State Minister Nagasaka Attends Ministerial Meeting of Ottawa Group via Video Conference and Makes Proposal on “Trade and Climate Change”
March 22, 2021
On the evening of March 22 (Mon.), 2021, a Ministerial Meeting of the Ottawa Group, consisting of like-minded WTO member countries, was held via video conference, and Mr. Nagasaka Yasumasa, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, attended it and made a proposal on “trade and climate change.”
Overview of the meeting
The Ottawa Group is a group inaugurated in 2018 by like-minded WTO member countries proactive in WTO reform with Canada as its chair. After the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has been continuously advancing discussions for the purpose of compiling proposals including for approaches to securing member countries’ access to medical supplies.
This meeting was held via video conference with representatives of Japan, State Minister Nagasaka and Mr. Washio Eiichiro, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, attended. Participants held discussions on priority issues involving the WTO reform with the attendance of H.E. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who took office as the new WTO Director-General on March 1, 2021.
In the discussions, participants exchanged views on actions to address environmental issues. Toward achievement of the goal set in the Paris Agreement – realization of carbon neutrality across the world – the WTO is requested to play a leading role in this effort as a responsible body for the multilateral trading system. At the meeting, State Minister Nagasaka made a proposal for approaches to facilitating dissemination of products and technologies contributing to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, aiming at Japan exercising leadership in countermeasures against global climate change.
State Minister Nagasaka stated the following points, focusing on improvement of WTO rules amid changes in economic and social environments.
1. Maintaining supply chains of medical supplies
The Ottawa Group should reach an agreement on such issues as preventing export restrictions by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12). Expansion of vaccine production essentially requires efforts for advancing technology transfer in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, and Japan supports efforts led by Director-General Okonjo-Iweala.
2. Actions to address climate change issues
Toward the realization of carbon neutrality across the world, Japan proposes the following three actions in order to facilitate the spread of products and technologies that will contribute to this goal: [i] elimination of tariffs on products that contribute to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, e.g., hydrogen-related products and storage batteries, [ii] rule-making on regulatory issues, and [iii] capacity building within developing countries. Japan is interested in holding discussions with member countries that are interested in these actions toward MC12.
3. Negotiations on electronic commerce
A high standard agreement on cross-border data flows is indispensable for achieving commercially significant outcomes. Japan intends to deliver substantial progress on this issue at MC12.
The Joint Statement Initiatives are indispensable efforts in which many member countries participate, including developing countries, and they should be positioned as major outcomes of the WTO’s efforts. The principles of transparency, openness and inclusiveness to all member countries are important. Japan will focus on these principles in negotiations on e-commerce as a co-chair.
4. Securing of a level playing field
The WTO should hold discussions on rules regarding regulations on industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises etc., in order to avoid market distortion after containment of the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan intends to enrich discussions with member countries that are interested in this issue while advancing discussions among the trade ministers of Japan, the United States and the European Union.
5. Reform of the notification system
Japan intends to reach an agreement with member countries on the reform before MC12 based on the joint proposal by Japan and ten countries.
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the EU, Japan, Kenya, the ROK, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the WTO Secretariat
Division in Charge
Multilateral Trade System Department, Trade Policy Bureau