The Netherlands' intervention in World Trade Organization session on challenges facing multilateral trading system

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher's remarks at the opening of the WTO's ministerial conference.

Excellencies, ladies, gentlemen,

Our world is changing fast, and not always for the better. The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine is the most glaring example of this. The Netherlands condemns the brutal Russian invasion in the strongest possible terms.

Many speakers have already confirmed that the WTO has to adapt, to keep up with  the times.

Yet, the answer to this is not to return to a world where might makes right. The WTO was created to defend the small from the powerful. To shield our companies from discriminatory interventions. And to protect us all from our own worst instincts.

Rather, the answer is to reshape our institutions to fit the world we live in now.

Firstly, the WTO needs a lodestar for change. We must agree on a road map for WTO reform towards the 13th Ministerial Conference. In my view, this should include:

New rules for a level playing field, because massive industrial subsidies and other market distortions disadvantage all of us.

The road map should also include reforming and restoring dispute settlement. The system must be made more responsive to the membership, while retaining its core principles.

Secondly, we should make sure major challenges in society play a larger role in the WTO. Such as climate change and digitalization.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine imperils global food security. Hence the entire WTO must speak out in favor of  food security and against export restrictions.

We must reach an agreement on fisheries subsidies. To safeguard global fish stocks for humankind’s future benefit. And we should do more to protect our planet, such as facilitating trade in environmental goods and services.

And of course another of our most urgent challenges today: food security.

Then, seemingly overshadowed but ever so important: A WTO response to the pandemic, which is long overdue. I  hope we can all agree on a declaration on trade and health.

Thirdly, we should change the way we do business in the WTO. It will only get harder to reach consensus among 164 members, but that’s alright.

Joint Statement Initiatives, such as the one on E- commerce, can provide breakthroughs for eager members – without burdening those that don’t want further rules.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These aren’t easy times.

But MC12 provides a unique opportunity to readjust the multilateral trading system.

So, let’s make this happen.