SPEECHES — DG NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen. I am pleased to join you today to take stock of recent trade policy developments.
Thank you, Ambassador ALMOQBEL (Saudi Arabia) for your introductory remarks.
Let me also congratulate you on leading members to a consensus on the text of the seventh appraisal of the TPR review mechanism. I understand you worked tirelessly and inclusively to deliver this outcome, which you have slated to go to ministers at MC13. Thanks to you and members for getting the ball rolling with this important outcome.
Ambassador ALMOQBEL has already described how the Report was prepared.
Allow me to share with you a few key take-aways from the Report, and to point to a few issues we have been watching closely since the mid-May close of the review period.
The global economic environment continues to be affected by multiple crises: the continuing war in Ukraine, extreme weather linked to climate change, high food and energy prices, and inflation, as well as the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merchandise trade volumes slumped during the fourth quarter of 2022 and appeared to remain below trend into the first quarter of 2023. In April, our economists forecast that world merchandise trade volume growth would slow from 2.7% in 2022 to 1.7% in 2023, before picking up to 3.2% in 2024.
The new Trade Monitoring Report shows that between mid-October 2022 and mid-May 2023, WTO Members introduced more new trade-facilitating measures than trade-restrictive on goods — 182 trade facilitating versus 110 trade restrictive. If we look at trade coverage, the trade-facilitating measures covered merchandise trade worth estimated at USD 703.7 billion - more than six times higher than value of goods covered by the new trade-restrictive measures, which was around USD 110.5 billion.
The fact that WTO Members have been taking more steps to facilitate imports illustrates how trade is a valuable tool for pushing back against inflationary pressures.
That said, the pace of implementation of new export restrictions by WTO Members has increased since 2020, first in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently with the war in Ukraine and the food security crisis. Although some of these export restrictions have been lifted, many remain in place. The Secretariat's ongoing monitoring shows that as of 14 July 2023, out of the 104 export restrictive measures on food, feed, and fertilizers introduced since the start of the war in late February, 59 are still in place, covering roughly USD 24.5 billion of trade (down from 63 in mid-May 2023).
This means 45 restrictions have been phased out, which is a welcome step in the right direction. But it also means that we still have quite a ways to go. Once again let me call on Members to roll back these export restrictions, which contribute to making food prices more volatile – and therefore to making life harder for poor people around the world. Keeping food moving around the world is especially important now in light of the recent termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which will make it harder for grains from that region to reach international markets. We must take care to avoid vicious circles of supply availability concerns leading to more export restrictions and higher prices.
The report also looked at new services trade measures, where most of the 74 measures introduced during the review period were trade-facilitating.
In addition, the review period saw the introduction of various new support measures by governments, including programmes aimed at reducing negative impacts on the environment.
With respect to the pandemic, Members continued to phase out the pandemic-related measures, and in particular trade-restrictive ones. As of mid-May 2023, 33 pandemic-related trade restrictions remain in place, covering USD 18 billion worth of trade, according to information received by the Secretariat. I urge Members to end these remaining restrictions, as we work to improve access to vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other critical medical supplies globally.
The Report underscores the central role the multilateral trading system played in helping members combat COVID-19 and later cope with the impacts of the war in Ukraine. During the pandemic, despite initial disruptions, global value chains held up and proved critical in scaling up the production and distribution of medical supplies and — eventually — vaccines. Deep and open international markets for staple grains, anchored in the multilateral trading system, have allowed members to make up for the loss of imports from the Black Sea region by sourcing from other parts of the world.
In this regard, I would like to call your attention to the slow but steady growth of the stockpile of import restrictions that have accumulated since the Trade Monitoring exercise began in 2009. As of mid-May 2023, some 9.2% of global imports were affected by restrictive measures introduced since 2009 and still in force. This cannot help but weigh on the efficient functioning of global commerce. We need to gain a better understanding of what can be done to start rolling some of these measures back.
To ensure that trade continues to foster resilience and prosperity across the membership, we need to keep working to reform and strengthen the WTO. This means building on our collective successes at MC12 by delivering more results at our Thirteenth Ministerial Conference next February in Abu Dhabi. A key step on the road to MC13 will be the senior officials' meeting in October. Starting immediately after the holiday, we will be working hard to make the best possible use of the SOM to lay the foundation for MC13 outcomes that help all economies build a fairer, more just and more resilient economic future.
Before closing, let me reiterate that this Trade Monitoring Exercise is only as strong as Members want it to be. Your participation is crucial. I thank all those who have participated and are participating, and urge all delegations to join in and help us strengthen this transparency exercise. I also want to thank the Secretariat team behind the report, both for their constant efforts to keep track of changing trade measures, and for innovations like the 3-page summary fact sheet that's also available to you all.
The Secretariat has continued its outreach program to help delegations and capitals better understand what the exercise entails. In discussions in the context of the 7th TPRM Appraisal, members stressed the importance to further improve the digital platform developed by the Secretariat for the on-line submission and verification of measures. The introduction of the online platform for submitting and verifying measures for this Report is above all intended to facilitate your work, create efficiencies in terms of your coordination with capitals and ensure that the Monitoring Exercise remains inclusive and accessible. The Secretariat stands ready to receive your feedback on the platform - and to work closely with you to improve its operation.
Unfortunately, I do regret I will not be able to stay with you due to other meetings this afternoon, but DDG Paugam will be my ears for your discussions — and I look forward to hearing about your exchanges and suggestions.