A global meeting of MPs specializing in international trade has called for urgent action to implement multilateral agreements which benefit the developing world.
More than 400 parliamentary delegates from around 60 countries attended the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (WTO), co-chaired by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the European Parliament. The event, held in Geneva on 13-14 June, covered a wide range of topics under the theme What Future for the WTO?
The conference recommendations include finding new approaches in order to resolve outstanding issues in the Doha Round of reforms, which has a particular focus on improving the trading prospects of developing countries. Flexibility, inclusiveness and political engagement would be key to making progress in a world which had changed significantly since the round was launched in 2001, the MPs said.
The conference stressed it was of “utmost importance” for all WTO Members to implement decisions on the Doha Round already taken at Ministerial Conferences in Nairobi and in Bali, including swift ratification and entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, creation of new export opportunities for service-providers from the Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) and simplification of regulations governing rules of origin.
The MPs highlighted the key role of trade as a tool for development, stressing the need to link multilateral agreements with the international development agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The trade in services was hailed as a new frontier for boosting development, and the MPs urged greater efforts to achieve rapid progress in market access, domestic regulations and other outstanding issues. On food security – also of key significance to developing countries - the MPs called for a permanent solution on public stockholding, stressing that WTO rules should support efforts to combat hunger.
The MPs highlighted the need for more transparent and inclusive WTO negotiations, suggesting a review of working practices to achieve greater efficiency and accountability. They stressed the crucial role of MPs as bridges between the WTO and the people they were aiming to serve, and of the Parliamentary Conference itself.
The conference also urged policymakers to ensure that gender issues took centre-stage in economic policies to help empower women, achieve equality and eradicate poverty,
Other major topics covered included the proliferation of mega-regional trade agreements - deep partnerships between countries or regions with a major share of world trade and foreign direct investment. The MPs warned that any regional or bilateral deals should not undermine the role of multilateral accords.
Specialist parliamentarians led discussions on how to progress global trade action after the decisions taken at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi last year, while ambassadors from Sweden, the European Union, Egypt, Japan and Mexico focused on mega-regional trade agreements.
The annual Parliamentary Conference gives MPs first-hand information on recent developments in trade talks and facilitates contact with government negotiators, WTO officials and civil society representatives. It was set up to enhance the WTO’s external transparency and hold it accountable to MPs as representatives of the people.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organization of national parliaments. It works to safeguard peace and drives positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action.
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