Decision makers have been urged to enhance and modernise the rules of the global trading system to make it inclusive and equitable during the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade and Chair of the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference 2024, noted the event can be the 'launch pad' for the future of global trade and reform and address challenges.

“We can and must achieve this,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said while making a passionate plea during the opening address of the four-day event bringing together ministers and top officials to discuss international trade rules and regulations.

“I ask all of you to show the world that the WTO is alive and well, and fully capable of delivering results that matter to people everywhere. We also need to show through the outcomes of this conference that trade and the multilateral system can and will contribute to development. We have the unique opportunity to collectively shape the future of trade. It rests in each of our hands. Let us seize this moment to ensure a prosperous future for all countries.”

Dr Al Zeyoudi noted that the WTO has been a 'global safety net' offering stability, transparency, and predictability to international trade.

“The WTO has contributed to raising living standards, improving employment opportunities and enabling the expansion of trade and goods and services.”

Dr Al Zeyoudi said that through international trade, the UAE has rapidly transformed into a global and regional trade hub.

“Our economic transformations over the past 50 years are evidence of the opportunities that come with international trade and its numerous potential to improve people’s lives.”

Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, attended the opening ceremony. On Saturday, the UAE announced providing a $10 million grant to support several key initiatives of the WTO. It will be allocated to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), and the Women Exporters in the Digital Economy (WEIDE) Fund.

Global trade at 'critical juncture'

Dr Al Zeyoudi underlined that the WTO remains a 'powerful force' in countering the current unilateral protectionism and discrimination.

“It is an important part of a global effort to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to ensure an inclusive, equitable, multilateral rules-based trading system.”

Dr Al Zeyoudi underlined that the multilateral trading system is at a 'critical juncture'.

“It is confronting many challenges. We have witnessed a shifting of priorities and addressing climate change and sustainability issues. Many countries are experiencing debts and cost of living pressures, food security and a slow recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The minister pointed out that the world economy and international landscape have significantly evolved in the face of technological developments.

“The service sector continues to be a key driver of global trade, but traditional sectors like agriculture remain critical for all countries, small, medium and large. However, the traditional sectors and traditional assumptions of which WTO has been anchored cannot stand on their own anymore.”

The opening day saw two least developed countries, Comoros and Timor-Leste, become WTO members taking the overall tally to 166.

Dr Al Zeyoudi called for 'new thinking' amid a fast-changing trade environment witnessed globally.

“The growth of the WTO membership and its diverse priority requires a dynamic approach from the WTO, one that respects the rules that bind us all as WTO members, but also enables the WTO to advance and be forward-looking to achieve our collective goals.”

He asserted that the UAE is determined to make the Ministerial Conference a success.

“As chairperson, I’m fully committed to creating an environment of comfort for all delegates, to conduct negotiations freely, frankly, and constructively in the upcoming days.”

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