The Director-General joined Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Amina Mohamed, at the WTO’s Fifth Global Review of Aid for Trade to discuss the 10th Ministerial Conference (MC10), which will take place in December. Minister Mohamed will chair MC10, the first to be held on the African continent.
The Director-General highlighted the importance of securing outcomes on development issues in Nairobi, describing it as an “acid test of our success”.
“This ministerial conference will be our first opportunity since our successful meeting in Bali in 2013 to show that the multilateral trading system can deliver negotiated outcomes — particularly for the poorest and the most marginalised,” he declared.
“I think there is a real sense of expectation out there,” he added, citing a recent global survey which found that African respondents had the most positive views on world trade. “Let’s reward that faith.”
Since the creation of the WTO in 1995, around two-thirds of poverty reduction has come from economic growth in developing countries, with trade serving as a major engine for that growth. But more needs to be done, the Director-General said, particularly on the negotiating front, where the WTO “has struggled to deliver”.
Recently, WTO members have made progress in stepping up engagement on the key issues, demonstrating a willingness to discuss new approaches. The Director-General acknowledged that it will be difficult to find solutions, but insisted that progress was possible.
“It’s going to be a long and winding road, but that’s how it always is here,” he added. “Nairobi is a very critical landmark, we have to deliver something credible.”
Minister Mohamed also stressed the importance of the development dimension for a successful outcome in Nairobi, particularly in contributing to the UN’s post-2015 sustainable development goals.
“We must deliver a pragmatic package on development,” she said. “In this 20th year of the WTO we should seek to strengthen trade multilateralism; it has promoted an inclusive, rules-based and non-discriminatory trading system and contributed to rapid economic growth.”
Minister Mohamed also highlighted the importance of advancing on trade facilitation. Steps already taken by Kenya and its partner countries in the East African Community have already led to significant time and cost savings in moving goods overland; a container shipped from Mombasa to Kampala can now take as little as six days to deliver instead of the 20-30 days required in the past, while the cost has fallen significantly.
To this end, Minister Mohamed stressed that WTO members should bring the Trade Facilitation Agreement into force as soon as possible. Kenya expects to secure ratification of the Agreement shortly and hopes others will do the same in order to ensure entry into force by MC10, she said.
The Fifth Global Review is bringing together more than 1,000 participants from around the world to examine actions being taken to reduce trade costs so that developing countries, and in particular least-developed countries (LDCs), can participate more effectively in global trade. Further details on the Global Review, which will run up to 2 July, are available here.
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