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The "Prospect of 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13)" seminar was successfully held

As the 13th Ministerial Conference of the WTO is coming soon, in the afternoon of February 23, 2024, the "Prospect of 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13)" seminar jointly co-hosted by the WTO Chair at UIBE, WTO Law Research Society of China Law Society, and Network on International Trade and Investment System (NITIS) was successfully held online. The seminar was chaired by Mr. Hong Xiaodong, former Director General of the WTO Division of the Ministry of Commerce. Mr. Yi Xiaozhun, former Deputy Director General of the WTO, Prof. Tu Xinquan, WTO Chairholder at UIBE, Prof. Yang Guohua from Tsinghua University Law School, and Prof. Ji Wenhua, WTO Co-chair at UIBE delivered keynote speeches. Nearly a hundred domestic experts and scholars in the WTO field participated in the seminar and discussion.

WTO Former DDG Yi made a forward-looking speech on the upcoming MC13. He pointed out that this year's MC13 had received great attention from the international community. Whether the success of MC12 could be repeated and whether countries could continue to cooperate under the multilateral trading system would be all manifestations of the special significance of this meeting. After China joined the WTO, it had always played an active and constructive role in negotiations. China had participated in and supported all negotiations related to trade liberalization and trade facilitation. General Secretary Xi also emphasized at the Central Economic Work Conference that we must fully participate in WTO reform and improve the multilateral trading system. At present, our delegation had already been preparing in an intense and orderly manner, and he looked forward to achieving negotiation results at MC13.

WTO Chairholder at UIBE Prof. Tu Xinquan interpreted the content of the MC13 draft ministerial declaration. For the WTO, ministerial meetings had never been easy, and on several occasions no statement has been even reached. The draft declaration had a total of 24 paragraphs, of which basic consensus had been reached on 15 paragraphs, while the other 9 paragraphs were still controversial. Prof. Tu gave a detailed interpretation of the draft negotiation issues involved. He believed that the content which basically reached consensus showed the positive sincerity of all parties. For some issues that still had room for negotiation, it may be difficult to reach a conclusive consensus at this upcoming MC13, and further negotiations and communication would be needed in the future.

Prof. Yang Guohua elaborated on the dispute settlement mechanism issues at MC13. He believed that there was currently no possibility of restoring the above-mentioned institutions, and negotiations on the dispute settlement mechanism were still at the informal consultation stage. However, the draft text released this time was of extremely precious value to academic research. The content summarized the current concepts and opinions of the world's major countries on the dispute settlement mechanism, and at the same time reflected the development stage of the dispute settlement mechanism from a historical perspective. He believed that the essence of the current issue was whether the Appellate Body should exist, and an interest-oriented negotiation approach may play a greater role in this regard.

Prof. Ji Wenhua's speech centered on the issue of WTO institutional reform. He sorted out the statements about WTO institutional reform in the MC13 draft content and found that many of the projects mentioned in the text were already in the process of improvement. The most important function of the WTO was reflected in daily management, which also took up the largest part of resources. These practices and rules were complex. Although they were not the focus of academia and industry, they were very important to the operation of the organization, so improvements in this area were valuable. The WTO should improve members' sense of participation, gain, and service through institutional reform, so that members can make good use of the WTO mechanism to safeguard their own interests.

Enthusiastic experts participated in the free discussion. Regarding the possible results of MC13, the four keynote speakers respectively made their prospects. Active discussions were held on topics such as women's empowerment, trade and sustainable development, AI, and WTO electronic office, all met with keen enthusiasm.

The 13th WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, from February 26 to 29. This online seminar is a pre-conference warm-up for MC13. MC13-related seminars will continue to be organized after the conference, so we will be stay updated for further details.