The UK’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and UN in Geneva, Simon Manley, gave a statement during Iceland’s WTO Trade Policy Review (TPR).

Simon Manley CMG

Thank you very much Chair, and welcome to your first TPR, and an equally warm welcome to the delegation from Reykjavík led by the Director General. Great to have you all here. And let me also express our thanks to the WTO Secretariat for their report, to Iceland for its report and of course to Ambassador Kelly for her ever insightful comments.

Let me start by thanking Iceland for the significant preparations and work which I know has gone into this Review, as any other Review. As you said DG, that’s all the more challenging for a smaller country like yours but small is absolutely beautiful on this occasion, so thank you for all your work on that. And since I know you’re all going to be celebrating your 80th anniversary of independence on Monday, I hope that you’ll be able to go away from here and have a big party on Monday to celebrate all the hard work that has gone into this.

The work that you’ve done, the work the Secretariat has done gives us a really good basis for the discussion today. And I think it’s really impressive, both to hear from you and to read the reports, to hear about the robust economic growth post-pandemic, to hear what you’ve been doing across so many fields of economic activity, whether it be on gender equality or on sustainability. Your growth records are incredibly impressive. As you’ve set out: over 5% in 2021, almost 9% in 2022. And that is obviously, in large part, due to strong export-led growth, led by services, particularly tourism, aluminium production, fisheries. And that is of course the product of that commitment to free and fair trade which you set out at the start. Similarly, your really strong renewable energies market accounting for over 90% of your energy consumption, helping you to maintain a strong growth rate, but also giving you protection during a period of geopolitical tension and high global energy prices. Similarly, a really impressive medium-term fiscal strategy focusing, as you know, on expenditure restraint, revenue generation and the challenges of inflation.

So let me then echo what Ambassador Kelly said and what you referred to, both in terms of the ranking, the first place ranking in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Pay Gap Report, highest participation in the labour market amongst the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. It’s an extraordinary record. And it’s an extraordinary record of women’s economic empowerment. So let me thank you for your responses to several of the questions that we have posed before this Review, trying to learn to be honest from your inspiring example on gender equality. And of course it’s not just about what you’ve done nationally, as both you and Ambassador Kelly have said, it’s also about what you’ve done multilaterally, including in this house, building on the Buenos Aires Declaration.

Back last year I had the unenviable task of following in the very large and agile footsteps of Ambassador Gunnarsson, when I succeeded him as one of the co-chairs of our Informal Working Group on Trade and Gender here in the WTO, alongside my very distinguished colleagues from El Salvador and Cabo Verde. You may not be co-chairing anymore, but you continue to make a really important contribution to the work of that Informal Working Group and it’s great, but I have to say I would expect nothing less from a country which has such a proud history of female leadership and women’s economic empowerment.

I’d also like to thank you for the responses to our other advanced written questions, particularly in response to our question on Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) Allocations, very insightful. Our producers value further understanding Iceland’s TRQ allocation system and we would be grateful for any steps that Iceland would be willing to take to create a more transparent system, including updating notifications under Article 7.3 and 8.2 of the Agreement on Import Licencing Procedures.

Chair, as well as learning from Iceland, we welcome this Trade Policy Review as an opportunity to reflect upon the closeness of our bilateral relationship. So, we’d like to thank Iceland for its close cooperation in the implementation of our comprehensive FTA which you referred to, DG, which will be presented very soon at the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements. Since it has come into effect, we have had several opportunities to deepen that cooperation. You very kindly hosted the second annual Joint Committee last year, and we looked for further ways to realise the full benefits of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for our businesses and our consumers. On the implementation of the Chapter on Recognition of Professional Qualifications, it has allowed our professionals to continue to access a smooth and transparent system for qualification recognition. At our recent meeting on Services, Investment and Digital just last month, we made some further progress on those key issues.

Of course, it’s not just about the FTA. We signed back in 2020 a Joint Vision which strengthens our relationship across a whole series of areas, not just trade and investment, but also fisheries; research and innovation; regional and international cooperation; defence and security; climate change and the Arctic; and people-to-people links.  We’ve also concluded several agreements since the last Trade Policy Review, a Youth Mobility Scheme, a Social Security Coordination agreement, Arctic Science Memorandum of Understanding. And, of course, as NATO allies, we share a common outlook on foreign and security policy for a common cooperation against the security threats we face and, of course, you have joined our UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force back three years ago. 

Inevitably, given those close links, we work really closely together in this organisation, as in many others. But we are, as Ambassador Kelly hinted, particularly grateful and particularly recognise the role that you have played within the Fisheries negotiations.  A true friend of fish. And that’s not just about the positive example you have set nationally, as you set out, DG, in terms of the lack of subsidies, the very robust fisheries management systems that you have put in place for sustainable fisheries. It’s also about the crucial role that you played in the negotiations here in this house. And we look forward to working closely with Ambassador Gunnarsson in the next few weeks so that we can try and bring home the agreement that we so narrowly failed to agree back in Abu Dhabi. I really hope we can do that by the time of the General Council, Chair, next month. And I don’t want to go ‘fishing’ for compliments to the Ambassador, but truly ‘any-fin’ is possible under his guidance, and I really hope he won’t feel ‘koi’ with my heartfelt praise and thanks. So, let’s do the right thing and deliver, not only for Ambassador Gunnarsson, but because it is the right thing for our oceans and for the fishing communities that depend upon them.

Let me just conclude, Chair, by thanking Iceland for its preparations for this Review, for its cooperation with what is after all such an important transparency exercise in this organisation, and I wish all the delegation the best for their upcoming Independence Day celebrations. Skal!

Published 18 June 2024