The European Union has presented an initial set of ideas to modernise the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a move aimed at making “international trade rules fit for the challenges of a global economy”.

Its approach to WTO reform was outlined in a concept paper presented to EU partners in Geneva during a meeting on the subject convened by Canada yesterday (20 September). The concept paper will continue to be discussed with various WTO partners in the coming weeks with a view to preparing concrete proposals.

The suggestions come after the European Council of 28-29 June 2018 gave the European Commission a mandate to pursue WTO modernisation in a bid to make the organisation more relevant and adaptive to a changing world and strengthen its effectiveness.

“The world has changed, the WTO has not.”

“The multilateral trading system has for the past decades provided a stable, predictable and effective framework for companies across the world, helping many economies to grow rapidly,” said Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström. “Also today, the WTO is indispensable in ensuring open, fair and rules-based trade. But despite its success, the World Trade Organisation has not been able to adapt sufficiently to the rapidly changing global economy. The world has changed, the WTO has not. It’s high time to act to make the system able to address challenges of the today’s global economy and work for everyone again. And the EU must take a lead role in that.”

The EU’s concept paper sets out the direction of this modernisation effort. 

Without prejudice to the EU’s final position on these matters, the ideas relate to three key areas:

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  • Updating the rule book on international trade to capture today’s global economy;
  • Strengthening the monitoring role of the WTO;
  • Overcoming the imminent deadlock on the WTO dispute settlement system.

And the EU says it has already started to engage with other WTO partners: with the US and Japan, in the framework of the trilateral discussions; with China, in the dedicated working group set up during the latest EU-China Summit; with other partners, most recently at the G20 Trade Ministerial.

The EU will continue discussing these first ideas with various WTO partners in the coming weeks with a view to preparing concrete proposals to the WTO. 

Click here view to view the EU concept paper in full.