Remarks by Ambassador Katherine Tai at the Second Session of the APEC Ministerial Meeting

As Prepared for Delivery

Hello everyone, and welcome. This is our second, trade-focused plenary session of our Ministerial Meeting. 

We had provided two discussion questions in advance of this session.

The first question was: How can our experiences and successes in the WTO at the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference inform our approach to MC13?

The second question was: How are APEC economies implementing sustainable trade and investment reforms that include women and those with untapped economic potential, and what more can be done to facilitate this process?

I look forward to hearing everyone’s perspectives on these issues shortly.

MC13 is nearly upon us, and I know that all of us are putting in the work to make it successful.

There is important work happening at the WTO. 

The United States and dozens of WTO Members ratified the new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies—and many, many more are working to complete ratification.

We have the accessions of Comoros and Timor-Leste; a recent General Council decision regarding LDC graduation; the productive conversations across committees on disaster preparedness; fruitful discussions across the SPS working groups, and our collective efforts to reinvigorate the E-Commerce Work Program.

There are also important institutional reforms taking place at the committee level. 

We are collecting and sharing ideas. Making meeting agendas more relevant and responsive. Clustering meetings so that more experts from capitals can participate. This is what we call “reform by doing.”

We are also investing in the WTO’s digital tools to make it easier for Members to share their laws and regulations and for the public to search and view them.

And we are contemplating how we can provide confidence in the dispute settlement function, that the system is fair. 

The United States has been actively participating in innovative and constructive discussions with WTO Members of all sizes. And we have come forward with concrete ideas, including on alternatives to litigation and preventing judicial overreach. 

We also need to rebuild the WTO’s ability to negotiate new rules for the new challenges that we face. 

We need to address non-market policies and practices that are contrary to the basic rules and norms that we all agreed to. We also need to work together on how we can use trade to tackle the climate crisis, drive sustainable outcomes, and better reflect the interests of workers.

MC 13 will be the first “reform ministerial,” and it is an opportunity for us to come together and deliver. It will be an important milestone, but not an endpoint—it will be a checkpoint on a continued effort to transform the WTO for the better. 

I said this at our meeting in Detroit and I believe it’s worth repeating. APEC has been successful because it keeps moving. The agenda is truly a reflection of collective—and fluid—priorities, in keeping with the rapid changes that affect all our economies and our people. 

From empowering women, to paperless trading, to sustainable development, APEC’s strength is its ability to dig into a wide range of relevant topics.

This holistic and pragmatic approach is a central feature of the APEC way of working. And it is why we frequently call APEC an incubator of trade policy ideas.

The best practices, guidelines, principles, or blueprints developed in APEC frequently provide the foundation for advancing discussions at the WTO, including on sustainable and inclusive economic growth. 

That brings me to our second discussion topic, which builds on our conversation in Detroit in May.

We came out of Detroit with a mandate to “identify practical ways to integrate inclusion and sustainability” into the way we develop our trade policies. 

As I said during our opening session yesterday, we can sometimes fall into the trap of talking about and formulating trade policies in a vacuum. But we must remember that the decisions we make today will have real impacts on real people. 

And trade can and should be a force for good, to bring more people in, to better share the growing economic pie, to foster greater fairness and opportunity.

This is why we tasked our officials at the trade ministerial in May to develop a set of principles and concepts that will enable APEC to lead the way in this area. 

The outcome of that work is the San Francisco Principles on Integrating Inclusivity and Sustainability into Trade and Investment Policy, which is supported by all economies but one and as such, it is unclear if APEC will fulfill that mandate.  

Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that economies will finalize the San Francisco Principles soon.

As in Detroit, I hope that today can be an opportunity for us to learn from one another. I’m interested in hearing your views on what’s working well, and less well, as we work to create a sustainable and resilient future for all our people.

After the ministers’ interventions, we will be honored to have WTO Deputy Director General Angela Ellard provide her thoughts on the discussion and update us on the perspective from Geneva.