New Zealand will host a follow-up meeting of Commonwealth members of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva next week to discuss what they can do to support a multilateral system under threat.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, who beat Kiwi Tim Groser for the top job, will make some introductory remarks to open the event organised by the New Zealand permanent mission dubbed ‘WTO Commonwealth Members Caucus, supporting and strengthening the WTO in challenging times’. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said the meeting is informal so no agreed outcome statement is expected.
“It is a meeting of Commonwealth WTO members to discuss what we can do to help support the multilateral trading system,” she said in an emailed statement. “The meeting is follow-up to a meeting of Commonwealth senior trade officials held recently in London at which I understand it was agreed it would be useful to get Commonwealth WTO members together in Geneva.”
New Zealand supports a rules-based multilateral trading system, and has regularly voiced its unease over the growing tide of protectionism that’s seen a trade war emerge between the US and China. That stance has also undermined the WTO, with US President Donald Trump last week threatening to quit the WTO if it doesn’t “shape up” and treat the US better.
Trade Minister David Parker attended an informal gathering of WTO ministers in May to discuss ways to advance WTO talks and bolster multilateralism, and last month he discussed ways to strengthen regional rules-based trade frameworks with his Australian counterpart Steven Ciobo.
The informal meeting of Commonwealth WTO members comes before Azevêdo departs for Argentina to attend the G20 trade ministerial meeting. The G20 trade and investment working group will discuss the need for greater integration of small and medium-sized enterprises in international trade, and the opportunities presented by the digital economy with the advent of new technologies.