Following the approval of the two chairs by the General Council, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo thanked the departing General Council Chair, Ambassador Harald Neple of Norway, for his hard work and dedication over the past year.

“In facing the issues that came our way, you confronted them all head-on in your pragmatic, problem-solving manner,” DG Azevêdo told Ambassador Neple. “I would note as well that you clearly have the implicit trust of members. We saw that in your work in the lead-up to Nairobi. And we saw it again in your tenure as chair. I think this is something that you should be very proud of.”

Ambassador Neple noted that WTO members “have just finished a challenging but very important year” which included ensuring effective implementation of the results achieved in the 2013 Bali and 2015 Nairobi ministerial conferences. “I believe we need to keep on building on our positive results; we need to continue to work for the good of the multilateral trading system; we need to work tirelessly to ensure that trade continues to support growth and development.”

DG Azevêdo also congratulated the new General Council Chair, Ambassador Xavier Carim.

“This appointment is a testament to your abilities — which you have already demonstrated as the DSB Chair,” DG Azevêdo said. “So I am sure that you will do an excellent job as Chair of the General Council during what will be a very significant year for all of us. Indeed, the role of the General Council Chairman will be especially crucial in ensuring a smooth process in the lead-up to Buenos Aires.”

Ambassador Carim noted that WTO members face a “challenging year” in which they will need to carry out regular business alongside preparations for the Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires. “In our day-to-day work and activities, we should be more deliberate in seeking to build a more inclusive multilateralism characterized by greater cooperation and a real sensitivity and empathy to the challenges members confront, particularly the developmental challenges of the poorest amongst us.” He also said that an “immediate priority” is to ensure that the remainder of the 2017 chairpersons slate be finalized “as soon as possible”.

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