DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALAN WM. WOLFF
Thank you, Chair.
This is a time of great challenges for the world trading system as well as of great opportunities.
World trade has fallen by 18% compared to last year.
Shortfalls in key medical supplies persist, despite increased production — and increased trade. Preliminary figures indicate that global trade in products such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and ventilators grew by close to 30% in the first half of the year.
While some trade restrictions have already been rolled back, particularly with respect to foodstuffs, the pandemic is far from over and economic challenges will persist.
The roll-back of trade restrictions may already be losing momentum.
Government support needed to fight the economic downturn could end up distorting competitive conditions and fueling future trade tensions.
However, fresh opportunities also exist.
The WTO’s Members are well-advanced in the process of selecting a new WTO Director-General.
Renewed engagement of the WTO’s Members can ensure that the WTO is fully ready to meet the challenges of a changing global economy.
- As the pandemic continues, emergency trade-restrictive measures should be reviewed through the lens of the G20’s criteria that existing measures are, in fact, targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary; members should begin to unwind those that are no longer absolutely necessary.
- Existing negotiations to modernize the WTO’s rules to meet the challenges of the global digital economy and to provide for sustainable development should be brought to a successful conclusion.
- The process of systemic reform, called for by the G20 leaders and trade ministers, should begin in earnest with WTO Members deliberating concrete proposals, restoring the WTO to its intended place
- where negotiations are successfully concluded;
- where disputes are settled within a universally accepted structure;
- actively served by a strong, dedicated, professional Secretariat.
In an era of political and economic stress, the WTO must be made fit for purpose. It must be seen to deliver fairness to all who participate in or are affected by global commerce.
A robust, sustained and inclusive economic recovery requires open and predictable international trade, supported by a well-functioning world trading system.
Spurred by the determination expressed by you as trade ministers, informed by the Riyadh Initiative, under a new leader, the WTO can fulfill its promise.