Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Director-General Roberto Azevêdo and the membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), I would like to express appreciation to the Government of Tajikistan for hosting this Third China Round Table. The WTO is pleased and honoured to be here in this beautiful capital city of Dushanbe to hold this Round Table in partnership with the Government of Tajikistan and China.
On behalf of the WTO, I am pleased to welcome you all to this Third China Round Table. I look forward to interacting with this distinguished group of friends and colleagues over the next few days.
As one of the more recently acceded Article XII members of the WTO, I would like to pay tribute to the leadership that has been demonstrated by the Government of Tajikistan, led by H.E. President Emomali Rahmon, in agreeing to host this Round Table, which is the first to be hosted in Central Asia.
For a recently acceded member, Tajikistan is proactive and engaged. This is why I also seize this opportunity to acknowledge another leadership role Tajikistan has taken by ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement. Tajikistan will be the fifth WTO member, after Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States and Mauritius to ratify the Agreement and we hope that their leadership will encourage other WTO members to do likewise. I understand that Tajikistan's Instrument of Acceptance will soon be deposited with the WTO.
Let me also pay tribute to the Government of China for its continuing support for WTO accessions through “China’s LDCs and Accessions Programme". Accession is a strategic priority for the Director-General and for the WTO membership as a whole. The Annual China Round Table is the key and most visible pillar of the China Programme. It has made concrete and positive contributions to support WTO accessions through policy dialogue, sharing of best practices and capacity-building for trade policy. The WTO Secretariat organized the First China Round Table in Beijing in May 2012, followed by the Second Round Table in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, in October 2013. Today, we are here in Dushanbe for the Third China Round Table.
The China Round Table process is maturing. It is making a positive contribution to the rules-based multilateral trading system by improving understanding and providing a platform for the integration of our most vulnerable members and acceding governments into the global market economy, based on the rule of law and good governance.
Participants at this Round Table will be pleased to know that on 6 May, Director-General Azevêdo and Ambassador Yu of China signed the renewal of the MOU governing this programme with the Government of China. To proceed with implementation of the programme, China has generously agreed to contribute US$ 500,000. This extension will fund, among other things, the Fourth China Round Table, which will be hosted by the Government of Kenya on the margins of the 10th Ministerial Conference, in Nairobi, from 12 to 13 December.
WTO accession is a tool for domestic reform and integration into the rules-based multilateral trading system and the global economy. These reforms have assisted acceding governments in adjusting their domestic economy to global best practices, boosting growth and development, and, ultimately, improving the lives and prospects of their citizens. However, as Director-General Roberto Azevêdo recently noted, "WTO membership is not an end in itself". Realisation of the benefits of WTO membership is not automatic; it is inter-dependent with sustained domestic reforms and implementation of the obligations and commitments of membership. The experiences of Article XII members to date have demonstrated that all these reforms, faithfully implemented, become an indispensable part of the foundation for countries to grow, develop, prosper and integrate into the global economy. The reforms associated with WTO accession negotiations, if sustained, also ensure their resilience at those moments when the markets take a downward turn.
The theme of this Third China Round Table is "Post-Accession: Maximizing the Benefits of WTO Membership and Global Economic Integration". This theme was agreed in response to the demand of recently acceded Article XII members, particularly the LDCs.
The key question for this Round Table is how to provide support and effectively manage the transition from accession to membership so that new members can realize and maximize the benefits of WTO membership. At this Round Table, we have gathered Article XII members, big and small, which joined the WTO at different times over the past few years. Some are more recently acceded to the WTO, like Yemen, Tajikistan, Lao PDR, Samoa and Vanuatu, than others, such as the Kyrgyz Republic, Georgia, Oman, China, Cambodia and Ukraine. We also have the acceding governments, whose accessions are on the threshold of conclusion, such as Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. I hope the Round Table discussions will prompt their thinking and preparation for post-accession opportunities, challenges as well as the management of their future participation in the Organization as members. Our rules-based trading system requires members that are proactive and engaged to strengthen the system and continue to supply it with the fuel of relevance. It is a member-driven organization and it is vital that members engage.
Acceding governments still negotiating their membership such as Bhutan, Ethiopia and Sudan are keen to hear the experience of Article XII members.
The WTO is also pleased that a number of international and regional organizations and bilateral development partners that we invited are here with us today. They are partners with the WTO and its members. I am hopeful that they will listen to the exchange of experiences and share their menu of possible support and assistance to respond to the specific post-accession needs of your countries.
In sum, the hope of the WTO is that this Round Table over the next few days will provide a forum for Article XII members and acceding governments to share their experiences and best practices on post accessions. This should be a shared learning experience.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This Round Table is taking place at an important juncture for the WTO. As you know, 2015 is a momentous year for the Organization, as the WTO celebrates its 20th anniversary and will hold the first Ministerial Conference in Africa. Just over one month ago, we welcomed Seychelles as our 161st member, and only the second completed Article XII accession from Africa, after Cabo Verde where I had the honour to serve as Chairman of the Working Party. With your support, the WTO is on the threshold of concluding three more accessions this year - Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Liberia. I would ask all participants at this Round Table to support these three accessions as "2015 deliverables" by or at the WTO's 10th Ministerial Conference in December in Nairobi.
Of course, this Ministerial Conference will cover a range of important issues. Under the leadership of the Director-General, WTO members have been working hard to implement all aspects of the Bali Package. They have a full negotiating agenda, including a deadline of end July to conclude a detailed road map to tackle the remaining issues of the Doha Development Agenda. I am pleased to report that, after many years of paralysis, these negotiations are beginning to move again. Members are working on the detail, leaving their comfort zones, and are beginning to bring some new proposals to the table. While significant gaps still remain, members are determined to redouble their efforts and complete this work.
Members are also making progress in implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was a major outcome from the last Ministerial Conference in Bali. The Trade Facilitation Agreement is particularly critical for this region where many countries are landlocked - some even doubly landlocked - and require "freedom of transit" as a right in order to access foreign markets. By making the movement of goods across borders faster, easier and cheaper, it is estimated that this Agreement will reduce trade costs at the border by up to 15% for developing countries. Moreover, once implemented, this Agreement could inject up to $1 trillion per year into the global economy, creating 21 million jobs worldwide. So it is a major agreement and a major achievement for the WTO and all its members.
The challenge now is to get two-thirds of WTO members to ratify the Agreement for it to come into force. Some members, like Tajikistan, have already done so, but we need to accelerate the process. I am therefore counting on the leadership shown by Tajikistan to persuade other members, including your neighbours, here in Central Asia, to quickly ratify the Agreement, and thereby seize the benefits it offers.
We have a similar task before us in fulfilling the mandate of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. The aim of this declaration was to resolve the difficulties that some members — particularly LDCs — can face in making effective use of compulsory licensing to gain access to medicines. This was done in the form of a waiver in 2003 and subsequently became an amendment. As with the TFA Agreement, two-thirds of the membership have to confirm acceptance before the amendment comes into force. Around half of our members have already taken this step. We need 27 more acceptances to trigger entry into force. Again, I would like to count on your support to secure these acceptances this year, hopefully by the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.
In addition to implementing the Bali Package and the TRIPS amendment, and agreeing the work programme on the DDA by July, there are a series of major milestones ahead of us. We have the Global Review of Aid for Trade at the end of June, which is important for donors and beneficiaries. In October, we have the annual WTO Public Forum, which focuses on the WTO’s 20th anniversary, including its achievements on WTO accessions.
During the Public Forum, DG Azevêdo will launch the book entitled "WTO Accessions and Trade Multilateralism: Case Studies and Lessons for the WTO at Twenty". The book launch will take place back to back with the Second Global Seminar on WTO Accessions and the Ceremony marking the Ten-Year Anniversary of the WTO accession of Saudi Arabia, to which many of you have already being invited.
Finally, for the WTO, the year will end with the Fourth China Round Table, the first China Round Table on the African continent, back to back with the Tenth WTO Ministerial Conference, in Nairobi, the first to be held in Africa.
Let me conclude by saying that there is a huge opportunity for the Organization this year to generate momentum and energize itself to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. Article XII members and acceding governments have a role to play and contributions to make. I believe that this Third China Round Table, as part of a process that was initiated in 2012, can make direct and concrete contributions to strengthen the WTO and contribute in particular to supporting the "deliverables" for the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi.
We are privileged to have such high-level participants and distinguished guests at this Round Table. On behalf of the WTO, I look forward to hearing your insightful thoughts, ideas and suggestions during our discussions over the next few days.I am pleased to join First Deputy Prime Minister Davlatali Said and Mrs ZHAO Hong to declare open this Third China Round Table here in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.