> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Welcome. I am glad you are all able to join us at our 10th Ministerial Conference here in Nairobi.

I'd like to start by thanking the Government and people of Kenya, especially President Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Mohamed, for their fantastic hospitality this week — and for their commitment to the work of the WTO.

This is an historic conference. It is the first WTO ministerial conference to be held in Africa. And it comes at a time when Africa is on the rise. It is the world's youngest continent. Its economy is the fastest growing. Its potential is unmatched. And it is clear that trade has a crucial role to play in helping to realize this potential.

This Ministerial Conference also marks the 20th anniversary of the WTO.

At our last Ministerial, two years ago, we delivered the biggest success of our 20 year history: the Bali Package.

It contained a range of vital measures on agriculture, food security and development — and it brought us the organization's first multilateral agreement: the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Bali was a major breakthrough for our negotiating work. After that, everything that we were negotiating before — in the context of the Doha Round — was back on the table.

We have been working very hard since then to advance these issues as far as possible. Some issues proved to be quite difficult to tackle, and progress was impossible on many of the key issues, despite our efforts to be creative and open-minded.

However, we come to Nairobi still hopeful that in some areas we might find a way to conclude negotiations. And they are important negotiations — they will help the cause of development and progress in Africa and beyond.

When we left Geneva, negotiators were still working to finalise deals that could include:

  • steps on agriculture and food security,
  • measures to improve transparency in some WTO agreements,
  • a number of steps on special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed countries,
  • and some specific issues for the least-developed countries.

There are actually over a dozen separate issues still under consideration here in Nairobi.

In addition, Ministers will also be approving the accession packages of two new members this week: Liberia and Afghanistan. WTO membership will deliver a huge boost to the economy of those two countries.

Moreover, Members have been working to advance the Environmental Goods Agreement. And it is possible that we will hear positive news about the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement. This would be a significant breakthrough — it is a trillion dollar deal.

And yesterday we held a very successful pledging conference for the Enhanced Integrated Framework, ensuring that it can continue to deliver effective support to help build LDCs' capacity to trade for years to come.

So I think we have a very interesting and very meaningful agenda here in Nairobi. And I think that there is a real will among the membership to deliver some meaningful outcomes, particularly for the least-developed countries and for Africa.

However, even on the issues where an outcome may be possible, there is still a long way to go despite the short time we have available. To succeed, all Members will have to be flexible, realistic and ready to engage.

We have a lot of hard work ahead in the coming days. And while we strive to deliver here in Nairobi, we must also be looking to the future.

It is no secret that multilateral negotiations in the WTO have tended to progress quite slowly.

Members are increasingly focused on bilateral and regional trade initiatives — due in part to this lack of progress.

Members need to consider what they want from the system — and how to maintain it as a negotiating forum.

These are difficult discussions — but we have to have them. They go to the core of the differences members have about the future direction of the WTO's negotiating agenda. But we need to confront these issues now.

We have a defining moment ahead of us.

There are important issues still on the table which will support growth and development, and decisions which will determine the forward path of global trade negotiations.

We saw in the Paris Agreement that seemingly unbridgeable gaps can be closed if the political will is there. We saw that in Bali too.

I hope we can take inspiration from those events to deliver here in Nairobi — and to deliver the kind of outcomes that measure up to the effort and commitment that we are seeing from the Kenyan government and the Kenyan people.

Thank you very much.


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