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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

World Trade Organization (WTO)

Q1. How have the COVID-19 pandemic and the current food, energy and financing crises changed the priorities of your organization? 

The WTO Secretariat and WTO Members are grappling with the multiple building shocks of the pandemic, food, energy, and financial crises. In fact, the October revision to the WTO's Global Trade Forecast for 2022/2023 noted that world trade is expected to lose momentum in the second half of 2022 and remain subdued in 2023 due to the confluence of global economic shocks, and WTO economists now predict global merchandise trade volumes will grow by 3.5% in 2022 with a 1.0% increase forecasted for 2023, a sharp downwards revision from a previous estimate of 3.4% for that year.

These crises are on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had devastating health and economic consequences the world over. In response, the WTO created a dedicated portal to provide information on the relationship between trade and the pandemic. The WTO also produced and continues to produce a series of reports on COVID-19 and world trade that provided detailed information on the impact of the pandemic on global trade. The WTO also collaborated with the IMF to create the WTO-IMF Vaccine Trade Tracker, which provides data on the trade and supply of COVID-19 vaccines by product, economy and arrangement type. The tracker builds on the work of the WTO Secretariat information notes on COVID-19 and world trade and the IMF Staff Discussion Note – A Proposal to End the COVID-19 Pandemic. The pandemic likewise reinvigorated WTO Member's focus on TRIPS and access to medicines and diagnostics. WTO Members were able to agree on two MC12 outcomes related to COVID-19, the Ministerial Declaration on the WTO response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement.

Similarly, food security has become an increasingly urgent topic for discussion between WTO Members and was the main focus of the meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Agriculture on 14-15 September 2022. WTO members discussed how to act quickly amid the ongoing polycrisis to implement outcomes related to food security, particularly the MC12 Ministerial Declaration on the Emergency Response to Food Insecurity and paragraph 6 of the Bali decision on public stockholding programme for food security purposes. Members have also recently approved, in September 2022, a WTO Secretariat Tracking Register (RD/AG/83/Rev.2) as required by the Bali Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) Decision. The register will record and track underfill of tariff quotas raised under the mechanism. There are also ongoing discussions as to how to implement the MC12 declaration on the response to the pandemic within the context of agriculture, as well as Decision to exempt WFP's humanitarian food purchases from export restrictions.

As for the Secretariat, the WTO is participating in international cooperation efforts to respond to the crisis. The WTO is part of the UN Global Crisis Response Group set up by the UN Secretary-General to address food, energy, and finance challenges, while maintaining close coordination efforts on food security with the heads of the IMF, World Bank, and World Food Program. The Secretariat also maintains close dialogues with private sector players, including traders, bankers, and shipping operators, who participate in global food supply chains. We promote a comprehensive and coordinated effort to support efficient production and trade, improve transparency, accelerate innovation and joint planning and invest in food systems transformation as the only viable approach to addressing the global food security crisis.


Q2. How has your organization supported Member States to accelerate their recovery from COVID-19 and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda? How has your organization cooperated with other UN system organizations in these efforts to achieve coherence and synergies?

Member states, supported by the WTO Secretariat, have been involved in deep discussions on all aspects of COVID-19 recovery as it relates to international trade. 

Please highlight up to three high-impact initiatives, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs and involves interagency collaboration. Concrete initiatives might be selected to be spotlighted during relevant intergovernmental meetings.

Initiative Public Forum 2022
Partners Various
Relevant SDGs All
Member States benefiting from the initiative  All members of WTO
Description Public Forum 2022 looked at how trade can contribute to post-pandemic economic recovery. The Forum examined how trade rules can be strengthened, and government policies improved to create a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive trading system. The Forum had three subthemes: 1) Leveraging technology for an inclusive recovery; 2) Delivering a trade agenda for a sustainable future; and 3) Framing the future of trade, and brought together governments, the private sector, civil society, academics, and consumers.


Initiative Fisheries Subsidies Agreement
Relevant SDGs SDG14
Member States benefiting from the initiative  All WTO members
Description Fisheries subsidies have been governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures since 1995, though these rules have historically focused on tackling trade distortion rather than adverse environmental effects. However, on 17 June 2022, WTO Members signed the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). The Agreement will curb an estimated USD 22 billion in annual global public support that contributes to the depletion of marine resources. Specifically, the Agreement prohibits subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing, subsidies regarding overfished stocks, and subsidies for fishing in the unregulated high seas. The Agreement marks a major step forward for ocean sustainability and is the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target to be fully met, the first SDG target met through a multilateral agreement, the first WTO agreement to focus on the environment, and the first broad, binding, multilateral agreement on ocean sustainability. Members also agreed at MC12 to continue negotiations on outstanding issues, with a view to making recommendations by MC13 for additional provisions that would further enhance the disciplines of the Agreement.


Initiative World Trade Report 2022: Climate change and international trade
Relevant SDGs SDG 2, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15
Member States benefiting from the initiative  All WTO members
Description The 2022 World Trade Report explores the complex interlinkages between climate change and international trade and how international trade and trade rules can be positioned as a sound strategy for climate change adaptation. While climate shocks will remain costly and disruptive, trade can help countries better prepare and respond, through access to technologies and critical goods and services, such as food and healthcare products. Trade can also reduce the cost of mitigation and speed up the low-carbon transition and the creation of green jobs. Though trade, like most current economic activity, generates GHG emissions, it also contributes to reducing them, by enabling access to cutting-edge climate technologies; incentivizing innovation in low-carbon technologies by expanding market size; and fostering competition and scale economies that help drive down costs. International cooperation through the WTO and elsewhere, on trade-related aspects of climate policy such as carbon pricing and decarbonization standards, would reduce risks associated with uncertainty and friction. Furthermore, international trade cooperation can make climate actions both more effective and more just.


Q3. Has your organization published or is it planning to publish any analytical work or guidance note or toolkits to guide and support recovery efforts from COVID-19 while advancing full implementation of SDGs at national, regional and global levels? 

The WTO has published, and continues to publish, a series of reports on COVID-19 and world trade that provided detailed information on the impact of the pandemic on global trade. These can be found at

Please select up to three high-impact resources to highlight, especially those that address interlinkages among the SDGs. Selected resources will be highlighted to inform relevant intergovernmental meetings.

Resource Trade Therapy: Deepening cooperation to strengthen pandemic defenses
Publishing entity/entities International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank and the World Trade Organization
Relevant SDGs SDG 3, SDG17
Target audience Trade Policy Professionals
Description Open trade can increase access to medical services and goods, improve quality and variety of goods and services, and reduce costs. However, excessive concentration of production, restrictive trade policies, supply chain disruptions and regulatory divergence can jeopardize the ability of public health systems to respond to pandemics and other health crises. This publication provides new data on trade in medical goods and services, surveys the evolving policy landscape and proposes an action plan to improve trade policies and deepen international cooperation to deal with future pandemics.
Language English, French, Spanish


Resource Ministerial Declaration on the WTO Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic and Preparedness for Future Pandemics
Relevant SDGs SDG 3, SDG17
Target audience Member States
Description Since the pandemic outbreak, WTO members have been working on a holistic multilateral response to COVID-19, which takes into account the exceptional character of the current crisis — in terms of the loss of human lives and the economic and social challenges — while also addressing current and future pandemics. To this end, members negotiated a framework which would guide the WTO's work and help to render the multilateral trading system more resilient and better prepared for futures crises. The framework will enable members to better leverage the knowledge generated by the networks established by Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to coordinate discussions among relevant international organizations, development agencies, civil society and businesses and to better harness the WTO Secretariat's work in support of the members. Areas of focus will include export restrictions, food security, intellectual property, regulatory cooperation, services, tariff classification, technology transfer, trade facilitation, and transparency. A yearly stocktaking exercise will take place in the General Council up to the end of 2024.
Language English


Resource Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement
Relevant SDGs SDG 3, SDG17
Description The Ministerial Decision on the TRIPS Agreement, also adopted by members at MC12, provides a platform for members to work together to diversify vaccine production capacity. Members will have greater scope to take direct action over the next five years to override the exclusive effect of patents through a targeted waiver that addresses specific problems identified during the pandemic, especially facilitating and streamlining vaccine exports. Members also have greater clarity regarding related options open to them for pandemic response, including an array of emergency use measures.
Language English


Q4. How has your organization engaged with stakeholder groups to support SDG implementation and COVID-19 recovery at national, regional and global levels? Please provide main highlights, including any lessons learned. For example, what has worked particularly well as a model for effective stakeholder engagement? 

The WTO works with multiple stakeholder groups in the context of STDF and EIF. The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) is a global partnership to facilitate safe trade, contributing to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and food security. It promotes improved food safety, animal and plant health capacity in developing countries. More people’s lives and livelihoods around the world continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with the disruption of business at borders and the impact felt across global supply chains. The STDF global partnership continues to provide vital assistance for developing countries to trade safely, investing in solutions that protect people’s livelihoods and support future economic recovery. Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the STDF has put in place a range of actions, in close cooperation with the global partnership, to mitigate and manage the risk across STDF's work. STDF’s report provides an overview of the situation and outlines the types of risks faced and mitigation measures taken across STDF's global platform, knowledge work and project portfolio. By showing how the situation is being managed across STDF work, and within projects, the report supports sharing experiences and learning on COVID-19 risk management across STDF stakeholders. The WTO continues to support SDG implementation and pandemic recovery through these existing and well-functioning multi-stakeholder groups.

Q5. In the 2019 SDG Summit declaration (GA Resolution 74/4), Member States outlined ten priority areas for accelerated action in SDG implementation. Please highlight any major integrated and innovative policies or initiatives that your organization may have adopted in these ten priority areas:

5.4 strengthening institutions for more integrated solutions

2022 OECD-WTO Aid for Trade monitoring and evaluation exercise in March

5.7 solving challenges through international cooperation and enhancing the global partnership

2022 OECD-WTO Aid for Trade monitoring and evaluation exercise in March

5.9 investing in data and statistics for the SDGs

SDG Trade Monitor


Q6. Following the adoption of the 2022 Ministerial Declaration, please highlight any major integrated and innovative policies or initiatives that your organization may have adopted related to the below, if applicable:

6.1 Member States encouraged "the United Nations system and all relevant actors to take advantage of emerging technologies and their applications, as appropriate, in order to maximize impact and effectiveness in data analysis and collection and stress the need to bridge the digital gap among and within countries" (Paragraph 86)

The Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, and the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, launched the second edition of the WCO/WTO Study Report on Disruptive Technologies in October 2022. The report represents the attempt by both organizations assist their respective Members’ in realizing inclusive digital transformations. The report explores how blockchain, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning can to transform border management and the conduct of international trade, improving the efficiency of Customs processes and easing the flow of goods across borders. The report is intended as a tool to raise the awareness and knowledge of WCO and WTO Members of the use of disruptive technologies in the border management environment, including the benefits and opportunities, and the challenges and gaps identified, and provides a basis for policy action.

6.2 Member States specifically called upon the UN system "to work with the newly established United Nations Food Systems Coordination Hub, hosted by FAO, to support Governments to develop and strengthen SDG-based national pathways for sustainable food systems transformation" (Paragraph 128)


Q7. The 2023 SDG Summit is expected to provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations for sustainable development and follow-up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, including through national and regional consultations, which will mark the beginning of a new phase of accelerated progress towards the SDGs. In the lead up to the 2023 SDG Summit, please provide your organization’s recommendations on how to overcome challenges to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the SDGs, taking into account the thematic reviews and voluntary national reviews conducted to date. 

Global cooperation, within the international trade community and beyond, was responsible for keeping goods and services flowing as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, countries must avoid turning to export prohibitions and other restraints on medical goods and services, and well as food supplies during the polycrisis. An integrated multilateral approach to health systems, investment, debt and balance of payment issues, as well as great strides in trade facilitation are key strategies to buoy the implementation of the 2030 agenda and achieve the SDGs.


ECESA Plus Member
Year of submission: 2022