Abu Dhabi, UAE, February 26, 2024, The opening ceremony of the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13) on Monday saw the formal accession of Timor-Leste and the Comoros to the World Trade Organization (WTO), marking the first countries to join the organization in eight years.

The ceremony, held in Abu Dhabi and attended by WTO leadership, dignitaries and over 150 ministers, included speeches from MC13 President Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi of the UAE, the Presidents Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta and the President of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, as well as WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

In her remarks, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala noted the milestone of Timor-Leste and the Comoros’ accession, bringing WTO membership to 166 countries. She also referenced current global challenges like food inflation, the war in Ukraine and slowing growth in major economies, stating “this MC13 is expected to be a challenging one.”

The four-day conference is themed “Delivering for People Through Trade” and aims to make progress on issues including fisheries subsidies, agriculture and e-commerce. An agreement prohibiting certain harmful fisheries subsidies was approved at last year’s MC12 meeting after 22 years of negotiations.

The MC13 opening highlighted the upcoming 30th anniversary of the WTO’s founding on January 1, 2025. Dr. Al Zeyoudi closed by calling for unity and consensus to achieve outcomes benefitting people worldwide. Further negotiations and meetings will continue throughout the week.

President J. Ramos-Horta’s speech at the following link: https://presidenciarepublica.tl/prstatementatomkconference/