Alicia Nicholls

Trade Ministers and Digital Economy Ministers of the world’s twenty most economically advanced nations met on 8 and 9 June 2019 in Tsukuba City, Japan to further strengthen G20 trade and digital economic policy cooperation. The meeting was the first time G20 Trade Ministers and Digital Economy Ministers came together. It was chaired by H.E. Mr. Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, H.E. Mr. Masatoshi Ishida, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication, and H.E. Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs, of the Government of Japan.

Following the meeting the Ministers released a statement on trade and the digital economy. Symptomatic of the division existing among G20 countries on the way forward, a Chair Statement was also released which reflected the views of interest where consensus was unachievable.

The G20 Statement on Trade and Digital Economy spoke of trade developments, promotion of trade and investment for sustainable development, WTO reform, recent developments in bilateral and regional trade agreements and the interface between trade and the digital economy. It should be noted that the statement did not include a pledge to fight protectionism which was a staple of G20 statements.

They reiterated that “trade and investment have contributed to widespread and sustainable global growth, inclusivity, poverty reduction and sustainable economic development.”  They noted that “trade and investment growth slowed in 2018 and that this is contributing to a weaker global growth outlook for 2019-20 than previously projected” and further that “while growth is expected to increase in 2020, downside risks arising from the current trade environment could undermine this growth”.

The statement also indicated that many members also “affirm the need to strengthen international rules on industrial subsidies and welcome ongoing international efforts to improve trade rules affecting agriculture”.

On WTO reform, the Ministers stated that they “will work constructively with other WTO Members to undertake necessary WTO reform with a sense of urgency, including in the lead-up to the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference”.

They also confirmed “the importance of the role of the WTO in generating opportunities and addressing various challenges.” They reiterated their support for “the work to agree on comprehensive and effective disciplines on fisheries subsidies as mandated in MC11” and further noted “some ongoing initiatives for updating WTO rules”.

On the pressing issue of the WTO Appellate Body, they agreed that “action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by the WTO Members.”

The Ministers recommended that G20 leaders consider the topics discussed at the upcoming Osaka Summit.

The full statement may be read here. The Chair Statement may be read here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.

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