DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALAN WM. WOLFF
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. Let me join Ambassador Haqjo in welcoming you to this Panel that is taking place on the margins of the historic first meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of South Sudan.
I was present and observed the meeting this morning. I felt the sense of pride, achievement and momentum that were generated by the high-level delegation from Juba and WTO Members. This afternoon, I am very pleased to see the presence of Hon. Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, Chief Negotiator with us as a keynote speaker. Also, it is my pleasure to see both Ambassador Kadra Ahmed Hassan of Djibouti and Ambassador Zorica Maric Djordjevic of Montenegro who have been great "Friends of South Sudan" since the 2nd Regional Dialogue on WTO Accessions held in Djibouti, last December.
As Ambassador Haqjo shared his unique connection to South Sudan, I would also like to share my own. Following taking up the post as WTO Deputy Director-General in October 2017, two months later, I participated in the Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was privileged to witness the approval by WTO Ministers of an application for WTO accession from then 6-year old young nation, South Sudan. That was a memorable moment in Buenos Aires in what was a remarkable meeting. I believe the message that South Sudan, by its determination to integrate into the world economy, had sent out to the world was very powerful.
Since then, I had several occasions to engage with high-level delegations from Juba, including the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, and of course, senior trade officials. At the WTO's Public Forum last October 2018, I was privileged to moderate a Panel Discussion on Trade for Peace: Integration of fragile states into the global economy as a pathway towards peace and resilience. As one of the speakers, the Honourable Deng Deng Hoc Yai, Minister of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan struck a sympathetic chord with many of those present when he explained the reasons why South Sudan – as a least-developed and post-conflict country - was committed to accede to the WTO. His firm conviction was that South Sudan's path to WTO membership will support the maintenance of sustainable peace and stability in the country. His remarks are a timely reminder of the rationale of the founding fathers for the creation of the multilateral trading system following World War II.
The "Trade for Peace through WTO Accession" initiative has brought the trade community closer to the peace community within Geneva in recent months. The initiative started in Buenos Aires, with the establishment of the g7+ WTO Accessions Group.
The Group was launched by eight vulnerable, least developed countries that have long suffered from conflicts and instability: three WTO Members (Afghanistan, Liberia, and Yemen) and five acceding governments (Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, South Sudan and Timor-Leste). In their Ministerial Declaration, the Group pledged to use the WTO accession process and membership to promote peace-building and sustainable development, and to facilitate WTO accessions.
I was pleased to be at the inauguration of this Initiative and have followed the Group's work since. Their efforts resulted in a series of Trade for Peace events in the fall last year, which included collaboration with the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. I was also invited to speak at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2018 where I highlighted the role of the WTO in supporting sustainable peace.
In December 2018, I had the opportunity to be in Djibouti for the 2nd Regional Dialogue on WTO Accessions for the Greater Horn of Africa under the theme 'Trade for Peace through WTO Accessions'. All participants in the Djibouti program agreed that WTO accession was an important component of the post-conflict recovery plans of fragile states, enabling the establishment of credible policy frameworks and promotion of transparency and good governance. They recognized that the Trade for Peace Initiative was an important way in which the multilateral trading system could contribute to peacebuilding efforts in the Horn of Africa and other parts of the world. In this context, the WTO was formally requested to continue to define its role in making its contribution to these efforts, including through greater cooperation between the trade and peace communities.
Today's panel is part of this effort. I cannot think of a better example of Trade for Peace than South Sudan's presence at the WTO today. With its strong determination to advance the accession process -- which is often complex and challenging, South Sudan is demonstrating the potential of the "Trade for Peace" initiative where peace remains fragile. One of the most compelling reasons for optimism for the multilateral trading system is that conflict-affected countries like South Sudan see in the WTO what the founders of the multilateral trading system saw in its creation in 1947. It sees a path forward toward economic growth, leading to greater domestic stability, and a better chance to attain and sustain peace. The conduct of South Sudan here today is a timely reminder of this fundamental benefit of the multilateral trading system.
Let me assure you on behalf of the WTO Secretariat of our intention to do our part, that is to help WTO acceding governments and Members to use trade as a tool for building peace and sustaining peace. Once again, my sincere thanks to the delegation of South Sudan which is committed to working together with the Members of the WTO to make Trade for Peace a reality.