Focus on geopolitics at World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference

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The 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) concluded on Friday morning. It was the WTO’s first major conference in five years. Addressing the enormous challenges that have paralysed world trade – the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the food and energy crisis – was on the agenda.

The final agreement which was adopted during the conference concerns areas such as a dispute settlement mechanism to manage and resolve trade conflicts between countries and regions, regulations for vaccine trade, food security, a prohibition of harmful fishing subsidies and continuing to allow free global eCommerce without tariffs.

“I would go so far as to say that we saved world trade at the eleventh hour. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a global food crisis that is having a major impact on the world’s poor and has foreshadowed food export restrictions by a number of states. That’s why it is very gratifying that the WTO succeeded in agreeing on a Ministerial Declaration on the importance of keeping trade open. Sweden has been a strong driving force behind this,” says Ms Hallberg.

Together with the EU, Sweden pushed to limit, or preferably eliminate, export restrictions on food. Global food prices have increased dramatically due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a major wheat producer. This, and the fact that Russia is responsible for the situation, were some of the points that Minister for Foreign Trade Anna Hallberg stressed in her speech at the beginning of the Conference.

“That the WTO has reached an agreement is a welcome, positive sign for multilateral cooperation. Now it’s up to us to manage this mandate. As a strong proponent of free trade and inclusive economic development, Sweden will be an important actor in the coming years, starting with our Presidency of the Council of the EU,” says Ms Hallberg.