The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, joined Ministers from across the world in attending the Opening Session of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) at the WTO headquarters in Geneva on 12 June 2022. The Secretary-General attended as a special guest of the Conference Chair, Kazakhstan.
Commenting on the importance of the Conference, Secretary-General Scotland reaffirmed the Secretariat’s commitment to supporting member countries at MC12 and beyond, including for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to take place in Kigali in a few days. The Commonwealth Business Forum, which will be held in the margins of CHOGM, will be the first, and largest, in-person gathering for governments and businesses across the Commonwealth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum will focus on “A Global Reset”, dealing with the impact of the pandemic and the Commonwealth’s role in rebuilding and reinvigorating the global economy.
The Secretary-General said:
“It’s a real honour and privilege to attend the long-awaited MC12 and to see so many representatives from the Commonwealth in one room. We are here to listen to member countries, see what they individually want to achieve at MC12, and beyond that, how the Secretariat can continue supporting them in their development agenda.
We are 54 independent nations with 2.5 billion people, so when it comes to trade, our family has never been more needed than it is today. And at the heart of our approach to trade is our shared advantage – the Commonwealth Advantage. This means that trade costs between Commonwealth countries are on average 21% lower while investment flows are 27% higher than those between other countries. And we aspire to increase our trade advantage to 30%.
As we look ahead to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, trade will be one of the top priorities on our agenda. This will be the Commonwealth family’s opportunity to redefine our trading relationship and showcase our advantage, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges such as climate change and the cost-of-living and food crisis.
At the Business Forum, in particular, there will be opportunities for governments and the business community to build networks, forge partnerships and expand operations across the Commonwealth.”
The Secretary-General also noted the positive and strong relationship with the WTO, which saw the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the WTO Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to enhance cooperation on trade-related technical assistance and trade capacity-building efforts for Commonwealth countries.
MC12 will run until 15 June and is co-hosted by Kazakhstan. It was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, but was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the next few days, Ministers will have the opportunity to review the functioning of the multilateral trading system, make general statements and take action on the future work of the WTO. They will also take part in thematic sessions to discuss trade challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the food crisis, agriculture, and negotiations on harmful fisheries subsidies – all of which are important issues that affect Commonwealth member countries, especially the small and vulnerable states.
- Angela Kolongo Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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