The 12th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is taking place in Geneva from 12 to 15 June 2022. The Ministerial Conference is the topmost decision-making body of the WTO and brings together the trade ministers of 164 member countries. State Secretary Udo Philipp is heading the German delegation.

State Secretary Philipp said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, the disruption of global supply chains, and most recently also the Russian attack on Ukraine have demonstrated that preserving a multilateral, rules-based order is more important than ever. In respect of international trade, too, the strength of the law must prevail, not the law of the strong. That is the core idea of the WTO.”

One important issue at the conference will therefore be the launch of a far-reaching process of reform targeting all areas of the WTO.

State Secretary Philipp went on: “We need the WTO. Global trade needs global rules. However, we need a better WTO, particularly when it comes to mediating international trade disputes.”

In addition, the ministers of the WTO member countries will consider the looming food crisis, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s attack against Ukraine. The priority here must be to remove unjustified export restrictions and instead to facilitate trade in foodstuffs.

It is also hoped to conclude the delayed negotiations on an agreement to curb harmful fishing subsidies. For despite the overfishing of numerous seas, government subsidies continue to encourage overfishing.

Finally, the WTO members will discuss the part played by global trade in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, too, the focus must be on trade facilitations in the field of medical products and equipment. The intellectual property system can help to facilitate the production of vaccines. Going forward, however, it must be ensured that innovative researchers do not lose the incentive to rapidly develop highly effective vaccines.

State Secretary Philipp commented: “The 12th WTO Ministerial Conference is taking place against a difficult backdrop, not least as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Even if it is not easy, Germany and the EU will do everything possible to make the Conference a success. However, after the conference, too, we will have to work hard together to modernise the WTO rules, in order to make the Organization fit for forward-looking issues like sustainability and digitalisation, but also in order to ensure a level playing field. Because in future we will need more multilateralism, not less. Current events in particular make that very clear.”