Last year was one of the most challenging years for the multilateral trading system since the WTO was established. Not only did the pandemic affect global trade flows and openness, but the WTO infrastructure was unable to respond as effectively as it might have.
WTO reform is a key pillar of New Zealand’s Trade Recovery Strategy. Reform is important for ensuring that the WTO works more effectively in the interests of all. It will provide for a more resilient recovery, and the inclusive and sustainable growth and development through trade that all members are seeking.
In undertaking reform, we need to make sure that we have strong, flexible and resilient institutions capable of withstanding a variety of different pressures, rather than simply looking backwards to design our response to fit the last crisis.
This requires focusing on the fundamentals of open trade and non-discrimination and ensuring that the WTO can deliver its core functions of negotiations, monitoring and dispute settlement.
The WTO needs to demonstrate that it can deliver further openness. The priority is to conclude ambitious disciplines on fisheries subsidies, underscoring the WTO’s ongoing role as an effective negotiating body, as well as contributing to sustainable development.
Restoring a fully functioning Appellate Body as soon as possible will be fundamental for ensuring openness is maintained in practice and guarding against protectionism.
New Zealand is also a strong supporter of modernizing WTO rules—for example on digital trade. Progress on trade and climate issues, such as through fossil fuel subsidy reform, will ensure that fixing international trade is not at the expense of the planet.