DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL XIANGCHEN ZHANG
Excellencies, Honourable Minister of State Secretariat Pratikno, Distinguished professors, representatives of various organizations and guests, Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all and deliver this opening statement at this policy workshop for ‘Trade, Circular Economy and Sustainability’ proposed by the Centre for World Trade Studies from the Universitas Gadjah Mada.
Firstly, as the DDG responsible for the WTO Chairs Programme, the WTO's academic outreach and technical assistance, let me take the opportunity to sincerely thank Professor Riza Noer Arfani, our Indonesian chairholder of the WTO Chairs Programme, and his team, for his important work done on the circular economy concept and sustainable development. I also would like to thank Ambassador Van Daalen, from the Netherland Permanent Mission in Geneva for the support provided by the Dutch Government to this important initiative.
The WTO Chairs Programme aims to support and promote trade-related academic activities carried out by universities and research institutions in developing and least developed countries (LDCs).
Launched in 2009, the WTO Chairs were awarded to 14 institutions for a period of four years. During the second phase, seven other establishments joined the Program in May 2014. Numerous applications have been received for the third phase and the selection process is very much advanced.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This International Conference gives me the occasion to recall some important points.
The WTO Chairs Programme has contributed to the achievement of the WTO mandate relating to technical assistance, which consists of "strengthening the human and institutional resources of beneficiaries in order to enable them to take full advantage of the multilateral trading system based on rules, to fulfil their obligations and assert their rights as Members, and to face emerging new trade challenges. An in-depth programme assessment done the independent external evaluator SANAA has demonstrated that the WTO Chairs Programme has provided relevant support to generate knowledge and develop skills on international trade issues and of development. Being associated myself with the academic community, I value very much applied research to support policy makers in their trade policy formulation.
During the last years, the Chairs have produced a significant amount of relevant research outputs, developed study programmes and, on numerous occasions, have been able to reach decision-makers and other external stakeholders related to the formulation or implementation of trade policy. The WTO Chairs Programme, supported by a renown worldwide Advisory Board members, has been an important element in increasing the effectiveness of the Chairs in achieving their outreach goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, but it also offers a unique opportunity for us to rethink current economic models, to design coordinated actions and to develop strategies to build a more resilient and greener low-carbon emission economic recovery. From that perspective, the circular economy approach opens up the way for green recovery and sustainable development that reduces the generation of waste and the depletion of dwindling natural resources. It not only addresses the negative impacts of the traditional "linear" economic model which exploits resources, manufactures them into products and disposes of waste; More importantly, it envisions a shift in paradigms based on a regenerative economic design where resources are reused, remanufactured and recycled. This generates economic resilience, generates business and trade opportunities, and provides environmental, development and societal benefits.
As evidenced by the research of many scientists, the circular economy creates new opportunities through saving resources, improved human health and sustainable environmental outcomes, but also for trade and economic diversification in developing countries. Members have started putting in place economic policies and measures promoting the circular economy and they are widely trying to do so without creating incidental obstacles to trade. Therefore, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that trade policies are designed and implemented with the goals of a circular economy in mind. Not doing so would be a missed opportunity, given the unique role of trade to scale up circular economy solutions and sustainable development worldwide.
At the WTO, Members have considered circular economy related issues through policy dialogue like this one organised under the auspice of the Chairs Programme, but also through areas negotiated under the Committee on Trade and Environment. The Aid for Trade initiative has also significantly contributed to include such issues in supporting efforts in developing countries to seize the potential environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy through enhanced trade.
As an illustration, WTO members participated recently in an informal dialogue on plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade (IDP) last June to discuss how the Organisation can contribute to strengthening policy coherence and exploring collective approaches among the membership. Technical assistance and capacity building being an important contribution in supporting global effort to reduce plastic waste and move towards a circular plastics economy. We expect more to be delivered soon particularly in the preparation of the WTO's 12 Ministerial Conference.
Let me conclude by saying that trade action to support a circular economy must go hand-in-hand with broader action to reduce the risks to human health at a time when the pandemic persists. It is equally important to improve our collective understanding of how trade flows, policies and regulations interact with the new approaches to a circular economy; we need to build trust and confidence to engage in mutually beneficial activities in key areas of the circular economy. I welcome this international policy workshop that looks in a very practical way at new frontiers of circular economy questions in areas including agribusiness, electronics, investment, industrial policies, the role SMEs and linkages to climate change. In all these ways, the research projects support efforts in developing countries to seize the potential environmental, economic and social benefits of a circular economy through enhanced trade.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on all these issues and possible ways forward that ideally could be published as an output of this important initiative and in order to build a post-pandemic economy that is greener and leaves no one behind. Trade is a driver of inclusiveness and addressing trade as a way to promote circular economy is also a strategic opportunity. Thank you for your attention. I wish you all and this workshop much success and fruitful further work