Director-General Roberto Azevêdo convened a meeting of all WTO members today (10 February) to discuss the future work of the organization. It was the first meeting of the full membership since the WTO’s Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.
The Director-General said:
“Nairobi was the second consecutive WTO Ministerial Conference where we delivered important outcomes. We are establishing a strong record of delivery and should build on this success. In Nairobi Ministers gave us some specific guidance on our future work. They asked us to find ways to advance negotiations and so this is an urgent priority for the organization.
“In all of the exchanges I have had so far this year, I have been struck by the sense of optimism about the WTO. There is a clear desire to deliver more. It is important that we have a rich dialogue over the coming months about how we can move forward — and in doing so we must hear the views of all.
“I think members need to acknowledge their differences. The fact is that members don’t see eye-to-eye on some issues — and this is not likely to change in the short term. Faced with this situation, the worst thing we could do would be to allow these differences to seize-up WTO negotiations — and push activity towards other forums. We can’t allow multilateral cooperation to suffer, especially at a time when the world needs our contribution to help improve people’s lives and prospects around the world — particularly for the poorest.
“In my view, we need to accept the reality of the situation. We need to figure out how to work together — despite members’ different perspectives — for the benefit of all. We need to figure out how we can keep delivering for jobs, growth and development — to make as full a contribution as we can.”
Many delegations took the floor during the meeting, with many welcoming the results of the Nairobi Ministerial Conference, stressing the importance of implementing those outcomes, and expressing their willingness to engage in discussions on how to advance negotiations. The Director-General and some members also stressed that the preparatory process for Ministerial Conferences can be improved in order to maintain transparency and inclusivity throughout the process.