Pascual, alongside 22 ministers and senior officials representing a broad spectrum of the WTO membership, joined the Informal WTO Ministerial Gathering hosted by the Swiss Government.
The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss priorities for the next stages of WTO work following the successful outcomes of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) held in Geneva last June.
The meeting also offered a platform to provide political direction and motivation in preparation for the 13th Ministerial Conference, which will take place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in February 2024.
Pascual said: “The Philippines is in the process of ratifying the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. We affirm our country’s commitment to contribute to the second wave of the fisheries negotiations. I would like to emphasize that one of the top priorities of the Philippines is to advance agriculture negotiations. There is also an urgent need to restore the 2-tier dispute settlement system and unblock the impasse in the selection process of the Appellate Body.”
In his concluding remarks, Switzerland’s Federal Councilor Guy Parmelin summarized the main points from the discussions, which include the implementation of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, possible extension of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) decision adopted at MC12 to cover the production and supply of Covid-19 diagnostics and therapeutics, effective negotiations on agricultural trade policy reform, and current efforts to reform the WTO.
He also noted that several ministers welcomed the progress in the plurilateral negotiations such as on Electronic Commerce and Investment Facilitation.
During the informal gathering, Switzerland submitted its acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, becoming the first WTO member to do so.
Prior to this, Pascual also joined the breakfast meeting organized by Singapore, Japan, and Australia as co-convenors of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Electronic Commerce.
Twenty-four negotiating members participated in the meeting, which aims to arrive at a robust set of rules that will further enhance the benefits of electronic commerce for businesses, consumers, and the global economy.
At present, the initiative on the trade-related aspects of ecommerce has 88 participating member-countries and this accounts for over 90 percent of global trade.
It also seeks to achieve a high standard outcome that builds on existing WTO agreements and frameworks with the participation of as many WTO members as possible.
Pascual also conveyed the Philippines’ support for the continued open, transparent, and inclusive nature of the initiative that considers the unique opportunities and challenges faced by all WTO members.
He also pledged support for the substantial conclusion of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) at the end of 2023 and continued to welcome its current negotiating process.
“We cannot afford to remain complacent considering the rapid growth and trajectory of e-commerce and the increasing digitization of cross-border trade. The WTO needs to keep pace with the digital economy and the future of trade,” he added. (PR)