Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at G20 Trade and Investment Ministers' Meeting

JAIPUR –  United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today delivered remarks during the first session of the G20 Trade and Investment Ministers' Meeting: Multilateral Trade for Global Growth & Prosperity.

In her remarks, Ambassador Tai underscored the United States' strong support for Ukraine and its people. She called for Russia to reverse its decision to suspend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, end its unjustified war of aggression, and withdraw all of its forces from Ukraine.

Ambassador Tai also reiterated the United States' desire to see the World Trade Organization achieve its foundational objectives and use trade to raise living standards, ensure full employment, pursue sustainable development, and protect and preserve the environment. She noted the need to bring a flexible and cooperative approach to reform conversations and that all Members should feel comfortable offering new ideas to address difficult issues.

Finally, Ambassador Tai shared her hopes for the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference in 2024 and the need to develop an agenda focused on several key issues, including the second phase of the fisheries negotiations, e-commerce, the SPS work program, food security, pandemic response, and WTO reform. 

Ambassador Tai's remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

First, allow me thank India for its gracious hosting of the G20 this year and for the hospitality extended to us here in Jaipur.  

The topic for this session – Trade for Growth and Prosperity – cannot be discussed properly without acknowledging the serious and continuing impact of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. 

Russia’s actions demonstrate a callous indifference to human life, both within Ukraine and around the world, particularly in developing countries striving to secure their own prosperity.

One month ago, Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which provided a lifeline for hundreds of millions worldwide facing hunger and spiraling food costs by enabling the delivery of 20 million tons of grain to lower and middle-income countries. 

The global food price index has seen a steady rise over the past month. Russia’s suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative now threatens the food security of the most vulnerable populations around the world. 

We call on Russia to reverse its decision, to resume negotiations, and to extend, expand, and fully implement the Initiative immediately for the benefit of the millions of people who depend on Ukrainian grain. Beyond this action, Russia must end its unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine and withdraw all of its forces from Ukraine. 

In the meantime, on this day as we celebrate Ukraine's independence, the United States expresses its strong support for Ukraine, and we hail the heroism and sacrifice of the Ukrainian people. 

I’d like to turn to the WTO, which has long recognized that trade should contribute to the prosperity of all of our people. The Marrakesh Declaration and Agreement, on which the WTO is founded, begins with the recognition that trade should raise living standards, ensure full employment, pursue sustainable development, and protect and preserve the environment. 

Fundamentally, our efforts to improve the WTO are focused on positioning the Membership to better achieve these important and timeless foundational objectives. 

Our WTO reform agenda includes restoring efficacy to the negotiating arm; promoting transparency and inclusiveness; improving compliance with and enforcement of Members’ WTO commitments; equipping the Membership to address unfair practices and global market distortions, and putting the organization on the footing to promote trade policies that build resilience and address current global challenges. 

We understand these reform conversations at the WTO will be part of an ever-greening process, and that we are pursuing functional reforms now that will create a foundation for more effective Member engagement. So far, we are encouraged by the energy and enthusiasm that Members are bringing to the various conversations underway. 

Part of our work to better achieve the WTO’s foundational objectives, particularly related to sustainable development, includes deepening and broadening our engagement with developing countries, particularly on the African continent. 

The global economy is clearly changing around us. The path to sustainable development for many developing countries, including LDCs, includes moving up the value-added ladder, which has been made more difficult by certain Members’ deeply unfair trading practices. 

The United States seeks to work with developing countries to overcome this challenge in ways that build an enabling environment for responsible trade and high-quality investment, in line with Members’ individual growth strategies and development needs. 

Recognizing this diversity, we need a different approach to flexibilities. We cannot accept the idea that those Members that are economic and manufacturing powerhouses based on any reasonable criteria, should be able to claim flexibilities intended for less advantaged Members. 

The fundamental issue is fairness. As reform work evolves, the United States will continue to put transparency at the forefront of discussions in Geneva. Transparency is basic to any conception of a fair trading system. 

I would like to turn to reform of the dispute settlement function of the WTO, which is important to many, if not all of us, around the table. 

There is a new and constructive process taking place in Geneva that is designed to find a way to reform where previous efforts have failed. 

This requires a fundamental rethink of the dispute settlement system, for example to ensure that we end the practice of judicial rulemaking.  

We have shared with you ideas on how to address the United States’ concerns. We brought more than 30 ideas to the Geneva discussions, including on the most difficult issues, such as appeal and review.    

If you believe these ideas do not work for you, then please bring new ideas to the discussion. We are approaching these discussions with an open mind on how to address our and our collective concerns.  

I’d like to close with a few perspectives about MC13, which is coming into view. 

We are aiming for Members to have a successful ministerial conference. 

Recognizing that the agenda is already quite full, we encourage Members to focus on the topics we agreed to at MC12, which include the second phase of the fisheries negotiations, the ongoing e-commerce work program and decision about the e-commerce moratorium, the SPS work program, food security, pandemic response, and WTO reform conversations. 

We also encourage full use of the opportunities in the fall to begin making decisions at the Senior Officials Meeting and General Council meetings so that we avoid leaving them all for the Ministerial Conference.

I cannot close without offering our congratulations to India on the successful lunar landing of Chandrayaan-3. Please bring your reform ideas to MC13 in Abu Dhabi and we will give India full credit. Thank you very much.