> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Dr Adalberto Rodríguez Giavarini, the President of the CARI,
My friend of many years, Ambassador Everton Vargas, the Ambassador of Brazil in Argentina,
The authorities here present,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good afternoon to you all.

I'm pleased to be back in Argentina.

I want to thank the Argentine Council for International Relations for organizing this event.

I am glad to have the opportunity to interact with you today, and to give my perspective on the state of play in the global trading system and, of course, Argentina's role within it.

As you well know, at the most basic level the WTO provides the fundamental rules upon which global trade is run. It avoids unilateral, discriminatory or arbitrary measures, and helps to achieve a level - or at least near-level - playing field between developed and developing countries.

The Organization has 162 Members, at all stages of development, and it covers around 98% of global trade.

The unique thing about the Organization is that all Members have a seat at the table. All help set the agenda. All help steer the debate.

And Argentina is a very dynamic and engaged Member in the Organization.

It joined the system of global trade rules of the WTO almost 50 years ago and has always played a leading role.

Your Ambassador, Alberto D'Alotto, is a very active and well-known figure in Geneva. Right now he is chairing the working party that is negotiating the WTO membership of Algeria.

The country is an active user of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Mechanism, which helps WTO Members settle their trade differences in an open and transparent manner.

Argentina has participated in more than 100 cases, as a complainant, a respondent and an interested party.

Argentinian experts have also served on such legal panels, offering their trade expertise to help solve other cases.

I think this engagement is testament to Argentina's commitment to the global trading system and its belief in the power of the system to improve its trading terms.

However, the work of the WTO is not only about solving trade disputes.

On a daily basis, we are involved in a whole range of activities, from monitoring trade practices to providing support for countries to help them build their capacity to trade. These tasks are essential to keep trade flows running smoothly.

And, of course, the WTO also negotiates new trade rules, reforming the system so that it can adapt to meet countries' needs.

This is an ongoing and constant effort and one that hasn't always proved easy. For a long time, global trade negotiations were simply not delivering enough.

This is one reason why countries have sought other types of initiative - like regional trade agreements - to advance their economic agenda.

These initiatives - like the much-publicized Trans-Pacific Partnership or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - can be very positive in helping to spread the benefits of trade.

However, many emerging countries remain outside many of these negotiations.

And some topics - such as domestic support in agriculture - can only be addressed successfully on a global level.

Cooperation in trade must be working well on all levels to deliver results that are as comprehensive as possible.


So this brings the focus back to the WTO and to our ability to deliver new deals.

And I think the sense of scepticism surrounding the Organization's capacity to negotiate has been giving way to a renewed optimism.

In the past years, we have taken some big steps forward, delivering important reforms to global trade rules.

Members have been able to agree meaningful outcomes, outcomes which will have a great impact as regards improving the terms of trade here in Argentina and around the world.

Just last December, at our last Ministerial Meeting in Nairobi, Members took some very important decisions and Argentina played a major role in these breakthroughs.

On agriculture, Members took the historic decision to abolish agricultural export subsidies. They also adopted disciplines on other types of support to agricultural exports.

This is the biggest reform of agricultural trade rules in the last 20 years - and a big win for Argentina.

By eliminating export subsidies, this deal will help to reduce distortions in agriculture markets to the benefit of farmers and exporters in Argentina.

Countries have often resorted to export subsidies during economic crises, and recent history shows that once one country did so, others quickly followed suit. Because of this decision, no one will be tempted to resort to such action in the future.

Agricultural exporting countries like Argentina had spent years calling for action on this issue. And now it has been dealt with once and for all.

In fact, eliminating these subsidies was one element of the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals, so it was a big achievement to have delivered this just three months after the goals were agreed!

It is a great example of effective cooperation at the global level. And, in fact, it is a very clear example of an issue that can only be addressed successfully in a multilateral setting.

In Nairobi, Members also agreed to negotiate on food security issues.

And we delivered a package to help least developed countries to export goods and services.

In addition, a group of WTO Members has expanded the WTO's Information Technology Agreement.

This deal will eliminate tariffs on 201 additional IT products, including latest-generation semiconductors, GPS devices, touchscreens, and advanced medical products.

Trade in these products is worth around $1.3 trillion each year - that's 10% of global trade.

With this agreement, tariffs on these products will be reduced to zero and legally locked in at zero.

Significantly, the benefits of this deal will be available to all WTO Members when they export, including Argentina.

In fact, Argentina already supplies many goods that are part of this Agreement, such as some machines and mechanical appliances, some medical instruments, and parts of telephones sets.

With this agreement, these products will become more competitive, entering completely tariff-free in countries that together account for 95% of the world's imports of IT products.


These results build on other recent WTO trade deals, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement, delivered in 2013.

This Agreement is about streamlining, simplifying and standardising customs procedures, thereby reducing the time and cost involved in moving goods across borders.

Studies show that, when fully implemented, the Agreement could reduce the trade costs of Members by an average of 14.5%.

This will have a big impact in boosting trade flows in Argentina. For developing economies, this deal has the potential to increase their global merchandise exports by up to $730 billion per annum.

And by making trade flows easier, the Agreement can help support Argentina's goal to diversify its economy.

We are living at a time when production has been globalized, when the components for a single product come from many different countries.

And if trade flows are easier, economies have a better chance to integrate into these new production chains and to benefit from the boost in economic activity that they can bring. Countries with higher costs could find themselves excluded.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement will speed up that process of integration.

But, in order to benefit from the Agreement, it must first be ratified. This is one immediate and very positive step that Argentina could take. Moreover, it would help the country to send a strong message that it is working towards creating a more business-friendly environment.


Overall, these are all very important achievements, and now we have a very clear task ahead of us.

We need to implement these agreements and deliver on all their potential benefits, and of course we should aim to agree more outcomes in the future.

It is clear that all WTO Members want to deliver on the so-called Doha negotiating issues, such as domestic subsidies in agriculture, market access for industrial and agricultural goods, and services. However, Members do not agree on how to tackle these issues.

In addition, some would like to start discussing other subjects not necessarily covered by the Doha Round. These could include topics related to investment, e-commerce, small and medium-sized enterprises, or fishery subsidies, to name but a few of those that have been mentioned in Geneva.

There is a lot of debate going on right now about how we should move forward. There is a clear desire to achieve more and to do so much faster than before.

And I think this is an exciting opportunity for Argentina.

This is a good moment to ask some big questions, for example:

    • Given Argentina's evolving economic goals, what are its trade priorities?
    • How can they best be delivered?
    • And what topics do you want to see prioritized in global trade negotiations? How can we move forward with those topics?

I hope that Argentina will seize this momentum to help shape the future of global trade discussions to better serve its interests.

We could potentially take actions that will help you to reach your economic goals, as we have already done in recent years.

So I urge you once again to get engaged - and stay engaged.

Argentina's voice will be as important as ever.


For years, many commentators had written off the WTO's ability to deliver.

But that has begun to change.

Over recent months, I have been approached by many - from governments to business people to labour representatives - who are excited at the prospect of what we may be able to do in the future.

So I am very glad to be here today and hear your views on the way ahead.

I look forward to our discussion.

Thank you.


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