Written Statement by Ambassador Katherine Tai for the Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference

Hello, everyone.  It is my pleasure to join fellow ministers in Abu Dhabi for the WTO’s thirteenth Ministerial Conference.  My sincere thanks to the United Arab Emirates for hosting us, and to Director-General Ngozi for her continued leadership.


The world is vastly different from when the WTO was created.  Its membership also looks different today.  It will soon be an organization of 166 Members, as we welcome the accessions of Timor-Leste and the Union of the Comoros. 


We are a diverse group of economies, and we are facing new challenges—like a worsening climate crisis, rapid technological change, and widening inequality.


But we also have the chance to seize new opportunities, together.  To use trade as a force for good.  To ensure that the benefits of trade reach more people.  To adapt, modernize, and reform the WTO for the better. 


This week’s gathering is the first real ministerial dedicated to discussing what needs to be done to realize this vision. 


I don’t need to remind anyone how significant it was for all of us to agree at the last Ministerial Conference that we are committed to working toward necessary reform.  I know our teams have been working fervently since then, but I also want to highlight the fact that reform is squarely on the agenda for this week—and that really says something.


It demonstrates the need to fundamentally re-orient the global trading system to build our middle classes together and to make sure the WTO remains relevant and effective.


This week is an opportunity for us to take stock of where we are and chart a future path together.  And we know that we have more work to do in several areas.


That includes rebuilding the WTO’s ability to negotiate new rules for the new challenges that we face, such as addressing the massive disruptions from non-market policies and practices and reflecting better the interests of our workers.


That also includes dispute settlement reform, where the goal is not just to go back to the way things used to be, but rather to provide confidence that the system is fair and to better allow Members to settle their disputes.


Underpinning all of this, we need to restore transparency as a meaningful norm at the WTO.


Transparency is a precondition to ensuring fairness and accountability in how this organization operates.  Every WTO Member has the responsibility to let others know of their laws and regulations affecting trade.


This is critical for fair competition and a level playing field for working people everywhere, in developing and developed economies alike—the very people this system should empower and lift up. 


Through all of this work, our collective goal should be to shift our focus back to the WTO’s founding principles and values, so that we can emerge stronger and more resilient.


This Ministerial Conference will be an important milestone, but it is not the end of our journey.  Reform will be at the heart of our work moving forward.  As the global economy continues to evolve, we will change and adapt, to deliver for working communities everywhere.


Trade cannot solve all of our problems, but the WTO has an important role to play in shaping our future.


A successful ministerial will not be measured by the number of deals made this week—it will be measured by the work of Ministers to craft a forward-looking vision across all levels of development.


The United States will continue to play an active role in this effort, and I look forward to working with all of you this week and beyond.


Thank you.