Abu Dhabi plays host to the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in early 2024. The UAE can provide its own growth inputs to get WTO back on track. Image Credit: Shutterstock

In 2024, Abu Dhabi will play host to the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), making for the most significant event in the entity’s history since its founding in 1995.

The WTO was created to ease the flow of global trade and remove legacy barriers such as customs duties, protectionist policies, and bureaucratic regulations of long standing. The creation helped make some groundbreaking progress by liberating the cross-border flow of some types of commodities and helped solve many problems with protectionist measures.

In reality, the organization has been impartial in its arbitral rulings, since it has occasionally sided with smaller countries against powerful ones - and the other way around. Important collective agreements have also been made, particularly as part of the so-called ‘Geneva Package’, which aimed to boost free trade and safeguard IP rights.

Dented by Russia-Ukraine situation

While some countries delayed implementing trade-related decisions, not to their advantage, the developments that followed the 12th edition of the WTO conference impacted the organization. Due to disagreements that arose among members, the organization also suffered a heavy hit from the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, which hampered trade matters.

This means the WTO, currently collaborating with the UAE to prepare for the next conference, is facing genuine issues that call for extra efforts to resolve them to be able to carry out its obligations. This will indeed reflect well on trade exchanges and benefit all countries, even those with poor growth, and revitalize trade movements, thereby presenting more employment chances.

Though it is difficult to expect the WTO to overcome the majority of the current obstacles immediately, there are signals that inspire hope, such as the decision to organize the 13th edition in Abu Dhabi. Given that the UAE is one of the most significant regional and international trade hubs, there is a wealth of knowledge that can be utilised and harnessed to provide workable solutions to these problems.

Past experiences in the UAE and the GCC have demonstrated these states’ capacity to deliver successful editions of multilateral events they host, such as the IMF and World Bank meetings that Dubai had in 2003.

A chance to show the UAE way

The UAE has amassed significant expertise in digital trade exchanges, which will help with the physical side of the movement of goods. Additionally, the Gulf state has established regional and international centers for commercial arbitration and has rules and regulations that fall under a sophisticated commercial legal framework that may be utilized in the future to assist the World Trade Organization.

The Emirates is fully aware of the crucial role that infrastructure and logistical transport play in the growth of trans-border commerce. There is a wealth of knowledge that resides here thanks to the experiences in establishing Jebel Ali, Khalifa Port, Hamriya, and Fujairah Port, as well as the air transportation infrastructure.

It is predicted that the Ukrainian conflict could be resolved by the time the next conference takes place in the first quarter of 2024, removing a significant barrier to international collaboration in all disciplines. Given the prolonged conflict, certain agreements that were made have come to a virtual standstill, and interim trade restrictions implemented. It has also produced actions and responses that had a significant impact on trade.

The combination of of these and other elements creates the ideal conditions for the 2024 WTO summit in Abu Dhabi to be a resounding success, which might result in a paradigm change inside the organization and rub off on global commerce.