Ahead of the upcoming World Trade Organisation (WTO) meetings, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has called for maritime transport to be prioritised in multilateral trade negotiations.

The talks were to take place in the 12th Ministerial Conference, which has been indefinitely postponed due to the Omicron variant. However, a pared-down schedule of meetings of WTO Ministers and governments will go ahead.

As informed, the meetings will discuss the critical issues and challenges confronting the multilateral trading system and their impact on the global economy.

In a briefing session with the business community, ahead of this week’s meetings, ICS urged WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to pay closer attention to maritime transport in WTO trade initiatives and negotiations.

Formal discussions on the liberalisation of maritime transport services at the WTO have been halted for several years and national governments’ commitments towards liberalisation of maritime services in previous negotiations lack legal certainty, leaving the industry in perpetual limbo, said ICS.

Responding to the call by ICS, Okonjo-Iweala said: “With all the supply chain issues we experienced this year, there is increasing interest in the maritime transport sector, including the underlying issues leading to supply chain bottlenecks”.

She added that WTO met with some of the major shipping companies and is planning to hold a comprehensive dialogue with the entire sector next year to gain a better understanding of these issues.

“We are very encouraged by Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s message to the shipping industry at this meeting. There are many issues that unite ICS and the WTO, as the gatekeeper of free trade throughout the world, but none more so than our shared values and principles of open and unimpeded access to international markets. We look forward to engaging with her at the WTO in this comprehensive Dialogue that has been proposed for next year”, said Guy Platten, Secretary-General at ICS.

Earlier this year, the two organisations co-hosted a roundtable dialogue “The Role of Maritime Transport in the Post-COVID Recovery”, exploring the findings from the ICS “Protectionism in Maritime Economies” report.

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