The Director-General said:
"When we met in Malta a year ago it was against a backdrop of global economic and political uncertainty. Many of those uncertainties remain today and some look even more daunting. However, we should also recognize that some predictions of doom and gloom have not come about. Trade is in fact growing at a sustained pace that we have not seen since the global financial crisis. This is good for economic growth, jobs and development. But while the forecasts are positive, they are also fragile. The uncertainty is still there – including the threat of protectionism.
"I would argue that we need to invest more than ever in the multilateral trading system. It is the trading system, underpinned by its dispute settlement mechanism, which prevents a return to a world of unilateral actions and, ultimately, trade wars which would have a potentially devastating impact for us all."
Commenting on the current situation regarding the appointment of panelists to the WTO Appellate Body, the Director-General said:
"This is a serious and urgent concern for the whole trading system. The solution has to come from the members themselves, and so I am in close contact with a wide range of delegations, including the United States who have voiced concerns about the system.
“Some members have started to talk in more forceful terms about the need to find a solution quickly. This more active engagement is positive and I hope that some clear ideas will begin to take shape. I stand ready to help wherever I can, in an objective and impartial way. I will continue to urge all sides to come together to find a way forward. "
The Director-General also commented on the negotiating agenda at the WTO after the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) which was held in Buenos Aires in December. The meeting in Sofia was chaired by Bulgaria's Minister of Economy, Emil Karanikolov. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was also at the meeting.