DG Azevêdo joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others at a meeting convened by China’s Premier Li Keqiang on 19 September to discuss progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda. He pledged that the WTO would keep playing its part to ensure that the benefits of trade are spread as widely as possible, in support of development and jobs around the world.
The Director-General said:
“The experience of the Millennium Development Goals showed the transformative potential of trade, as part of the policy mix. That’s why it is a recurring theme in the 2030 Agenda. We must ensure that the benefits of trade reach more people. That means building on the decision of WTO members to abolish agricultural export subsidies, which is a crucial target of the SDG on Zero Hunger, by delivering new trade agreements that support growth and development. It also means continuing to mobilise resources to help developing countries and LDCs to improve their trading skills and capacity, so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that arise. And it means working to cut trade costs, which are often highest for poorer countries and smaller businesses. The implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement will make a big difference here.
“However, if we want to realize these benefits, we also need to stand up for trade. There is a worrying rise in populist anti-trade rhetoric, and so we need to be more vocal and convincing in making the case for trade. If we see countries turning inwards and erecting new barriers then this will harm us all — and it will hurt the poorest the most. We cannot afford to let that happen.”
DG Azevêdo took part in a number of other meetings in New York, including an UNCTAD panel session, focusing on empowering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through e-trade and investment facilitation. The Director-General said:
“I think we all want to see a trading system which is truly inclusive — for me, this is the number one priority. So as part of this we have to confront the fact that trading internationally can often be much more costly and difficult for SMEs. The smaller the business, the bigger the barriers can seem. The world has long been looking for ways to overcome this problem — and now technology is providing a major part of the solution.
“Online platforms can dramatically reduce the cost of doing business across borders — eliminating the barriers created by distance. It’s vital that SMEs can leverage this technology. Achieving this will require technical and financial assistance, along with action to tackle a range of other economic and technological barriers such as underdeveloped financial and payment systems, low consumer trust, and weak legal and regulatory frameworks. The WTO, UNCTAD and the private sector must work together in this effort.”