WTO: Reform Endorsed by APEC Leaders


Asia Pacific leaders and economic ministers endorsed reform of the World Trade Organization is their final statements emerging from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in San Francisco.

As the United States wrapped up its APEC host year, Asia Pacific ministers also stressed the importance to the global trading system of a successful WTO 13th ministerial meeting in February.

“We are committed to necessary reform of the WTO to improve all of its functions, including conducting discussions with a view to having a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all members by 2024,” according to the 2023 APEC leaders’ Golden Gate Declaration.

“We call upon APEC economies to work towards the timely and effective implementation of WTO agreements and reaffirm our commitment to engage constructively to ensure MC13 is a success and delivers positive outcomes,” it continues.

In their separate statement, APEC economic ministers also called for WTO reform. Economic Ministers on Trade

Following are excerpts from the economic ministers statement:

“We reiterate our commitment to working together to deliver a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, inclusive, and predictable trade and investment environment. We recognize that trade and investment play an indispensable role in driving global economic growth and can contribute positively to uplifting livelihoods and increasing economic prosperity for all. We underscore the importance of our work in APEC to advance trade and investment to equitably benefit all our economies and people, including MSMEs, women, and those with untapped economic potential, including Indigenous Peoples as appropriate, persons with disabilities, and people from rural and remote areas. To that end, we welcome the work this year on ways to integrate inclusion and sustainability into trade policy, and we underscore the importance of economic and technical cooperation and capacity building. We note the ongoing work in APEC in support of renewing the terms of reference for the Asia-Pacific Model E-port Network, the APEC Alliance on Supply Chain Connectivity, the Regulatory Harmonization Steering Committee, the APEC Health Sciences Academy, and the APEC Harmonization Center and look forward to the endorsement of these terms of reference in early 2024, and continue related work.

Our region’s economic growth continues to be underpinned by the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core. To ensure that its vital role continues, we support necessary reform to improve all of the WTO’s functions, so that Members can better achieve the WTO’s foundational objectives and address existing and emerging global trade challenges. We reiterate our commitment to the reform pathway that was agreed at the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), such as the commitment to conduct discussions with the view to having a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all WTO members by 2024. Respective APEC member participants welcome the substantial progress made on the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on E-Commerce and the substantial conclusion of the negotiations on the JSI on Investment Facilitation for Development, as well as efforts to implement the JSI on Services Domestic Regulation. We welcome the acceptance by 10 APEC economies of the WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, and we urge other economies to approach the Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13) as a milestone for acceptance and entry into force of that Agreement, and will strive to conclude the second wave of negotiations on further disciplines, consistent with the MC12 outcome document. As WTO Members work constructively to ensure positive outcomes at MC13, including on WTO reform, we will continue to lend our support through our leadership and our role as an incubator of ideas.

We will further advance economic integration in the region in a manner that is market driven, including through the work on APEC’s Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agenda consistent with the Lima Declaration. To this end, we will enhance our capacity building and technical cooperation efforts in support of economies’ readiness to participate in high quality and comprehensive regional undertakings and we welcome the progress made on the FTAAP Agenda Work Plan this year. In support of that, we look forward to the Policy Support Unit’s (PSU) review of the work done by APEC in moving forward the FTAAP agenda and study on areas of convergence and divergence across all chapters of relevant trade agreements in the region. Additionally, we thank ABAC and PECC for their advocacy and analysis to advance the FTAAP agenda.

We applaud APEC’s work in fostering a trade and investment environment that enables our businesses to establish secure, resilient, effective, sustainable, and open supply chains and will continue efforts to address chokepoints identified in the APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Framework Action Plan (2022–2026). We will continue to work to ensure a level playing field to foster a favorable trade and investment environment and reaffirm our commitment to keep markets open and to address supply chain disruptions. We will further our work on port and border cooperation and single window interoperability, including by exploring the use of new technologies and innovative solutions, to improve and simplify port clearance and customs procedures. Furthermore, as a means to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, building on our previous work, we are committed to promoting intellectual property rights through policies and programs that advance innovation and creativity.”