Empowering Commonwealth Small States: CSSO Trade Advisers lead preparatory workshops for WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference

16 February 2024

In the first weeks of February trade advisers, Kim Kampel and Tanvi Sinha from the Commonwealth Small States Office (CSSO), based in Geneva, concluded two hybrid workshops to support Commonwealth Small States with their technical preparations for the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13), which takes place in Abu Dhabi from 26 to 29 February 2024.

The first workshop, held on 1-2 February 2024, was attended by Geneva and capital-based senior officials from various Commonwealth Small State members. The second workshop, organised with the CARICOM Secretariat on 8-9 February, specifically targeted senior officials from the Caribbean region.

Technical and strategic support

Earlier the year, the Trade Advisers also delivered technical presentations to a Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) regional workshop, which was held on 30-31 January 2024.

The workshops briefed Geneva and capital-based senior trade officials and Heads of Delegation to enable them to prepare their Trade Ministers for MC13, especially on key negotiating issues. The trade advisers, together with experts from the WTO, think tanks, external consultants and country negotiators, provided technical and strategic insights regarding likely MC13 outcomes. 

These issues were discussed and evaluated from the perspective of Small States’ and SIDS’ economic and trade priorities, amid a complicated and turbulent geo-political landscape, with the multilateral trade system facing complex global challenges.

While opening the CSSO workshop, Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Dr Arjoon Suddhoo, said:

“Issues such as Agriculture and Food Security, Fisheries Subsidies, E-Commerce, Development and WTO Reform including dispute settlement reform, remain at the forefront of our agenda, especially for our small and vulnerable members. There are also a range of new and emerging issues on the trade agenda.

"How Commonwealth Small States engage with these issues will be essential to ensure they can proactively shape future development-friendly trade rules, in accordance with their socio-economic priorities”.

Addressing trade challenges of small states

Commonwealth Trade Ministers last met in London in June 2022 and called for fair and balanced outcomes at the upcoming WTO MC13. This Ministerial Conference will strive to conclude negotiations on the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, the first phase of which was finalised at MC12 in June 2022.

Trade Ministers will seek to discipline subsidies that contribute to over-fishing and over-capacity. This is a crucial negotiation for Commonwealth Small States, which rely on abundant, healthy fisheries resources and would like to expand the sector.

Since many small states are net food importing developing countries, an outcome on agriculture and food security is important to ensure transparency and predictability in food markets and supply chains. MC13 will also seek to endorse a package of development outcomes to highlight that the multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core, is inclusive and able to address the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable economies.

Furthermore, MC13 will showcase and endorse critical WTO reforms to ensure that the WTO works more efficiently, transparently and inclusively. This is critical for small states and SIDS, which rely on the multilateral trading system to ensure they have an equal seat at the negotiating table.

These capacity-building activities are part of a broader Trade Adviser Project at the CSSO, which provides technical and strategic support to enable Small States to engage more effectively and to articulate and assert their interests in the multilateral trading system.

Media contact

  • Rena Gashumba  Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • T: +44 7483 919 968  |  E-mail