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Challenges facing the multilateral trading system

I extend to you fraternal greetings from the people and Government of the Republic of Uganda; and congratulate you all upon the holding of the 12th Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference. We are all aware that this Ministerial Conference has been delayed for several years largely on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With COVID-19 ravaging the world, the multilateral trading system was put to a real test. We saw some members adopt measures that fundamentally go against core principles of the multilateral trading system as espoused in several WTO Instruments.

However, the fact that the entire membership of the WTO could not meet for several years to deliberate on important international trade and economic matters is a strong pointer to the importance of ‘unison of the whole world’ in fighting the pandemic.

Such unison must cover, among others, access to vaccines, diagnostics and treatment, manufacturing, and better international regulatory coordination to position us to deal better with the COVID-19 pandemic or any other future pandemics; and driving global recovery now that the pandemic has subsided.

Therefore, my delegation implores the WTO Membership to work in unison in addressing these global challenges now and in the future.

Your excellences and distinguished delegates, it is a generally accepted fact that the multilateral trading system provides immense opportunities for individual countries to drive national development. However, for Developing Countries and particularly the Least Developed Countries, this requires building productive and trade capacities, including capabilities in logistics and trade facilitation, standardization, and quality assurance, among others.

It is fundamentally important that the WTO membership sustains keen interest in addressing the challenges faced by these countries in harnessing the opportunities created by the multilateral trading system.

Your excellences, let me address myself to the important subject of WTO Reforms, which in principle are meant to address the challenges that the multilateral trading system has faced.

While Uganda appreciates that reforms are necessary in view of the changing times, we are also very much alive to the fact that such reforms must not deform the WTO! The core principles of the WTO and the multilateral trading system must be preserved and strengthened, not weakened.

We must fully take into account the diversity of the WTO Membership while preserving unity. An organized international trading environment is very beneficial to all of us; and we must work together to build and preserve it. Uganda will continue to play her part; and calls upon other WTO Members to play theirs too.

Your Excellences, the world is currently grappling with the challenge of rising commodity prices, largely fueled by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and global logistics constraints. It is important that we work together to find a multilateral solution to this challenge.

I thank you very much for listening to me.

The author is the PS ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives

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