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Undersecretary, Hon. Manlio Di Stefano attends the G20 Trade Ministers’ Meeting (Bali, 22-23 September 2022)

The G20 Trade Minster’s Summit, attended by Undersecretary Di Stefano from 22 to 23 September in Bali, Indonesia, has come to an end. The issues discussed at the meeting focused on the Ukrainian crisis, the reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the role of the multilateral trading system in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable investment, coherence between trade and industry, international trade’s response to global pandemics, and the role of digital commerce. The different positions on the Russian-led war against Ukraine did not allow a ministerial declaration to be adopted at the end of the meeting. The Indonesian Presidency is therefore working on a Chair’s statement.

Speaking at the opening of the summit as the representative of the Country that held the Presidency last year, Undersecretary Di Stefano reaffirmed his strong condemnation of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its consequences on the global economy. “The Russian-Ukrainian war has inflicted a heavy blow to economic recovery after the pandemic, causing disruptions in supply chains and exacerbating food and energy crises, especially in low-income Countries,” said Hon. Di Stefano, who added: “The war jeopardizes the multilateral trading system and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. To restore peace and stability in the world, Russia must cease hostilities.” The Undersecretary then recalled the success of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference and highlighted the importance of cooperation to “consolidate a free and fair, sustainable, inclusive, transparent and stable multilateral trading system.”

During the summit, Undersecretary Di Stefano reaffirmed Italy’s interest in an institutional reform of the WTO that affects its three main functions – contractual, monitoring and the settlement of disputes – to make the Organization “more efficient and transparent, and able to respond to the main challenges of international trade.”

Hon. Di Stefano also referred to the importance of creating an investment-friendly environment that is transparent, impartial and non-discriminatory, that encourages sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and that facilitates the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Undersecretary also reiterated the importance of industrial policies and the need for the G20 to focus on the ‘level playing field’, as well as on the international regulation of industrial subsidies: “We recognize the importance of transparency in public support to industry and, like other G20 Members, we are convinced of the need to strengthen international rules on industrial subsidies. We believe the G20 must work to fight against all forms of protectionism and anti-competitive practices in trade and investment.”

On the issue of trade’s response to global pandemics, Hon. Di Stefano highlighted the excellent result achieved by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference on the TRIPS decision that simplifies the process for vaccine production by developing Countries without jeopardizing intellectual property. The Undersecretary then spoke about the role of e-commerce and the importance of a regulatory system favourable to digital transactions. Hon. Di Stefano added: “The global pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital economy and showed that digital commerce can foster economic recovery. Access to digital networks and connectivity are crucial today, just like the policies to protect online consumers and electronic transactions.”

On the sidelines of the summit, Undersecretary Di Stefano took part in the B20-G20, the dialogue forum organized as part of the G20 with the global business community to promote an open, fair and inclusive international trading system, and to foster innovation, digitization and sustainable development. Hon. Di Stefano said: “The G20 can play a leading role in enhancing the resilience of global value chains and in fostering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in their economic, social and environmental dimensions.” He continued: “Strengthening international cooperation on trade is necessary to minimize the impact of exogenous shocks and to encourage economic growth. Building trust with businesses and promoting public-private partnerships is equally important. At the same time, it is essential to create a transparent economic environment that facilitates investments.” As for the environment, Hon. Di Stefano explained that “better synergy among trade, climate and environmental policies – including those in favour of circular economy – is crucial to create prosperity at the global level, also given the huge economic and social costs linked to climate change.” Finally, the Undersecretary recalled the importance of trade liberalization and international economic cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to gender equality and decent work. Hon. Di Stefano concluded: “In the face of growing global challenges, the G20 Members should cooperate to address the main current issues together: economic recovery, inclusive development, social and environmental sustainability.”

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