As a small but vibrant trading nation, Singapore strongly supports an open, rules-based multilateral trading system as embodied by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which has fostered the world’s growth and prosperity since it was established on 1 January 1995. Singapore has been an active and constructive member of the WTO since its inception. We hosted the 1st WTO Ministerial Conference in December 1996.
Amidst rising protectionism and the uncertain global economic climate, we should explore how to strengthen the WTO. We will work with other WTO members to update WTO rules so that they remain relevant for the modern economy, and with a view to ensuring that all people continue to benefit from a free, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trading system. We will also work to strengthen the monitoring function of the WTO so that our businesses and people can respond quickly to changes, including during emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore is a co-sponsor to three statements on trade and COVID-19 at the WTO. This includes the: (a) COVID-19 and the Multilateral Trading System by Ministers Responsible for the WTO; (b) Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic with Open and Predictable Trade in Agriculture and Food Products; and (c) Statement on Highlighting the Importance of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Time of COVID-19. These statements seek to ensure that supply chains remain open and connected amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore, together with co-conveners Australia and Japan, launched the Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on Electronic Commerce in December 2017 at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Prompted by a recognition of the opportunities and challenges faced by developing countries and enterprises, including MSMEs, in relation to electronic commerce, the JSI outlines members’ intention to develop rules on trade-related aspects of electronic commerce. To-date, 85 WTO members have signed on to the JSI.
Against the backdrop of rising trade tensions, Singapore has highlighted our view that unilateral measures and trade wars will not only negatively impact the countries concerned but have repercussions on global development and growth. As a small country heavily reliant on trade, Singapore continues to urge countries to work together towards mutually-beneficial outcomes. In addition, Singapore has expressed our serious concerns over the impasse on appointments to the Appellate Body (AB). We are committed to working with other WTO Members to find a permanent solution, since an impartial appeal stage must continue to be one of the essential features of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.
As a stop-gap measure until the AB is re-constituted, the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) was established in April 2020, which ensures that participating WTO Members will continue to benefit from an appeal stage in WTO dispute settlement. 23 WTO Members,1 including Singapore, have joined the MPIA as participants. The pool of 10 arbitrators was composed on 31 July 2020, and this marks the operationalisation of the MPIA.2
More information about the WTO can be found at its official website.
1 Australia, Benin, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, EU, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
2 José 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).