WTO: 2016 NEWS ITEMS
TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT: CURRENT AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVES OVER 20 YEARS OF TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT
The session was opened by Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, who said: “As Director-General, I have sought to place development at the centre of the WTO’s work. And I think that the results we have achieved in the Ministerial Conferences of Bali and Nairobi show that this commitment is shared across the membership. In both meetings we delivered a number of decisions aimed at helping developing and least developed countries to join trade flows and build their trading skills. We must continue building on those achievements.” He added: “We should look at what more the WTO can do to ensure more people can use trade as a tool for development.” His opening remarks are available here.
The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Joakim Reiter, also participated in the opening session. He said: “We should not care about trade for the sake of trade, but because the power it has to transform the lives of our peoples and their standards of living. And trade, in many ways, has lived up to that expectation. Recent history has proved that the power of trade is not an empty promise. Trade's expansion during the last few decades enabled the profound geopolitical and economic transformation we have witnessed in our lifetimes: the rise of the South, the emancipation of the developing world.” He added: “There is still ample scope for a forward-looking trade and development agenda, including in this house - as the global legislator for trade.” His remarks are available here.
Session 1 featured a number of speakers representing academia, international organizations and the WTO membership.
Benin's Ambassador to the WTO, Mr Eloi Laourou, focused his presentation on development factors regarding global value chains (GVCs), including the importance of infrastructure and a regulatory and institutional environment. He highlighted the need for capacity building to help improve access to GVCs, which would also contribute to poverty reduction, particularly in LDCs.
The European Union's Ambassador to the WTO, Mr Marc Vanheukelen, outlined what the EU has done to make trade and development “mutually reinforcing”. He said that trade alone is not enough and that it should be accompanied by appropriate infrastructure and a sound regulatory environment.
Mr Marcus Bartley Johns from the World Bank discussed the link between trade and poverty reduction and outlined some of the challenges facing developing countries, especially LDCs. He said that more needs to be done to restore trade growth and lower trade costs.
Mr Jaime De Melo from the University of Geneva discussed how more can be done to help the LDCs benefit increasingly from the trading system. Among other things, he emphasized the importance of effective special and differential treatment provisions for developing countries, and the simplification of preferential rules of origin.
The second session looked to the future to see what work needs to be undertaken to make trade work even better as a tool for development.
Ambassador Shah from Pakistan said that the CTD was an ideal forum for experience sharing in areas such as global and regional value chains as well as technology transfer. He suggested that another key area of the CTD's future focus could be “contributing to the identification of ways in which the WTO work can support the achievement of SDGs [sustainable development goals] and monitoring that contribution”.
Ms Débora Ponce, from the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the WTO, highlighted some of the challenges facing the work of the committee, and said that members should reflect on how to enhance the interaction of the CTD with other committees.
Mr John Drummond from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) described how open markets for trade and investment help to drive economic growth. He underlined the importance of removing constraints for the efficient functioning of global value chains and stressed the need to achieve reforms in the agriculture sector and to reduce restrictions in the services sector.
Ms Hanne Melin, Director of Global Public Policy at eBay, brought the private sector perspective to the debate. She argued that online platforms have a huge potential to allow a large number of firms, especially small companies, to participate in international trade. These platforms have led to a reduction in trade costs, which is of major benefit to developing countries.
The sessions were followed by a dialogue with the audience. Members and panellists concluded that the CTD should continue to be a key forum for raising trade and development concerns in the WTO.