28 Nov

Towards the modernisation of the World Trade Organization (WTO)

The European Council discussed the state of play of negotiations in the World Trade Organization, and progress in its reform process.

The Commission briefed ministers on its latest initiatives to promote a EU comprehensive approach towards the modernisation of all the main functions of the WTO: rulemaking, monitoring and dispute settlement.

Particular emphasis was put on the need to find operational solutions to prevent the paralysis of the dispute settlement system once the mandate of one of the three remaining Appellate Body judges expires on 11 December 2019 and the court is no longer able to operate.

The Commission also provided the Council with a state of play report on the preparations for the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) that will take place in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, in June 2020, and its possible deliverables.

Member states were generally supportive of an ambitious outcome for the MC 12, restating the importance of the multilateral process and of allowing for concrete results both through plurilateral and multilateral negotiations. Priority issues for the EU include, among others, fisheries subsidies, dispute settlement, industrial subsidies and e-commerce.

EU-US trade relations
The Council took stock of the latest developments regarding trade relations between the EU and the United States.

Ministers highlighted their support for the current strategy of maintaining or even broadening the scope of a positive trade agenda with the US, on the basis of the agreement reached by Presidents Juncker and Trump on 25 July 2018, while defending the basic tenets of the multilateral system.

The Commission presented the most recent developments concerning the different strands of bilateral relations with the US, including:

  • negotiations on conformity assessment and the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods
  • potential imposition of US restrictive measures (so-called “section 232” tariffs) on automotive imports from the EU and
  • follow-up to WTO Airbus/Boeing disputes

Ministers also touched on the wider trade context and discussed recent developments in US-China and US-Japan relations in view of their impact on EU interests and the wider global economy.

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