From IISD's SDG Knowledge Hub

Meeting at the Group of 7 (G7) Trade Track, the G7 countries issued a joint communiqué, underscoring their commitment to free and fair trade, a rules-based multilateral trading system (MTS), and the modernization of international trade rules. The ministers reaffirm the “vital role” of trade in building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and in contributing to the SDGs.

The UK’s 2021 G7 Presidency convened the G7 Trade Ministerial meeting from 27-28 May 2021. Led by the UK Department for International Trade, the G7 Trade Track seeks to “shape a bold global vision for economic recovery that sees us build back better together – greener, more prosperous, resilient, and fair.” It focuses on four priority areas: World Trade Organization (WTO) reform; trade and health; digital trade; and trade and climate policy.

On WTO reform, the G7 countries agree on the need to unite behind a shared vision to ensure the MTS is “reformed to be free and fair for all, more sustainable, resilient and responsive to the needs of global citizens.” They support WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her efforts to modernize the Organization, and welcome cooperation through the G20 and the wider WTO membership towards “tangible results” at the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12).

On trade and climate policy, the G7 countries recognize the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) at the WTO as an opportunity to build momentum to achieve coordinated solutions for global problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss, including through the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, UK, in November. The ministers agree that countries should work collaboratively to address the risk of carbon leakage and its potential impact on countries that have adopted rigorous approaches to reduce carbon emissions.

The G7 countries also commit to develop trade policy approaches that support sustainable supply chains for forest and agricultural commodities, including through discussions on a set of shared global principles and a common roadmap to global sustainable supply chains to help conserve and sustainably manage forests and other ecosystems while promoting trade and development.

On trade and health, the G7 will prioritize discussions and support work at the WTO to identify solutions to expand global vaccine production and distribution. The G7 countries will work with industry, the COVAX Manufacturing Taskforce, and the ACT-A Manufacturing Working Group to increase capacity and engage on forward supply planning to accelerate the progress of vaccination programmes around the world.

The G7 countries support open, diversified, secure, and resilient supply chains in the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and their components, as well as broad global availability, and invite WTO members to formulate pragmatic, effective, and holistic solutions to enhance cooperation and better anticipate challenges. The ministers reiterate that any trade measures designed to tackle COVID-19 need to be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary. In seeking to protect the most vulnerable, they state, it is important to ensure such measures do not create unnecessary barriers to trade and are consistent with WTO rules.

With regard to digital trade, the ministers oppose digital protectionism, and agree that global digital markets must be open for entrepreneurialism and innovation to thrive. The G7 believes digital trade should support jobs, raise living standards, and respond to the needs of consumers, and supports a permanent prohibition of customs duties on electronic transmissions. The G7 countries express their commitment to negotiating the joint statement initiative (JSI) on e-commerce “in an open, inclusive, and transparent way,” for the outcome to “benefit workers, consumers, and businesses in developing economies, as well as those in developed economies.”

Further, the communiqué expresses concern about market-distorting policies and practices, particularly harmful industrial subsidies, such as those that lead to severe excess capacity, a lack of transparency regarding the state’s role in the economy, and forced technology transfer. It reaffirms the G7 countries’ commitment to open markets and a global trading system “that should not be undermined by unfair trade,” and calls for negotiations to develop stronger international rules on market-distorting industrial subsidies and trade-distorting actions by state enterprises.

Modernizing trade, WTO dispute settlement, special and differential treatment (S&DT), forced labor, fisheries subsidies negotiations, and women’s economic empowerment are also among the issues the G7 countries address in their joint communiqué.

The G7 members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, plus the EU. In the run up to the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June, the UK’s G7 Presidency is hosting seven Ministerial Tracks that cover economic, environmental, health, trade, technology, development, and foreign policy issues. The inaugural G7 Trade Track meeting convened in March 2021. [G7 Trade Ministers’ Communiqué] [G7 Press Release] [UK’s G7 Presidency Website] [Chair’s Statement by the G7 Countries at the Inaugural G7 Trade Track in March 2021]