Remarks by DG Azevêdo

Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Your Excellency President Michelle Bachelet,
Your Excellency Minister Heraldo Muñoz, and the Chilean delegation,
Ambassador Carim, Chairman of the General Council,
Distinguished Ambassadors,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

Chile is well-known for its openness and internationalism. Indeed, sometimes it is dubbed a “bridge country”.

It has helped foster cooperation between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and establish connections between countries across the globe.

In doing so, Chile has dedicated itself to cooperation through a wide variety of international bodies.

And the World Trade Organization is no exception.

Chile joined the multilateral trading system at the outset of the GATT 70 years ago. And it was a founding member of the WTO in 1995.

Today Chile is an active member and a staunch supporter of the multilateral trading system.

So, Madam President, it is a great honour to welcome you to the WTO. 

In 2014 you sent a special message from the Presidential Palace in Santiago to our annual Public Forum here in Geneva. In that statement you said:

“Quality trade practices are linked to the progress of societies. For this reason, there is no development or justice or well-being for men and women if we do not accept the challenges and opportunities that trade presents us.”

I repeat: no development, justice or well-being. I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment.

But to realize all of that, I also agree that we must address the challenges and seize the opportunities that trade presents.

Chile has been doing precisely this.

Trade has been at the heart of the country's strategy for development and poverty reduction.

And in the process Chile has become an important trading nation.

In recent decades, Chile has become a leader in the trade debate, engaging in initiatives at the bilateral, regional and multilateral level.

Chile is a prominent member of the WTO, as the General Council Chair has outlined. And you played an important role, working with other WTO members, in delivering the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2013.

That Agreement entered into force just last month. It promises significant economic benefits to all members. And this illustrates how we are seizing some of the opportunities before us.  

But of course there is much, much more to do.

We are confronted with a climate of slow global growth, combined with persistent poverty and inequality.

In the face of such challenges, we must seek to build a more inclusive trading system.

That means working harder to ensure that the benefits of trade reach further and wider. It means supporting the poorest to gain the skills to begin trading. It means removing the barriers that prevent SMEs from finding markets overseas. And it means fostering the participation of women in the trading system. On this point, I must recognise President Bachelet's role as an advocate of women's empowerment — both social and economic. Madam President, you are an inspiration to so many the world-over.

And it is only by working together that we can realise this vision of greater inclusion.

In times of slow growth, we must resist the temptation of protectionism. We should seek to cooperate and collaborate more, not less.

In this context, I think the importance of the multilateral trading system is clearer than ever.

So we should keep working to strengthen and improve the system to ensure that it is more responsive to members' needs. The WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires this December will be a significant opportunity to make progress on this front.

I have no doubt that Chile will be fully engaged in those discussions. Today's event, and your presence here, Madam President, underlines that point.

Indeed, I think your visit demonstrates Chile's commitment not just to this work, or simply to the WTO — but to the vital principle of cooperation in global economic affairs. 

Working together in this way represents the best model that humankind has yet devised to foster economic growth, development, and peace among nations.

So I'm sure that all members would join with me in thanking you for being here today, and for your commitment to advancing cooperation through the multilateral trading system. 

Thank you.

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