1 1 (May 15, 2020)

handle is hein.crs/govdamd0001 and id is 1 raw text is: 







                                                                                        Updated May 15,2020

WTO: Ministerial Delay, COVID-19, and Ongoing Issues


Due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the World
Trade Organization (WTO) canceled its 12' Ministerial
Conference (MC12) planned for June 2020. The biennial
meeting, which usually involves active U.S. participation,
was widely anticipated as an action-forcing event for the
WTO amid serious challenges facing the lmultilateral
trading system Some members had hopedkey results for
ongoing negotiations could help bolster the WTO's
relevance. In addition, a dispute settlement (DS) crisis
continues, with the Appellate Body ceasing to operate in
December 2019, and no consensus on solutions. Broader
reforms of the institution also remain under active
discussion, including some U.S. proposals. While MC12
and other meetings were suspended, members are
attempting to continue some WTO operations virtually.
Members will also face selecting new leadership, as WTO
Director-General Azev~do announcedplans to stepdown in
fall 2020, a year before his term's end.

The WTO can play a unique role in coordinating global
trade responses, which could be critical in mitigating the
grim global economic and trade outlook in the wake of
COVID-19. The WTO has committed to work with other
international organizations to minimize disruptions tocross-
border trade and global supply chains-in particular those
central to comb atting the virus-while safeguarding public
health concerns. It has soughtto infonnmembers of the
impacts on trade and encouraged themto notify the WTO
of any trade-related measures taken in response to COVID-
19. Thenumberof countries imposing trade restrictions,
including curbs on exports, has increased significantly since
the beginning of 2020, raising debate among analysts about
the economic and policy rationales and impacts, plus
questions about consistency with WTO rules. At the same
time, other countries have committed to trade openness.

Members ofCongress have expressed support for ongoing
WTO reform effort, s ought clarification on the positions of
the Administration, and proposed trade-related legislation
in response to COVID-19. In May, some Members
introduced joint resolutions to withdraw fromthe WTO.


After the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic,
Kazakhstan, the host forthe WTO's MC12, cancelled the
planned meetings, offering to host themin June 2021.
Following mixed results fromthe last ministerialin 2017,
the United States and other WTO members hadhoped
MC12 would mark a turning point to conclude some
negotiations. They alsohopedto announce significant
progress on lmultiple initiatives, demonstrating the value of
the WTO. MC12was to serve as a critical forum for taking
stockofvarious WTO reformproposals (see below). Some
WTO activities continue virtually, including General
Councilmeetings, and some staffreturned to offices in mid-


May. Members are currently evaluating how negotiations
and committee meetings should proceed virtually orin
person, and when andhow to hold MC12.
5el ct Orngcnng Neoitcs Of Us.  htcrc'&
Fisheries. Members had committed to finish negotiations
on fisheries subsidies at MC12, an achievement many view
as criticalto upholdingthe WTO's legitimacy. The chair
attempted to continuetalks to limit subsidies that contribute
to overcapacity andoverfishing, buthalted themafter some
parties voiced concerns aboutthe virtual participation. The
U.S. has supported equal obligations across members, with
minimal flexibilities for developing countries. A new U.S.
executive order aims to increase enforcement and resources
to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and
promote domestic seafoodproduction.
E-commerce. Members hadextendedthe moratoriumon
customs duties on electronic transmissions until MC12, but
it is unclear ifthe extension willbe sustained, given the
oppositionof some developing countries. Separately, the
United States and over 75 members are actively negotiating
a plurilateralinitiative on e-cominerce. The United States
seeks an ambitious, high standard digital trade agreement.
The parties hadhoped to publish a consolidated text at
MC12, but are insteadholding webinars on specific digital
is sues to educate members and attract new participants.
Agriculture. Some observers warned that MC12 would be
deemed a failure without some agreement on agricultural
is sues. Talks have stalled in recent years, but members
continue to exchange views in writing on issues, including
public s tockholding and special safeguard mechanisms for
developing countries. Given renewed attention to lack of
compliance with WTO notification requirements (e.g., on
domestic support andexport subsidies), some experts saw a
transparency agreement as a feasible outcome for MC12.

CO       .,,, 9ad 'TO Reactions
In the wake of COVID-19, the WTODirector-General
emphasized, Maintaining opentrade and investment flows
will be critical to protect jobs, prevent supply chain
breakdown, and ensure that vital products do not become
unaffordable for consumers. In early April, the WTO
is suedits trade forecast, estimating a plungein globaltrade
in 2020, ranging from 13% to 32%. A recovery is expected
in 2021, but the extent depends on theduration of the
pandemic and countries' policy choices. Forthe latter, the
WTO has emphasized the importance of transparency; to
date, many members have failed to notify new measures.
W'kVT) Agren-,  an ,'a&d T   Mdcica' Pr<du. (XhZd3r,
Several WTO agreements are relevant to health-related
policy, such as technical barriers to trade, sanitary and
phytosanitary measures, services, and intellectual property
rights. Others guide implementation of policies, including
the WTO's core principle of nondiscrimination andrules on


A A '2


k


yg

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 2,700 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.



Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Access to this content requires a subscription. Please visit the following page to request a quote or trial:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?