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Saudi Arabia urges WTO to facilitate admission of other Arab states, developing countries

June 14, 2022 at 4:02 pm

A logo stands on the wall outside the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 2 March 2020 [Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia’s Commerce Minister has called on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to assist and facilitate the admission of the world’s developing and least developed countries to the Organisation, stating that it is in the best interests of the global community to do so.

According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Dr. Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi made the call at the WTO’s twelfth Ministerial Conference in the Swiss city of Geneva on Sunday, where he led the Kingdom’s delegation.

At the conference, Al-Qasabi also led the meeting of the WTO’s Arab member states along with the organisation’s Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. On the sidelines, too, the Saudi Commerce Minister held a series of meetings with counterparts from various other Arab states, including those from Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Sudan.

Those meetings were reportedly to discuss bilateral trade relations and to assess the potential enhancement of some areas of economic cooperation.

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The WTO – which sets the global standards for trade and its regulations – has long been accused of being exclusionary towards its developing member and observer states. Its “reform” proposal put forward in this conference has reportedly furthered those exclusionary elements and policies, with experts and civil society members stating that the new WTO proposal undermines the principle of multilateralism and, instead, creates more division between developing nations.

According to its critics, it also enables multinational corporations to have an even greater role and authority, undermining the interests of the developing nations.

Saudi Minister Al-Qasabi’s message to the WTO was that it must benefit the world in a broader sense, apparently in terms of combatting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighting the need for wider distribution of vaccines. He also drew attention to the need to respond to the global food security crisis, which is expected to be felt – especially in the developing world – later this year and next year.

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