Speech/statement | Date: 28/10/2020
By Former State Secretary Marianne Hagen (28 October)
State Secretary Marianne Hagen's statement at the digital OECD ministerial meeting October 2020.
Global trade has been severely affected by Covid-19, and trade patterns are changing due to the pandemic. Additional challenges have emerged such as ensuring access to vital goods and the need for robust global value chains.
Protectionism and new trade barriers are not the answer to the global crisis. The recovery from the pandemic calls for more multilateral cooperation, not less. Trade is essential for revenue generation and jobs, and a key part of the solution to how we build back better after the crisis. Norway believes that keeping global markets open is of paramount importance in limiting both the short- and long-term consequences of the pandemic. Borders should remain open to movements of goods and services. This is crucial for access to food and medical products, as well as limiting the negative effects on jobs and poverty.
We need to be transparent about any measures we impose in response to the pandemic, ensuring that any such measures are temporary and minimally trade distorting and that we do what we can to keep trade flowing. We must increase international cooperation in order to avoid creating disruptions in the production and distribution of essential goods in times of need. The imposition of export restrictions at the onset of the crisis was a direct consequence of the limited access to medical supplies and protective equipment.
The lack of vital medicines and medical supplies during the crises has led many members to consider supporting domestic manufacturers in ramping up the production of the necessary supplies. A premise for Norway is that any domestic measures aimed at the expansion of domestic production are in accordance with current WTO rules.
I would also like to use this opportunity to comment on an element in the background material by underlining the need for a clear distinction between ownership and subsidies. State ownership or state investments do not necessarily imply subsidies. The focus should not be on state owned enterprises’ ownership structure alone. The core issues are related to whether a publically owned enterprise operates in the same manner as it would if it were privately owned. We do not agree that public ownership in itself should be avoided.
The WTO and the multilateral, rules-based trading system plays a key role in ensuring the flow of essential goods and services across borders and is essential for a strong, resilient, green and inclusive economic recovery. It has been essential for the international economic growth we have experienced the last 50 years. I believe it will continue to be so for the next 50 years as well.
The OECD has played an important role in providing fact-based analysis and policy recommendations. This is an essential contribution to the ongoing discussions of these complex issues.