Opening of the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference

Minister for Trade and Tourism, Senator Don Farrell, and Assistant Minister for Trade Senator the Hon Tim Ayres are in Geneva to lead Australia's delegation to the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12), which started today.

MC12 was originally scheduled to take place in June 2020 but was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the time since Ministers last met in 2017, the multilateral trading system has faced significant challenges caused by COVID-19, and exacerbated by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, including global supply chains shocks, global inflation, and a worsening food security crisis.

Minister Farrell said MC12 is an important opportunity for Trade Ministers from all 164 WTO Members to come together to direct the future work of the organisation as it seeks to respond to these challenges.

“I am honoured to have been appointed as one of the three Vice-Chairs of the Conference and look forward to working with my counterparts to achieve outcomes that will address current global challenges and serve our collective interests,” Minister Farrell said.

In his opening address, Minister Farrell advocated for a WTO pandemic response, agricultural reform, an agreement to limit subsidies that undermine fish stocks, and a mandate to reform the WTO.

Prior to the opening ceremony, Minister Farrell chaired a meeting of the Cairns Group Ministers, a coalition of 19 agricultural fair-trading countries committed to agricultural reform in the WTO.

“Agriculture is the most protected and distorted sector globally.

I was pleased to Chair a meeting of Cairns Group Ministers, where Ministers affirmed our joint determination to see concrete progress at MC12 towards equitable agricultural trade reform and to continue working together to create a more level playing field in agricultural trade globally,” Minister Farrell said.

At the Cairns Group meeting, where Ukraine was present as an observer, and at a separate solidarity event, Minister Farrell took the opportunity to express Australia’s continuing support of Ukraine.

“Australia continues to strongly condemn Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We will continue to work with Ukraine and partners to impose severe economic costs on Russia,” Minister Farrell said.

Following the solidarity event, Minister Farrell and 57 other Ministers issued a joint statement reiterating their full support of Ukraine, and pledging, within their capacity, to facilitate Ukraine’s exports, help its farmers to plant and grow cereals and continue to provide humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian civilians.

MC12 will continue until 15 June.

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