Solution sought to rising debts, food insecurity

Published February 27, 2024
Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz at the  13th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Photo via PID
Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz at the 13th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Photo via PID

ISLAMABAD: Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz at the 13th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference (MC13) underscored the relentless onslaught of crises that have beleaguered member nations over the past years.

Mr Ejaz’s remarks were delivered shortly after the inauguration of the MC13 in Abu Dhabi on Monday. The conference was presided over by Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade.

Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz pointed to climate change, escalating geopolitical conflicts, devastating natural disasters, unmanageable debt burdens, and a surge in food insecurity as key factors that have deepened global inequalities and hindered progress.

These challenges, he noted, have been particularly detrimental to developing members such as Pakistan, further impeding their path toward development.

Mr Ejaz said there is a need for a fit-for-purpose WTO that delivers tangible solutions to address these crises, especially for developing countries including least developed countries. The situation calls for renewed discussions and appropriate decisions for tackling the challenges of development, widening income gaps and ensuring inclusive and sustainable growth for all members, he said.

The minister said the food security package under negotiation presents a vital opportunity to address this dire situation through a permanent solution on public stockholding among other tools. “We must deliver on food security at this critical juncture for the most vulnerable”, he said.

“I am encouraged by the constructive engagement of Members in Phase 2 of the Fisheries Negotiations,” he remarked. Delivering on the SDG 14.6 mandate at MC13 is crucial to ensure the long-term sustainability of our oceans and the livelihoods of millions who depend on them, he added.

Pakistan’s commerce minister said developments in digital technology are rapidly changing the face of global trade. The developing countries must fashion their economies underpinned by knowledge and technology with all the policy tools at their disposal to avoid falling further behind, he suggested.

However, since 1998, the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions has denied the developing countries of an important policy tool to develop a digital economy and increase revenues, the minister said.

He said lifting the moratorium, with carefully calibrated custom duties, would create an environment that incentivizes technology transfer, attracts investments, and fuels digital industrialisation. “This is not about protectionism — it’s about empowerment and creating a level playing field where developing countries can thrive in the digital age”, the minister clarified.

The minister hoped for the conclusion of the discussion in the current year to have a well-functioning two-tiered dispute settlement system available to all members.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2024

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