Skip to content

Chairman Jason Smith and Trade Subcommittee Chair Adrian Smith Statement on the 13th World Trade Organization Ministerial

March 08, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (NE-03) issued the following statement on the outcomes of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) 13th Ministerial Conference, which concluded on March 1 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“The outcomes of the recent World Trade Organization ministerial meeting were far too limited and do not provide the broad reform that is needed to advance American interests. However, the limited outcomes do reflect two key American priorities on which Congress and the Ways and Means Committee have spoken clearly. Since the 12th WTO Ministerial two years ago, congressional Republicans, as well as increasing numbers of Democrats, have made clear that the United States must oppose any waivers to U.S. intellectual property rights and support an extension of the e-commerce moratorium to prevent other countries from imposing tariffs on the movement of data. We were pleased to see both of those outcomes achieved last week at the 13th Ministerial.

“However, we remain concerned that the Biden Administration does not take seriously the importance of strong digital trade rules for U.S. competitiveness—another temporary extension of the e-commerce moratorium represents the lowest common denominator for digital trade. Going forward, we urge the Biden Administration to show leadership and stand up for strong digital trade rules across the board, including a permanent extension of the e-commerce moratorium.

“The limited WTO Ministerial outcomes also highlight many critical U.S. priorities that must be addressed in future negotiations, whether with the full WTO membership or a smaller group of likeminded countries. China continues to abuse its position as a self-declared ‘developing nation’ in order to evade stronger rules and take on lesser obligations. American farmers continue to face inflated competition due to unfair subsidies provided by other WTO members, many of whom fail to do the bare minimum by disclosing subsidies as required by existing WTO rules. The WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism currently provides no final resolution to dispute because of failure so far to address longstanding U.S. concerns including overreach by Appellate body members, which leaves American farmers, workers, and small businesses without meaningful recourse. The Ways and Means will continue to pressure the Biden Administration to combat China and level the playing field for the American people to ensure their priorities are advanced at the WTO.”

Key Background:

WTO members periodically meet in the format of a “Ministerial Conference,” approximately every two years. Prior to this Ministerial there were 164 member economies in the WTO. Comoros and Timor-Leste completed the WTO accession process during the Ministerial, bringing membership to 166 WTO economies. 

On February 7, the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee held a hearing to express congressional Republicans’ views on critical trade matters that would be discussed at the WTO Ministerial and to encourage the Biden Administration to show U.S. leadership by advocating forcefully to achieve U.S. priorities while strongly opposing bad outcomes that would undermine the national interest. The outcomes that WTO members ultimately agreed to at the Ministerial on upholding the e-commerce moratorium and rejecting an expansion of the TRIPS waiver were consistent with the views strongly expressed by Ways and Means Committee Republicans during the hearing.

Read key highlights of the hearing here.