The Director-General said:
"Technology and innovation are disrupting the job market at a pace that we have never seen before. Our economies must be ready. Young people need higher levels of education. The workforce needs help to adapt and to develop new skills. We don't have a ready-made recipe for this – countries will have to find out what works for them. And for a more immediate impact, we need to ensure that the benefits of trade reach more people. Measures that restrict or distort trade won't achieve this – they will do the opposite."
The Director-General recalled the successes that the WTO has delivered in recent years, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement which entered into force in February this year. He stressed that the WTO's Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December will be an important opportunity to make further progress. He continued:
"These successes show that the system is working, but it is not perfect. We need to keep updating it. Trade issues are always sensitive – especially when economic times are tough – and so we are seeing new tensions arising in different areas. The best way to resolve trade differences is through discussion and cooperation. But for this path to work, we also need political commitment and a real sense of urgency to find concrete solutions. Otherwise there will be no confidence in the process. The WTO and I myself will always be available to help here."
DG Azevêdo also pointed to a number of trade-related measures which have been put in place recently as a result of geopolitical tensions. He said:
"This is not new. Trade sanctions and similar security-related measures have been adopted for decades. This is unfortunate, but it is also a fact of life. What truly concerns me is the fact that these measures are finding their way into the WTO dispute settlement system, which could cause irreparable damage. I urge leaders to be exceptionally cautious – both when deciding to adopt such measures, and also when responding to them. And again, we are here to help. The WTO has a great track record of supporting members to resolve these issues through discussion."