Commonwealth Trade Ministers Against Protectionist Rules

Trade Ministers from the Commonwealth have expressed concerns about protectionist measures and unfair trading practices that threaten the rules-based trading system.

The Ministers who on Tuesday concluded 2023 the Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting at Marlborough House in London called for reform of the multilateral trading rules for agriculture and the smooth functioning of supply chains.

A statement from the secretariat said they agreed that Rwanda as the Chair-in-Office would deliver an agreed joint statement on behalf of Commonwealth Trade Ministers to the upcoming 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in February 2024.

The outcome statement also highlighted the importance of addressing global challenges such as climate change, food security, and women’s economic empowerment through trade and investment.

They urged members to conclude negotiations on outstanding issues from Ministerial decisions in relation to the desire to ratify and implement the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, including with the support of the Fisheries Funding Mechanism.

The Trade Ministers expressed their commitment to promoting sustainable trade practices, green economies, and the empowerment of women-owned businesses and a strong emphasis on cooperation for resilient, inclusive, green and digital economies.

Building upon the initiatives agreed upon by Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kigali, Rwanda, in June 2022, the Trade Ministers exchanged views on the challenges facing the global economy and highlighted the importance of building sustainable and resilient economies for post-COVID recovery.

One of the key outcomes of the meeting was to mandate that the CommonwealthWorking Group on Trade and Investment will focus on generating an investment plan of action, with the goal of increasing investment flows among Commonwealth member countries.

This initiative aims to support economic growth, particularly in infrastructure development and clean, green investments. Furthermore, the Trade Ministers emphasised the need to foster a digital transition and facilitate digital trade for inclusive growth and development. To address the digital divide and skills gaps, Commonwealth members emphasised the need to focus on developing digital public infrastructure, ensuring affordable access to digital technologies, and promoting digital financial services.

Ministers agreed to the establishment of a new Legal Reform and Digitalisation Working Group under the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda’s Business-to-Business Cluster to assist member countries in transitioning to paperless trade.

They affirmed their commitment to a transparent and inclusive rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core.

Speaking after the meeting, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotlandsaid theCommonwealth is committed to strengthening the multilateral trading system, deepening trade and investment, fostering sustainability, and enabling a digital transition.

Members countries were urged to decide on an extension of the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver to cover the production and supply of COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics.

The 2023 Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting sets the stage for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Apia, Samoa, in 2024, where these issues will be further discussed and reflected upon. 

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