The remarks were made on the occasion of an international symposium co-hosted by International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in Tokyo, on 9 April.

Held under the theme: The World Trading System at a Crossroad and WTO Reform for a Sustainable World Economy, the symposium focused on how the global trade system could be reformed to be fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.

In his keynote speech, Mr Akimasa Ishikawa, Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said that Japan had identified four priority trade challenges as host country of the G20:

  • establishment of an international framework for data flow and utilisation,
  • removal of market-distorting measures,
  • WTO reform, and
  • the promotion of trade and investment for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Meanwhile, Ms Mari Pangestu, the Former Minister of Trade for the Republic of Indonesia, underscored the importance of the multilateral trade system and the benefits it brings to all countries, particularly developing countries, and how trade has become a priority issue for business.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) co-hosted an international symposium on 9 April / Credit: ICC

The former minister stressed that change is necessary for the WTO in order to safeguard the multilateral trading system, starting by securing the Appellate Body, building confidence by seeking progress on relatively less contentious issues – such as notification – and keeping the WTO relevant in changing times by addressing issues such as subsidies (both industrial and agricultural) and a level playing field, as well as through the development of new rules for e-commerce and data flows.

Further, John W. H. Denton AO, ICC Secretary General Victor do Prado, Director, Council and Trade Negotiations Committee, WTO, called for WTO reform to be relevant to business, flexible and accountable and urged caution to safeguard the system through pursuit of a regularly reviewed proactive agenda.

Mr Denton also pointed out that the benefits of global trade expansion under the multilateral system today is not universally delivered due to some domestic policy failures which he stressed could not be addressed by international organisations alone.

With respect to the above, ICC said it will pursue its strong engagement in support of the WTO with the release in the near future of the first set of recommendations of the Global Dialogue on Trade launched at the World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings in October 2018.