(Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, shakes hands with the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mr. Roberto Azevêdo.)
Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, will lead Jamaica’s delegation to the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference and preparatory meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 9th-13th December 2017.
Trade Ministers will be aiming to achieve consensus at the Conference on the Organization’s work programme for the next two years. Issues to be addressed include elements in the negotiations on agriculture, such as domestic support and the Special Safeguard Measure (SSM); rules, particularly fisheries subsidies; and special and differential treatment. Some Members are also proposing that work commence on other issues such as investment facilitation and electronic commerce.
It is noteworthy that as Jamaica is the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules in Geneva, Minister Johnson Smith has also been invited by the Chair of MC11, Susana Malcorra of Argentina, to be a Facilitator at the Conference to assist her and the WTO Director General in the process of consensus building on this particular subject.
Certain interest groups will also be meeting to review the status of negotiations and consolidate positions ahead of the Conference. These include the Group of 33, which deals with agricultural issues; the ACP Group; CARICOM; the Small Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) Group, and the Group of 90 developing countries (Africa, LDCs and ACP),which will be focusing on development issues. Jamaica, along with its CARICOM partners, is a member of these groupings.
The WTO will be meeting as the international trading system grapples with changes in policy approaches by some major Members and as the UK prepares to withdraw from the EU, fully re-establishing its individual membership of the WTO. With these developments, the Organization is again presented with new challenges. So far, members have not been able to agree on a draft Ministerial Declaration.
Minister Johnson Smith, who expects to be fully engaged in the work of the Conference, has stated that she is participating in her first WTO Ministerial Conference, fully acknowledging that it will be a very demanding week of meetings and consultations for all parties. Recalling that the WTO was established in 1995 and that in spite of some successes, the relevance of the multilateral trading system continues to be questioned, the Minister underscored that; ”for Jamaica and countries of CARICOM, it is important that the multilateral trading system be preserved”.
In addition, the Minister will be participating in at least one side event being held in the margins of the Conference. This will be a panel related to the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Trade and Gender Project known as “She Trades” which provides women entrepreneurs across the globe with the opportunity to network and connect to markets.
The Minister, who will be supported at the WTO Ministerial Conference by the Jamaican Ambassador in Geneva and other staff from the Ministry’s HQ and the Mission in Geneva, returns to Jamaica on December 14th.