GENEVA, Oct 14 Reuters - Top U.S. trade negotiator Katherine Tai on Thursday affirmed the Biden administration's commitment to the WTO WTO, saying consensus was possible on several trade and health proposals at a meeting next month.
The 25 - year-old multilateral trade body is under pressure to deliver quick reforms and clinch its first global trade deal in years at the Nov. 30 -- Dec. 3 meeting.
The Biden-Harris Administration believes that commerce and the WTO should be a force for good that encourages a race to the top and addresses global challenges as they arise, Tai said in a speech scheduled to be delivered later on Thursday in the WTO's host city Geneva, Switzerland.
We all know the importance of the WTO, and we all want it to succeed. Many observers blame Washington for the collapse of the WTO's top dispute settlement panel whose appointment has been blocked by the administration of former president Donald Trump.
Since Dec. 2019 the appellate body has therefore been unable to rule on a trade dispute and Biden's trade officials have not removed their opposition.
She reiterated U.S. criticism of the panel, saying WTO dispute settlement had become synonymous with litigation which she said was erratically prolonged, expensive and contentious. She said Washington was open to views of other members on how to reform the dispute settlement system to give confidence that the system is fair. She was more optimistic regarding WTO negotiations, saying that reform could succeed if we create a more flexible WTO, change the way we approach our collective problems, improve transparency and inclusiveness, and restore deliberative function of the organization. Several trade and health proposals should be able to achieve consensus in the next month and a half, Tai said.
Among other deals, WTO members aiming to land an agreement on fishing subsidies after 20 years of negotiations at the ministerial meeting.
Overall, Tai called for a focus on commonalities and urgent priorities - such as combating the COVID - 19 pandemic and preparing for the next one - to help make the trade body more relevant to workers and people around the world.
She said Washington was sharing options to respond to the developing countries' requests for flexibility in the fisheries talks, but would insist any agreement addressed the prevalence of forced labour on fishing vessels.
The United States was also working on a draft Ministerial Decision that would improve the sharing of information, experiences and lessons learned from COVID - 19 responses to help border agencies respond in future crises.