WTO NEWS: SPEECHES — DG PASCAL LAMY

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Pascal Lamy’s speeches

  

Good morning and welcome to this Fifth Workshop for Heads of Investigating Authorities.

I am very pleased to see so many of you here.  It is indeed a rare occasion to have so much expert knowledge and experience in the field of trade remedies assembled in one room!  I am confident that this assembled expertise will make for very lively and interesting discussions. 

We have had good experiences in the past workshops of this kind, where Heads of Investigating Authorities have discussed issues of common interest in an informal setting.  The discussions have been varied, and very open.  The feedback from past participants has been uniformly positive.  I trust this year’s workshop will be no exception, and I hope that on the way back home you will all feel that your trip to Geneva has been worthwhile.

One new element this year is that, in addition to the Heads of active Investigating Authorities from developing members, we have also invited your counterparts from all six developed members with active Investigating Authorities — and all six have accepted the invitation.  We have done this at the explicit request of the attendees of the last workshop.  I wish to express my deep appreciation for their committing the time and resources to be here, particularly in view of the severe budgetary constraints under which we all have to operate these days.

I believe that this mix of Heads of Authorities from developed, as well as developing members, will be mutually beneficial to all participants, and in particular will ensure a rich discussion of the wide scope of topics on the agenda.  And perhaps I am an optimist, but I like to think that by the end of the workshop, you will have identified more that unites Investigating Authorities from both developing and developed members than what divides you.

This has perhaps never been more true than at present, with the world economy and most national economies, developed and developing, still feeling the severe impact of the crisis that started in 2008, and with world trade as well, remaining below its historical peak.  Indeed, although world merchandise exports in 2010 recorded their highest ever annual increase, that is, 14.5 per cent, following the 12 per cent drop in 2009, we witnessed a lower increase last year.

Of course, whatever the temporary fluctuations in trade flows, trade problems and frictions tend to persist, and often are accentuated, during cyclical downturns in economic activity and trade.  As you know, the WTO is playing its role in this regard, among other things, by issuing regular monitoring reports on members’ practices affecting trade, including the use of trade remedies.

You will recall that in previous global economic downturns trade remedy actions have tended to increase.  Many observers therefore expected a repetition of this pattern during the current crisis.  Looking at trade remedies as a whole, however, this has not happened to date.  In fact, concerning anti-dumping, the most frequently used trade remedy instrument, there has been a significant decline in initiations of new investigations, from 213 in 2008 down to 153 in 2011.  As for safeguards, although initiations surged between 2008 and 2009, they have been declining since then.  The trends in countervailing measures are different, as here initiations have followed an upward trend since 2005, with indications that this might continue in the coming months and years.  That said, for the time being, the absolute numbers of countervailing initiations are far below those of anti-dumping.

Although overall trade remedy activity has not increased since the start of the current crisis, the interest in becoming a user of trade remedies continues to grow.  Of the 153 WTO members, close to 100 have put in place the required legal framework to conduct trade remedy investigations, and this number is growing.  Of these 100 members, on average, about half (counting the EU as 27) initiate a trade remedy investigation per year.  Since 1995, more than 70 members have conducted trade remedy investigations.  Thus more and more members are equipped to use trade remedies, meaning that the activity level could increase at any time. This stems from capacity building, an effort in which, as per its mandate, the WTO Secretariat plays an important role.

The WTO Secretariat has been very active in providing members, on request, with hands-on practical training in the conduct of trade remedy investigations.  In fact, all the developing members in this room have benefited from WTO training on trade remedies, the vast majority from dedicated national training workshops.

The Rules Division, which is where the expertise in trade defence instruments lies in the Secretariat, has recently “overhauled” its e-learning materials on trade remedies.  These materials will be further expanded with the objective that the theoretical part of trade remedy training can be done through distance learning, with future workshops to focus on practical exercises only.

We are also developing a computer-based “mock” anti-dumping investigation which will then be used in workshops to complement the e-training.  Trainees will then be able to do a “real” investigation during the course of a workshop.  No more theory during workshops — only action!

The target date for completion of the improvement of these expanded training tools is the end of this year — keep your fingers crossed!  I understand that your views and inputs on these matters will be sought during this workshop.

The Secretariat is, as you can see, trying to address the requests by our developing members to upgrade their capacity in this field. The demand is there, as evidenced by the ACP submission to the Rules Negotiating Group in 2010.

It is for all these reasons that this workshop is both timely and important.  It provides an opportunity, during this very difficult period, for all of you to escape for a short while from the trenches of investigations for some moments of open-ended reflection and discussion with your peers, including on the basis of thematic presentations by experts.  I hope and believe that these very informal discussions of issues of common interest will help all of you to enhance your understanding of one another’s systems, to identify common ground, and to forge new professional contacts and communication channels.  I thus encourage all of you to take full advantage of the workshop by sharing your own experiences and learning from the experiences of others.

With that, I wish all of you the best for a very fruitful and successful workshop.

Thank you.

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