Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Foreign Trade travels to Abu Dhabi to attend 13th WTO Ministerial Conference

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From February 24 to March 1, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Foreign Trade will be in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to take part in the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. This will also be an opportunity for the Minister to visit Belgian companies active in the region, and to have bilateral contacts with Emirati representatives, notably on the situation in the region.

Every two years, the trade ministers of the 164 WTO members meet to negotiate the advances that will shape the future of the multilateral trading system. The ongoing reform of the WTO, aimed at reducing harmful fisheries subsidies, and the smooth operation of e-commerce worldwide, feature prominently on the agenda.

"At a time when multilateralism is under pressure and even questioned by some, I am determined, together with the European Commission and the other EU member states, to make the 13th Ministerial Conference a success, to help ensure the resilience of the multilateral trading system in the years ahead, and to ensure that the WTO is ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century", said the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, before her departure.

The key role of the Belgian Presidency

The European Commission negotiates with WTO partners on behalf of the Union. As the rotating presidency of the EU Council, Belgium plays a key role in coordinating this mandate and ensuring that EU member states are sufficiently informed and coordinated in their dealings with third countries. To this end, The Minister has already held an informal meeting of EU trade ministers in Brussels at the end of January, and will chair another meeting in Abu Dhabi on the eve of the opening of the ministerial meeting. The Minister will also hold an exchange of views with a delegation from the European Parliament, which will be closely monitoring developments in Abu Dhabi.

At the heart of the negotiations: the major challenges facing the WTO

While the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism remains in limbo, the EU - joined by most WTO members - is seeking to re-establish a comprehensive and effective dispute settlement system, including the Appellate Body. For the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, "the best international agreement is of little use if its obligations cannot be enforced when one of the signatories fails to respect them. It's important to resolve disputes quickly and structurally."

At the heart of MC13: the environment and sustainability

Environmental issues will also be at the heart of discussions at the 13th Ministerial Conference, including negotiations for a second agreement on subsidies that contribute to overfishing. The Minister of Trade will take part in two events focusing on the environment and sustainability: the meeting of the Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate and a ministerial conversation on trade and sustainable development.

As the WTO approaches its thirtieth anniversary, The Minister is convinced that the organization remains as relevant as ever. "The WTO is a vibrant organization, as evidenced by the two new members. I will have the pleasure of attending the accession ceremonies for Comoros and East Timor, who will now be part of an organization that already represents over 95% of the world's population", she declared.

Economic and bilateral contacts

"As Minister of Foreign Trade, my presence in Abu Dhabi is a valuable opportunity to forge links with our Belgian companies based there. Supporting Belgian innovation and expertise abroad, and listening to our Belgian entrepreneurs is not only a priority, but a necessity. What's more, the Emirates are Belgium's leading economic partner in the Middle East".

Finally, the Middle East conflict and the regional situation are also on the agenda for bilateral meetings with the Emirati authorities.

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