As a small and open economy with a high reliance on trade, Singapore is a strong supporter of an open and rules-based multilateral trading system that is embodied by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The 164-Member WTO is the primary forum for global trade liberalisation, including the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. We are a founding Member of the WTO since its creation on 1 January 1995. We were also privileged to host the 1st WTO Ministerial Conference (MC1) in December 1996, which is a biennial gathering of WTO Members’ Trade Ministers.
Singapore is an active WTO Member. We are parties to major WTO agreements like the Information Technology Agreement, Government Procurement Agreement, as well as the Trade Facilitation Agreement. More recently, Singapore along with Australia and Japan are co-convenors of the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Electronic Commerce, launched at the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The JSI aims to develop new rules on trade-related aspects of e-commerce that are relevant to our modern economy and update the WTO rule book. To-date, more than half the WTO Membership have signed on to the JSI, and JSI negotiations are ongoing.
As of December 2020, JSI participants have developed a consolidated negotiating text that captures the progress and convergence achieved thus far. The JSI aims to achieve substantial progress by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in 2021. The co-convenors’ update on the current state of play of the JSI negotiations can be found here.
WTO’s Response to COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has also worked with like-minded WTO Members to ensure global supply chains remain open and connected, and that WTO Members live up to their WTO obligations including on transparency and notifications. To this end, we co-sponsored three statements on trade and supply chain connectivity: (i) COVID-19 and the Multilateral Trading System by Ministers Responsible for the WTO; (ii) Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic with Open and Predictable Trade in Agriculture and Food Products; and (iii) Statement on Highlighting the Importance of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Time of COVID-19.
WTO’s Dispute Settlement System
The WTO’s multilateral framework of rules and avenues for recourse are key reasons why Singapore regards the WTO as crucial. Against a backdrop of rising trade tensions and a spike in protectionist measures, a fully functioning two-stage dispute settlement system is paramount to ensuring Singapore’s and all WTO Members’ trade interests. Singapore has expressed serious concerns over the impasse on appointments to the Appellate Body (AB). We remain committed to working with other WTO Members to find a permanent solution to the impasse.
As an interim solution, Singapore partnered with several WTO Members to establish the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) in April 2020. Until the AB is re-constituted, the MPIA will ensure that participating WTO Members will continue to benefit from an appeals stage in WTO dispute settlements. The MPIA currently consists of 23 WTO Members1 including Singapore. It was operationalised on 31 July 2020 with the finalisation of its pool of 10 arbitrators.2
More information can be found on the official WTO website.
1Australia, Benin, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, EU, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Uruguay
2José Alfredo Graça Lima (Brazil) Valerie Hughes (Canada), Alejandro Jara (Chile), Guohua Yang (China), Claudia Orozco (Colombia), Joost Pauwelyn (EU), Mateo Diego-Fernandez Andrade (Mexico), Penelope Ridings (New Zealand), Locknie Hsu (Singapore), and Thomas Cottier (Switzerland).