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I expressed the hope yesterday that this vibrant country would inspire us.
My hopes have been exceeded.
We heard that there are two Asias — one that has harnessed globalization
for extraordinary growth and another that wants to catch up. We heard that
these countries understand the opportunities and challenges — that they
are ready and willing to embrace them — but that in key areas they need
international support. And we heard that trade liberalization is only one
half of the equation. The Doha Round is about creating trade
opportunities. Aid for Trade is about making trade happen.
Above all, we heard the start of a real dialogue — between finance and
trade, between trade and development, between business and governments,
between countries and regions — about where exactly the challenges lie and
how we should work together to answer them.
I want to take a moment to highlight some of the key messages I will be
taking away from the last day and a half:
First, leadership. Asia’s trade powerhouses were no accident. The key
element of their success was political leadership — a focused and
sustained commitment to export-led growth — backed by a comprehensive
strategy for getting there. The message we’ve heard over the last day and
a half is that trade must be mainstreamed in all facets of national policy
if countries are going to harness globalization for their benefit.
Having a clear strategy - backed by government as a whole and the private
sector - is also one part of the answer to coordinating donors. It is how
to ensure that donors respond to national priorities, not the other way
around. This is real “ownership”.
Second, priorities. Countries and regions have to focus on what matters
most to increasing exports — and the areas that can deliver the biggest
return on investment. To have a fifty priorities is to have no priorities.
The challenge for many countries in the region — and it is a big one both
substantively and politically — is to agree on the two or three objectives
that will impact most on their trade growth - and then pursue them
consistently over the long term.
Third, predictability and accessibility of financing. There is a clear
need for donors to follow through on their Hong Kong and broader
Gleneagles commitments — and we should focus on how we deliver on these
promises, rather than second guessing them. At the same time, efficiency
and effectiveness in the delivery of financing can be just as important as
the amounts involved — especially in a fast changing global economy.
Donors and financial institutions need to show progress on this front as
well — by reducing red tape and fast-tracking disbursement. This is a
critical issue for recipient countries. It is also an issue for taxpayers
at home who want to see their money producing tangible development
Fourth, co-operation. The reality is that no one agency can deliver Aid
for Trade single-handedly. We have learned that where there are capacity
“gaps” in the region they often result from a breakdown of cooperation and
coherence, not just a lack of resources. Governments need to coordinate
internally. Donors and financial institutions need to coordinate with each
other and with governments. Countries need to coordinate regionally.
Finally, the key role of the private sector. We not only need to listen to
traders, investors and entrepreneurs, but bring them into the conversation
- as we have done over the last day and a half. Aid for Trade will be
relevant if it is “market driven”. It risks irrelevance if it becomes a
dialogue among bureaucrats.
As I mentioned yesterday, the plan now is to produce a concise report of
this meeting — under the responsibility of the ADB and the WTO — which
will be the transmission belt for your ideas, conclusions and
recommendations at the Global Review in Geneva in November.
My view is that the report should be action-oriented — shifting gears from
a discussion of concepts, which has been necessary up to now, to a
discussion of specific proposals aimed at concrete results. First, we need
to identify two or three key priorities for the region — ones that will
give us a clear set of objectives to aim for over the medium term, and
against which we can measure our success. For example, I have heard a lot
about the need to concentrate on trade financing, trade facilitation, and
trade-related infrastructure. Second, we need to set out a clear timetable
- for mapping priorities, mobilizing financing, and implementing projects.
Third, we need to identify a mechanism for bringing together the key
regional stakeholders and for moving the process forward. I believe the
ADB is ideally placed to play this catalytic role.
This report cannot — and should not — provide all the answers now, but it
should ask the right questions — with a view to making a start on
addressing them in Geneva in November.
We need to deliver results — without at the same time raising unrealistic
expectations. We need to provide an Aid-for-Trade plan that is relevant to
this region, fills “gaps”, and sets out ambitious but also realizable and
specific objectives. Above all, we need to show that the world trading
system can — and will — deliver more benefits for those who are still on
the margins. That is why the current WTO Round has development as its
central pillar — and why progress in the Round is so critical for Asia and
the world. Aid for Trade — I repeat — is no substitute for a successful
Doha Development Round. It is also no substitute for the right domestic
policies. But Aid for Trade is an increasingly important and necessary
This meeting has taken a big step forward. The Philippines has inspired
us. Let's keep up the momentum.
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