On 5 May, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide and 41 other ministers responsible for the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a ministerial statement on Covid-19 and the multilateral trading system. The statement is an important supplement to a joint statement issued by the Alliance for Multilateralism in April, and endorsed by Norway, on the need for cooperation and solidarity in the fight against Covid-19.
‘I am pleased that we have succeeded in securing support for this statement from a large group of WTO members. A predictable, transparent, non-discriminatory and open global trading system will be essential for broad-based and sustainable economic recovery once the crisis is over,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.
In the statement, the 42 ministers reaffirm their strong support for the multilateral trading system and the central role of the WTO. The WTO is not the primary organisation for addressing the health-related aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but WTO rules have an important role to play in ensuring the continued flow of goods and services across national borders. In the statement, the ministers stress that the trade restrictive emergency measures that have been introduced to protect people’s health must not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains. Any such measures must be consistent with WTO rules, and the ministers pledge to lift them as soon as possible. The ministers also pledge not to impose export restrictions on food products in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Important priorities for Norway, such as transparency on trade-related measures that are introduced as part of the effort to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for a coordinated international response, are reflected in the statement. The statement also expresses support for the full resumption of all WTO activities as soon as feasible.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how dependent we are on cross-border trade and on everyone following the established rules, so that we have access to essential goods even in times of crisis. International trade is vital if we are to get through this crisis – for the Norwegian economy, Norwegian jobs and the Norwegian health system,’ Ms Eriksen Søreide said.