Trade leaders from Japan, the US and the EU have reiterated their called for a reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the hope of creating a more efficient system that allows global trade to be conducted in a fairer way. 

Yesterday (25 September), Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the EU Commissioner for Trade Cecelia Malmstrom, met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The call for reform comes after China irked fellow members of the WTO by allegedly failing to comply with rules the WTO needs to be reported to when a member extends subsidies to domestic industry.

The trio reiterated their concern with, and confirmed, their shared objective to address non-market-oriented policies and practices of third countries that lead to severe overcapacity, create unfair competitive conditions for their workers and businesses, hinder the development and use of innovative technologies, and undermine the proper functioning of international trade, including where existing rules are not effective.

“Market-oriented conditions are fundamental to a fair, mutually advantageous global trading system and citizens and businesses [should] operate under market-oriented conditions” a post-meeting report from the USTR read.

The three Ministers highlighted the challenges posed by third parties developing state-owned enterprises into national champions and setting them loose in global markets – resulting in distortions that negatively affect farmers, industrial producers, and workers in the Ministers’ home countries.

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They are now looking at possible new rules on industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises in a bid to promote “a more level playing field for workers and businesses”. They add there is a need for effective rules to address the market-distorting behaviour of state enterprises and confront particularly harmful subsidy practices. In line with this, they say they need to work together to maintain the effectiveness of existing WTO disciplines.

The three are now calling for a reform of the WTO and plan to develop a joint proposal “focusing on the promotion of best practices and increasing efficiencies across committees”.

“Overly broad classifications of development, combined with self-designation of development status, inhibits the WTO’s ability to negotiate new, trade-expanding agreements and undermines their effectiveness. [We] call on advanced WTO Members claiming developing country status to undertake full commitments in ongoing and future WTO negotiations.”

The Ministers also voiced concerns over “digital protectionism” and agreed to cooperate in facilitating digital trade and the growth of the digital economy and to enhance business environments through the promotion of data security.

Last week just-style reported the EU competition watchdog is considering a probe into the way Amazon uses data from its third-party sellers on the back of concerns it could be using it to boost its own retail sales.