October 27, 2020
On the evening of October 27 (Tue.), 2020, a WTO Informal Ministerial Gathering chaired by Australia was held via video conference, and Mr. Kajiyama Hiroshi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, participated in the meeting.
Overview of the meeting
Under the chairmanship of Australia, this meeting brought together representatives of over 20 countries and regions as well as those of the WTO Secretariat. As representatives of Japan, Minister Kajiyama, Mr. Motegi Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Nogami Kotaro, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, participated in the meeting.
At the meeting, ministers in attendance held discussions on the subjects of approaches to forming a consensus toward conclusion of the WTO negotiations on fisheries subsidies and to the WTO’s contribution to recovery of the global economy after the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
Concerning enhancement of the WTO’s negotiation function, Minister Kajiyama stated the following points.
- Maintaining and enhancing supply chains of medical supplies
Advancing the enhancement of disciplines concerning trade restriction measures, e.g., export control, is important in order to prevent member countries all over the world from losing their access to essential commodities as trade goods.
- Securing a level playing field
Currently, member countries are taking a variety of support measures to minimize impacts caused by the COVID-19 crisis and allow their economies to recover. However, in the post-coronavirus era, it is considered necessary to enhance disciplines on industrial subsidies to prevent government support measures from distorting markets (e.g., creating or maintaining excess capacity). As the Trilateral Meeting of the Trade Ministers between Japan, the E.U. and the U.S. in January 2020 agreed on measures for enhancing the existing WTO rules, it would also be desirable to start discussions at WTO in due course.
- Updating WTO rules to become well suited to the new economic society
In the current situation where people are prevented from making contact with others or going outside, digital technologies play more important and foundational roles in bolstering social and economic activities. The importance of rule-making for e-commerce is also growing, and as a co-convener of WTO e-commerce negotiation, Japan will steadily advance negotiations in order to achieve high-level results with more countries.
There is a substantial number of agendas to which the WTO is able to contribute in the post-coronavirus era, such as the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) toward dissemination and promotion of digital products and promotion of the trade in pro-environmental products.