DEPUTY DIRECTOR-GENERAL ANGELA ELLARD
Good morning from Geneva,
I'm so pleased to join this important conference, with a such a diverse audience of diplomats and government officials, businesses of all sizes, and inspiring entrepreneurs. A little personal history here: when I worked on Capitol Hill, I was so proud to lead the staff work on the original AGOA and subsequent legislation. Improving livelihoods and increasing development through this significant trade initiative is a bipartisan achievement.
I am so glad to see everything you are doing to promote U.S. — Africa trade and investment which are vital for economic development. This audience knows better than anyone that while Africa is home to over one billion people, representing 17% of global population, it accounts for less than 3% of global trade. That fraction of a share holds Africa back from the economic development that is vital to sustainable growth and improved standards of living. All of us have to work together to boost the Continent's trade integration, and that's where my organization, the World Trade Organization, can help.
The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade covering its 164 Members, including so many African countries. We are the caretaker of the multilateral trading system. Our agreements are aimed at opening trade and creating opportunities for all. Our founding document reflects the aspiration of our Members to ensure higher standards of living, full employment, and growing income for all and the people they represent, especially developing and least-developed countries.
That objective ties in so well with Africa's Agenda 2063, which is aimed at achieving an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa.
Africa shows admirable leadership at global and regional levels to achieve these goals.
First, in speaking in one voice in the WTO, Africa has been delivering global public good — from greater access to affordable medicines, to levelling the playing for farmers, to implementing reforms to reduce red-tape at the border.
Africa's priorities were also at the heart of what we achieved at our last Ministerial Conference (MC12) — including contributing to food security and easing access to COVID vaccines. We also concluded the ground breaking Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (banning certain unsustainable subsidies that have severely depleted fish stocks). We now need 2/3 of our Members to ratify the agreement for it to enter into force. I am so pleased that Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Nigeria, and Seychelles have already done so. I plead with this highly influential audience for more African members to follow suit and bring us to our goal by February, so that the Agreement can start benefitting the ocean and people whose livelihoods depend on it.
Africa has been increasingly active in various joint initiatives undertaken by large groups of WTO Members. Around 20 African members participate in our new investment facilitation for development agreement, designed to make developing countries more attractive for investment. Several African countries participate in discussions on e-commerce, and many are engaged in our e-commerce work program designed to bridge the digital divide and use digital trade as an engine for development. African countries are deeply engaged in discussions about how trade can contribute to economic sustainability.
With our next Ministerial Conference on the horizon, we must redouble our efforts to advance Africa's trade and development priorities.
- We must complete our second wave of fisheries negotiations to bring even more ambition to tackling fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing;
- We must decide on the extension of the MC12 TRIPS decision to diagnostics and therapeutics;
- We must take steps towards greater agricultural reforms and food security;
- And we must ensure a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all Members, regardless of size or level of economic development.
More broadly, we must also strengthen the development dimension of the WTO. The global trading landscape keeps evolving with advances in technology and science. Trade of tomorrow will be green and digital, and we need to make sure African countries are able to transition smoothly to this new reality.
Just this week, WTO Members achieved an important milestone on how least developed members — a majority of which are in Africa — can access trade preferences once they graduate from LDC status. As a result, WTO Members who grant preferences to LDCs are encouraged to provide smooth and sustainable transition period after graduation.
Also this week, our Members discussed how to advance trade and development issues, showing once again that development remains at the heart of everything we do at the WTO.
Development is a complex process. What works for one may not work for another. We must continually examine development across the full spectrum of WTO work.
Ensuring industrial development and structural transformation has been a longstanding priority for Africa. We have seen a renewed momentum in the WTO to further advance this work, thanks to African leadership.
Today 40% of funds under the WTO's flagship Aid for Trade programme go to Africa. Our new work programme offers an opportunity to build stronger partnerships for food security, digital connectivity, and mainstreaming trade.
If we are serious about bridging Africa's financing gap, the private sector must step in, including through investing in Africa. Domestic development programs like USAID Africa Trade and Investment Program boost trade and investment and create new jobs.
We need more development finance, including more private finance. That's why this conference is so important, to build stronger bridges between U.S. and African businesses with prospects of bringing Africa's economic development to new heights.
To conclude, let me note that Africa is home to many young entrepreneurs with inspiring ideas that must be supported. It is for Africa's generations of tomorrow that African diplomats must be at the negotiating table today. And that's the best way to serve and nurture African business and Africa's people.
Thank you very much.