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WTO ministerial conference begins in Abu Dhabi

BI Desk || BusinessInsider

Published: 00:18, 27 February 2024  
WTO ministerial conference begins in Abu Dhabi

Photo: Collected

The four-day 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) began today in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), where commerce ministers and senior trade officials from 164 member countries of the WTO have started their four-day formal hectic negotiations.

Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, attended as the distinguished guest and witnessed the opening session of the four-day high-level conference this morning at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of WTO, delivered her inaugural statement at the session, reports BSS.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Trade and the chair the conference, also spoke.

The opening session also endorsed the accession of the east African country Comoros and Asian country Timor-Leste or East Timor to the WTO meaning these two countries become the new members of the organisation.

After some more formalities, however, these two countries will be officially listed as the WTO members. Though almost all the background works have already been done, these four days, 26 to 29 February 2024, are crucial to finalize the deals provided how the trade ministers will be able to reach the required consensus.

An eight-member Bangladesh delegation, headed by Ahasanul Islam Titu, State Minister for Commerce, is participating in the conference.

Bangladesh is actively working to push the agenda of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Talking to BSS after the opening session, Ahasanul Islam said that LDCs are likely to get at least three years of extension of various trade benefits and supports once graduated from the category.

“We are hopeful that the final decisions of the ministerial meeting will incorporate the extension of these benefits,” he added.

LDCs have been seeking the continuation of duty-free quota-free market access, waiver in the intellectual property rights and other trade support measures for at least six years after the graduation.

In his written statement, the state minister, said: “We sincerely hope that Members will make a decision in favour of a transitional arrangement regarding LDC-specific provisions for the LDCs after graduation.”

Bangladesh, Lao PDR and Nepal are set to get out of the United Nations defined LDC category list by the end of 2026. Some 12 more LDCs are also at the difference stages of the process of graduation.

Currently there are 45 LDCs and 35 are WTO members. After joining of Comoros and Timor-Leste, the number will be 37.

Once graduated, as per the existing WTO rules, the countries will no more be eligible to avail the various trade benefits and international supports except a few ones only for a few years.

Bangladesh state minister of commerce in his written statement stressed on clarity on definition and scope of e-commerce.

“Bangladesh is in favour of e-commerce moratorium on a temporary basis,” he said.

“Before further extension of the moratorium for longer time, the economic loss of importing members should be taken into consideration,” he added.

Ahasanul Islam also said that as a graduating LDC, Bangladesh would like to particularly remind all that the Doha programme of Action adopted at the LDC-5 Summit in March 2023 to make ‘a pledge to help the graduating LDCs towards smooth and sustainable graduation’ and ‘support their smooth transition plans.’

The topmost decision-making body of the WTO is the Ministerial Conference, which generally meets every two years. The first conference was held in Singapore in 1996. Since then, eleven more such conferences took place in Geneva (four conferences), Seattle, Doha, Cancun, Hong Kong, Bali, Nairobi and Buenos Aires in last 14 years.