DG Azevêdo is attending a United Nations summit, where member states are set to endorse the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  The Agenda sets out 17 proposed goals and 169 targets aimed at stimulating action over the next 15 years towards building a more equitable and sustainable world. 

The Agenda places significant emphasis on the role that trade can play in achieving sustainable development. The proposed “Goal 17” specifically calls for promoting a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the WTO, including through the conclusion of negotiations within the Doha Development Agenda.

The Director-General spoke at an Interactive Dialogue on "Ending Poverty and Hunger" at UN headquarters on 25 September. His speech is available below.



Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to join you today, and to pledge that the WTO will play its full role in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.

Trade is one of the best anti-poverty reduction tools in history.

By boosting economic growth, trade was a catalyst for reaching the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty in half – well ahead of this year's deadline.

So it is right that trade continues to play its full part within the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. And I think a look at the new goals underlines this point. To take a few examples:

  • Goal 2 looks at reforming agricultural markets to end hunger – which is a key element of our agenda at the WTO.
  • Goal 3 reaffirms the flexibilities offered by the WTO's rules on intellectual property to protect public health.
  • Goal 8 calls for the increased support for the poorest countries to participate in global trade, particularly through the WTO's Aid for Trade initiative.
  • Goal 14 calls for action on fisheries subsidies to tackle over-capacity and over-fishing, which again is an important element of our work.
  • And Goal 17 calls for the conclusion of negotiations on the WTO's Doha Development Agenda.

To help deliver on these goals, and maximise the power of trade in tackling poverty and hunger, we must ensure that more people can participate in the trading system.

At present many factors, such as poor infrastructure, lack of essential services, gender discrimination, conflict, rural isolation and high trading costs, obstruct people's capacity to join trading flows. So we need to remove those barriers.

In doing this, I think we have two key tasks.

First, we have to help build communities' capacity to trade.

Just throwing open markets won't do the job. We have to give people the tools and the skills that they need to compete, and to meet the quality standards which many markets require.

Practical capacity-building support is essential here – and so too is proper access to trade finance.

A series of programmes under the WTO's Aid for Trade initiative help countries to improve their trading ability and tackle their infrastructure constraints.

To date more than 245 billion dollars have been disbursed through the programme.

Research has found that one dollar invested in Aid for Trade results in nearly 8 dollars of exports from developing countries in general – and in 20 dollars of exports for the poorest countries.

That's why the SDGs call for an increase in this form of support. And that's why we need to keep strengthening this work.

Second, we must reform trade rules to make them fairer, more sustainable, and more pro-development.

This means implementing the decisions that WTO members took at our Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013. This includes:

  • steps on agriculture, including on food security,
  • a package of decisions for LDCs,
  • and the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

All too often, high trading costs caused by border delays and red tape exclude developing countries from joining trade flows.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to tackle these costs by streamlining customs processes around the world. The Agreement could cut the cost of trade by up to 15% in developing countries and create 18 million developing country jobs.

And there are other potentially significant benefits. In Africa, for example, only 5% of imported food staples are bought from other African countries. This is due, in part, to intra-regional trade barriers. Lowering these barriers would cut the cost of intra-African trade, providing opportunities for poor farmers to increase their income while at the same time helping to improve food security.

So we need to implement those decisions as soon as possible.

But we also need to reach new agreements.

The WTO's 10th Ministerial Conference will be held in Nairobi this December. It will be the first time such a conference has ever been held in Africa, and so it must deliver for Africa – and for developing and least developed countries around the world.

Negotiations have been tough, especially in some key areas. But I sense that a set of deliverables in Nairobi is within reach – including significant steps on development and LDC issues.

A successful Nairobi conference would be the biggest contribution the WTO could make to advancing the issues we are discussing here today.

And it would be a fitting end to this year, in which the world has come together to commit to improving lives – now and in the future.

Thank you.


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