A boost in confidence at the World Trade Organization

  • Joint media release with:
  • Senator the Hon Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism
19 June 2022

Minister for Trade and Tourism, Senator the Hon Don Farrell, and Assistant Minister for Trade, Senator the Hon Tim Ayres, welcomed the strong outcomes achieved at the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva today.

The success of the Conference provides a significant boost to confidence in the
rules-based multilateral trading system on which Australia relies for stability and prosperity.

A new agreement on fisheries subsidies is a significant achievement after 20 years of negotiations and reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to protecting the environment and taking action on climate change.

Australia worked closely with our Pacific neighbours to secure an outcome that enhances the sustainability of our oceans in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As the first significant multilateral agreement from the WTO in a number of years, the fisheries subsidies outcome will boost confidence in the WTO’s ability to produce results.  

In the first Ministerial Conference since the COVID-19 pandemic, WTO Members decided on a waiver of certain intellectual property rules to promote access to COVID-19 vaccines – sending a powerful signal of global solidarity in fighting COVID-19 and reaffirming the role the WTO can play in responding to urgent global issues. It will support equitable access to vaccines for developing countries, including across the Indo-Pacific region.

WTO Members also supported efforts to bolster global food security, including through the World Food Programme, demonstrating the WTO can respond to global challenges.

Australia pushed back on efforts to weaken rules on agricultural subsidies, and remains determined to continue the fight for a more level playing field for agriculture globally.

Australia will continue to work with our partners in the Cairns Group of agricultural fair traders to reduce distortions in global markets that undermine food security and sustainability. 

WTO Members also decided that they would launch intensive discussions to reform the WTO. Australia will advocate for improved WTO rules to reflect new and emerging challenges, and to restore the health of the WTO’s dispute settlement system.

WTO Members also agreed to continue not to impose customs duties on electronic transmissions – a welcome signal of a global commitment to promote digital trade which benefits consumers and businesses of all sizes.

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