DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ALAN WM. WOLFF

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I would like to add my words of welcome to the Delegation of Sudan as well as the Chair of the Working Party of Sudan, Mr. Katsuro Nagai of Japan. I am pleased to join you this morning at the beginning of this Informal Working Party Meeting for the Accession of Sudan, after having had opportunities to interact with the Delegation of Sudan during recent months.

I would also like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the WTO, to welcome H.E Ali Giddo Adam Bashr, who has long been involved in Sudan’s accession process and has joined us today in his new capacity as the Minister of Trade and Supply.

This meeting marks a significant step forward in the accession of Sudan to the WTO.  In the face of great changes in the domestic landscape of the country, Sudan has not only remained firm in its commitment to accede to the WTO, but it has increased its momentum, reflecting the resilience, strength and will of the Sudanese people. Through its engagement with WTO Members, the Working Party Chair and the WTO Secretariat, Sudan has illustrated that, in the wake of revolutionary change and in the midst of a global pandemic, WTO accession remains a clear priority to drive its economic reforms and integration into the global economy.  The WTO accession process consists importantly of continuing domestic economic reforms. 

To say that Sudan is no stranger to hostilities within and at its borders would be a gross understatement.  Nor are the ravages of war and violence a distant memory.  The WTO has a special role to play, as your ambassador and minister well know, with respect to the relationship of trade and peace.  This linkage dates back to the founding of the multilateral trading system at the end of the first half of the 20th century, after a time of unequalled global bloodshed and economic devastation. 

The WTO now has a Trade for Peace Program (T4P) initiated at Buenos Aires at the WTO's last Ministerial Conference in December of 2017.  It is designed to benefit all those acceding countries currently and recently affected by conflict, led by Members who have experience with the issue.  Just over two and years ago, your ambassador and the ambassador of South Sudan sat next to each other at a panel in Djibouti and agreed that where there is trade, there is a better chance at peace.

Sudan is now at an historic crossroads, with the prospect of moving away from internal strife and external conflict toward greater economic growth that can underwrite political stability. 

Sudan is within the top ten countries in Africa in terms of population, most of these countries are WTO Members.  Sudan borders on the north and most of the west with long-time WTO Members — Egypt, Chad and the Central African Republic.  Across the Red Sea to the East is another active WTO Member, Saudi Arabia.  To the South and Southeast lie two countries also in the process of acceding to the WTO, South Sudan and Ethiopia.  Most of the countries that are in the process of acceding have rededicated themselves to their accession processes. 

Africa is a priority for the WTO. The continent accounts for a substantial number of countries seeking to integrate their economies into the global economy through trade, who now for the first time have the prospect of benefitting from a major all-Africa economic integration project, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The WTO Secretariat stands ready to assist in advancing the accession of Sudan through technical support and policy advice, as well as offering these kinds of support to helping make the AfCFTA a great success.

Africa's voice is now increasingly prominent in the WTO.  This is the third day of our new Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala's visit to her home country, Nigeria.  As a person, she was, is and will be a formidable leader. She will, I believe, bring forward momentum to the multilateral trading system.  Sudan can play its part in creating this new era for international cooperation through its accession process improving the coverage and implementation of global trade rules.

In 2021, the first priority for the WTO will, of necessity, be dealing with the trade and health challenge caused by the pandemic.  As is the case with much of the world, Sudan is experiencing its second wave of infections.  The WTO must seek to support the availability globally of vaccines, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies and equipment.  Doing so is in the vital interest of all countries. 

The second priority for the WTO this year will be using trade to support restoring growth to the global economy.  The IMF staff issued a report two weeks ago that concluded that

The economic situation in Sudan still remains extremely fragile, with low growth, high inflation and a weak external position posing a threat to macroeconomic stability and poverty reduction.

However, the IMF staff also found that

The Sudanese authorities have made tangible progress on their IMF-supported reform program despite difficult economic conditions compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, and a challenging humanitarian situation.

While Sudan's economic growth is in the first instance an essential for the well-being of its peoples, it also contributes to the benefit of the global economy. 

The third WTO priority for 2021is to begin work on using trade to support the efforts to deal with climate change.  This is not an academic issue of only passing interest for Sudan.  According to earlier studies , average temperature is expected to rise significantly relative to baseline expectations over the next 40 years and average rainfall to decrease 5% during the rainy season. Such changes in temperature and rainfall will affect adversely the most important sectors in Sudan, namely agriculture, water resources and health.(1)

This challenge is not lost on the people of Sudan.  I note in this connection that a young Sudanese woman, Nisreen Elsaim, is the Chair of the United Nation's  Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.(2)

A fourth priority for the WTO is to provide rules to smooth the way forward for the growth of the global digital economy through e-commerce negotiations.  An important part of future of Sudan lies in bridging the digital divide and participating fully in a world characterized by technological change.

I list these items because it is in Sudan's interest to participate more fully in the global trading system.  Doing so is a key to a positive future for Sudan. 

I hope that the meeting this morning can contribute to Sudan’s strong efforts towards WTO accession and allow us to better understand the New Sudan, taking into account recent developments.

Thank you. I wish you all a successful meeting.

  1. https://www.wri.org back to text
  2. https://casaclimate.org/ back to text

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