TRADE FOR PEACE
The opening session was moderated by Ambassador Zhanar Aitzanova of Kazakhstan, the co-host of the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) to take place in Geneva on 30 November — 3 December. Ambassador Aitzanova reminded participants that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a change of venue for MC12, which had initially been scheduled to take place in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, in June 2020. “This Trade for Peace Week, which the Government of Kazakhstan considers as a pre-event or side event of the WTO Ministerial Conference, is intended to bring some ‘Eurasian flavours’ to Geneva on the topics which we feel very strongly about as we are about to celebrate 30 years of independence — trade and integration, on the one hand, and peace and security on the other.”
The opening panel also included: Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang, WTO Deputy Director-General; Akan Rakhmetullin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan; Paul Tate, Head of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Liberia to the United Nations Office in Geneva; and Dr Paul R. Williams, co-founder of Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG).
DDG Zhang said greater interdependence between countries as a result of globalization has not been accompanied by sufficient adjustments in the global governance regime to keep pace with the changing nature of security threats and stressed the key role the WTO must play in addressing the new challenges.
“The multilateral trading system can and must do more to help us tackle pressing challenges, from our oceans to our climate, to ensuring inclusive participation in the digital economy. National policies are designed to benefit individual countries, not the rest of the world, and are likely to fall far short of global goals. Ultimately, there needs to be a multilateral approach if we are going to have meaningful results,” DDG Zhang said. “It is time to recognize that the multilateral trading system has a role to play as we look to counter the security threats of the 21st century.” His full remarks are here.
Speaking on behalf of Mawine G. Diggs, Minister of Commerce and Industry of Liberia, Mr Tate conveyed Liberia's objectives as a fragile and conflict-affected state that recently acceded to the WTO: “Liberia is one of the latest WTO members. Our path to WTO membership has not been easy … not to mention the Ebola epidemic that devastated the country at the time of accession. Now that we are a fully-fledged WTO member, we believe it is crucial that we help open the door for those that are outside the system facing similar challenges in addition to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.”
He further noted that Liberia and Timor-Leste, as co-coordinators of the g7+ WTO Accessions Group, are working with WTO members to explore the possibility of establishing a dedicated work programme on trade for peace that the General Council will review with a view to making recommendations at the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference.
Mr Rakhmetullin said that Kazakhstan attaches great importance to developing close trade and economic relations among countries. He noted that the issues of global and regional stability and security are at the core of Kazakhstan's foreign policy. “Obtaining the status of WTO member was one of our top foreign policy priorities over the last 25 years,” he said. He also highlighted the key initiatives undertaken by Kazakhstan in recent times in the field of disarmament, security and peace, including the voluntary abandonment of the nuclear weapon stockpile inherited from the Soviet Union in 1991, the launch of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), and the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2011.
Dr Williams shed light on how a trade regime can underpin durable peace. “It is illegal and illegitimate trade that drive conflict. A way to turn it from a driver of conflict to a driver of durable peace is through the rule of law, which is what the WTO stands for — bringing countries into a legal regime that governs trade, that is the regularization of trade,” he said. He made three recommendations to achieve durable peace: capacity building for the various international teams mediating conflicts to improve understanding of the value of a regularized trade regime; secondment of trade negotiators to peace negotiations; and harmonization of the language in peace agreements relating to trade.
The second edition of the Trade for Peace Week will further build on the discussions and partnerships established between the trade and peace communities since the launch of the 1st Trade for Peace Week in December 2020. The event will feature another four panels focusing on the Eurasian region and on the role of Eurasian countries in achieving peace through trade and WTO reform.