the world can still reach consensus on matters of vital importance.

Above all, ICC strongly welcomes ministers responding to the calls of business to properly begin the hard work of reforming all of the WTO’s functions and restoring dispute settlement. For too long, many countries have complained about its defects without any action. Now that WTO Members have officially agreed on a reform process, they must use the next two years to make progress and change how the WTO negotiates agreements, arbitrates disputes and monitors compliance.

ICC looks forward to contributing to these efforts and crowding-in the views of global business to ensure that a WTO of the Future works to serve its ultimate end-users: business.

ICC applauds WTO Members for stepping-up to address the growing food emergency, with important commitments to avoid export bans on humanitarian food purchases, facilitate agri-food trade flows and ensure any emergency measures are minimally distortive. While they fell short of committing not to impose export bans on food, the declaration makes plain that such measures would only exacerbate the crisis by increasing prices, volatility and food insecurity. Trade ministers must heed that message when heading home from Geneva today.

The declaration on the WTO’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and preparedness for future pandemics rightly states some key lessons from the world’s response to the pandemic – including the importance of a stable and predictable trading environment, global and equitable access to vaccines, and open trade settings in delivering health outcomes.

But the statement on the pandemic is too little, too late, coming more than two years after the outbreak of Covid-19. WTO Members must make good on their pledge today to reflect on the lessons learned during Covid-19 and build a more effective, cooperative system before the next pandemic strikes. And, in their WTO reform efforts, build a system that can more swiftly respond to global crises such as pandemics.

The global business community strongly welcomes ministers rolling over the e-commerce moratorium until the next ministerial conference and look forward to working with delegations and business associations to demonstrate the negative impact customs duties would have for businesses and communities all over the world. This should not be a contentious issue but must be welcomed because failure to do so would have been a disastrous blow for the digital economy, businesses and consumers the world over.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “The importance of extending the e-commerce moratorium should not be underestimated. This was a critical and universal demand from the global community. And let me stress: this is a demand from businesses of all sizes from across our network.