A group of 13 World Trade Organization members announced this week a number of trade policy-related steps they plan to take to “support an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient” global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called Ottawa Group, which includes the European Union, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and others, said it will “lead by example” and encourage other WTO members to follow suit.

- Stating that the current level of notifications and transparency regarding trade restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic is “not sufficient,” group members will ensure that their notification obligations are fully met and their measures are notified as far in advance as possible.

- Group members will exercise maximum restraint in introducing any trade measures that might serve as an unnecessary obstacle or impediment to trade, withdraw or end any such measures as quickly as possible, and consider trade facilitative measures where possible.

- Emphasizing the importance of maintaining agriculture supply chains, group members will consider what steps WTO members could take to continue improving agriculture trade based on lessons learned from the pandemic to ensure that future crises will not undermine trade, food security, and the long-term stability of agricultural markets.

- Officials will prioritize and accelerate work on the joint statement initiative on e-commerce, including by developing a consolidated negotiating text by the end of 2020, with the goal of establishing new common rules in trade-related aspects of e-commerce.

- Group members will identify ways to take full advantage of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, including how the adoption of digital solutions can support the movement of essential goods across borders as smoothly as possible, and to promote best practices for TFA implementation.

- Officials will work to identify how WTO members can facilitate trade in medical supplies (e.g., adapting current trade rules or developing new ones or improving regulatory compatibility) to ensure the world is better prepared to deal with similar future crises.

- Group members will explore how best to pursue intensified engagement with business communities and others to better inform policymaking.

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