The Abu Dhabi meeting of the World Trade Organisation comes with the prospect of major tweaks to the current rules-based regime. Image Credit: @wto/X

Abu Dhabi: Ministers and trade officials have gathered in Abu Dhabi for the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) biennial ministerial conference opening today to debate the possibility for new global rules.

On the morning of the three-day conference, UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed leaders, ministers, and senior officials to WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi.

In a statement, he said: “Trade is a key driver of prosperity and helps to promote peace and understanding between nations. We look forward to working with our international partners in supporting a global trading system that brings benefits to all.”

Ahead of the three-day conference, the UAE donated $10 million towards WTO’s three trust funds, including the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), and the Women Exporters in the Digital Economy (WEIDE) Fund.

On Sunday, the UAE also announced a $5 million contribution towards the $50 million WEIDE fund for women exporters. The contribution from the UAE aims to benefit developing members and least-developed country (LDC) members, said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The venue for the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi. More than 160 ministers are expected to attend. Image Credit: Dhanusha Gokulan/Chief Reporter

New trade deal

The WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) hopes to strike deals by consensus. Still, such efforts are becoming more and more difficult as signs grow that the global economy is fragmenting into separate blocs, WTO Chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Sunday.

"Politically, it's quite a tough time," Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, referring to wars, tensions and upcoming elections. "(But) I'm hopeful we will still be able to pull out some of the deliverables."

While a deal among some 160 ministers on getting necessary internal reforms is plagued with obstacles, negotiators are still hoping for an agreement that could buoy global fish stocks and protect fishermen by banning government subsidies, according to a Reuters report.

Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade and the conference chair, said that trade and sustainability would be on the agenda to ensure the WTO's future relevance.

"The next generation will not have the same trade ecosystem that we have nowadays - and we don't want the organisation to be outdated when the next generation runs the trade dossier," he said.