Statement from Ambassador Katherine Tai on the Thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization

March 03, 2024

WASHINGTON – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai released the following statement after attending the Thirteenth Ministerial Conference (MC13) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates:

“In less than two years since WTO Members embraced a reform agenda, Members started to make good on that promise at MC13. In particular, the United States applauds the significant amount of work done on dispute settlement reform and recognizes that additional efforts are needed to finish the work we set out to do at MC12. 
Our approach to those negotiations has produced more results in one year than previous reform efforts had achieved in decades. This is precisely because Members have worked to identify shared interests and build convergence in a collaborative way. Members are identifying new ideas and improvements that can help all of us more effectively resolve disputes and make the system more accessible at the same time.
The United States recognizes that reform is an ongoing process, and we hope that this more collaborative, interest-based approach to negotiations can be expanded to facilitate progress in other negotiations.
In addition to dispute settlement reform, Members reached agreement on several other important decisions. We agreed to continue the Work Program on Electronic Commerce and to extend the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. We also agreed to extend the moratorium on initiating non-violation and situation complaints under the TRIPS Agreement until the next Ministerial Conference.  
Additionally, Members delivered several significant development outcomes at MC13.
We welcomed the accession of two new least-developed country (LDC) Members, Comoros and Timor-Leste. The United States looks forward to working with them as they implement their post-accession strategies.
We also ensured that Members graduating from the LDC category can continue a smooth transition, agreed to support their capacity to effectively utilize the Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, supported a work program for small and vulnerable economies, and agreed to hold dedicated sessions on issues important to land-locked developing countries.
During this Ministerial, Members also exchanged views on respective priorities for taking the work of the WTO forward. The discussions highlighted that, as the WTO evolves to keep pace with the modern global economy, important debates are emerging among developing economies, large and small, over what rules and policies best serve their interests, particularly on issues such as inclusivity, sustainable development, industrial development, and the need for our trade policies to be flexible to allow Members to manage current global challenges. The United States remains committed to working with other WTO Members to develop a common agenda that allows all of us to have our priorities reflected. 
In this regard, the United States is disappointed that Members were unable to reach consensus at MC13 on additional provisions to achieve a comprehensive agreement on fisheries subsidies. The United States is similarly disappointed that Members were not able to reach consensus at MC13 on agriculture, including with respect to export restrictions of food destined for least-developed country Members (LDCs). This commitment would have been a valuable deliverable for food-insecure LDCs. Nonetheless, the United States will continue to engage with other Members to achieve meaningful outcomes on these important issues.   

The United States recognizes that change is hard. We remain committed and engaged. We are continuing our collective work to shift the focus back to the WTO’s founding principles and values. We are advancing a positive vision for trade across all levels of development, and we are moving forward with a comprehensive reform agenda.
We need an organization that can effectively reflect the needs of all people, and we are taking steps to get there. The Biden-Harris Administration takes pride in continuing our active role in this effort.”