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Saturday, January 30, 2021, 18:06
Washington says it's ready to engage on WTO reform
By Reuters
Saturday, January 30, 2021, 18:06 By Reuters

The headquarters of the World Trade Organization in Geneva. (PHOTO / IC)

GENEVA - The United States is committed to “positive, constructive and active engagement” with all members of the World Trade Organization on reforming the body and is actively considering who to choose as its next chief, a US official said on Friday.

READ MORE: Trump threatens to pull US out of WTO if it doesn't 'shape up'

The comments by David Bisbee, charge d’affaires at the US mission to the WTO, are an early sign of how US President Joe Biden plans to approach the global trade body and appeared to be in sharp contrast with the stance of ex-president Donald Trump, whose actions paralyzed some of its workings.

The 164-member WTO has gone for months without a director-general after the Trump administration rejected a candidate from Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, selected as the first woman and first African to lead the body by a WTO panel

“The United States stands ready to engage on all of these difficult issues,” Bisbee told a virtual informal WTO ministerial gathering in place of the annual Davos meeting.

The 164-member WTO has gone for months without a director-general after the Trump administration rejected a candidate from Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, selected as the first woman and first African to lead the body by a WTO panel.

Its top appeals body that arbitrates on global trade disputes is also inoperable because the former US administration refused judge appointments, accusing the body of overstepping its mandate and making unjustified trade rules.

“We look forward to progress on this (the selection of a new director-general) and other key priorities in the near future,” said Bisbee.

Among the other issues he mentioned were ongoing talks on fisheries subsidies and the next ministerial conference.

ALSO READ: G20 ministers: WTO reform 'urgent' as Trump tariffs loom

One delegate described the US speech as “positive news”.

Reform of the 25-year-old WTO, including its Appellate Body, is widely seen as a top priority, although countries have widely different views about how this should be done.

The European Union is due to submit a WTO reform proposal next month.


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