Remarks by DG Azevêdo



Good morning everybody.

Welcome to the WTO and to the 2017 Global Review of Aid for Trade.

It’s great to have a full house for this very important event. I am sure we will have some dynamic and fruitful discussions over the coming days.

To start things off, we have a fantastic line-up this morning.

I am pleased to be joined today by:

  • the Vice President of the Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajang,
  • OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria,
  • UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi,
  • the CEO of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, Hani Salem Sonbol,
  • Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Arancha González,
  • and Senior Director at the World Bank, Anabel Gonzalez.


This is one of the biggest Global Reviews so far.

We have more than 1,500 delegates taking part from around the world.

More than 20 ministers.

And leaders from a range of international organizations.

Thank you all for joining us and for making the journey to Geneva. It is a great pleasure to host you this week.

Ladies and gentlemen,

17 years ago, world leaders came together to pledge to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

They met that goal – and they did it way ahead of schedule. It remains one of the most astonishing achievements of our lifetime. And trade helped to drive much of the growth and development that led to that success.

Then, two years ago, just after the last Global Review, world leaders came together again. This time they pledged to end poverty by 2030.

I applaud that ambition – and I think targets like this are essential. No one ever climbed a mountain without first fixing their eyes on the summit.

So this goal is a challenge to us all – along with the full list of Sustainable Development Goals. And trade must again play a central role in achieving it.

Of course this doesn’t mean simply throwing the doors open to markets around the world. It means ensuring that people have the tools that they need to trade and compete.

And it means ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place – including:

  • the physical infrastructure of essential roads, ports, airports, railways and so on
  • the soft infrastructure of rules and institutions that help companies do business – along with the skills that people need to take part
  • and the digital infrastructure which enables people to connect to the global marketplace at a fraction of the cost that we saw in the past. This can be particularly powerful for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of every economy – both developed and developing. And it is crucial in empowering female entrepreneurs, who represent the majority of traders in many places.

So we need to make a difference in all of these areas – and this is why Aid for Trade is so important.

Since it was launched just over a decade ago, over 300 billion dollars has been disbursed under the Aid for Trade initiative, reaching 146 countries. And each dollar has been targeted at helping those countries to build their trading infrastructure and capacity.

This is very impressive – and it is delivering concrete changes on the ground. We now have a huge body of research, including some 500 case stories which illustrate the difference Aid for Trade can make. So let me highlight a couple of quick examples.

  • Today, more than 1000 craft artisans in Kenya can now sell their products online thanks to an Aid for Trade-sponsored project.
  • In Tonga, people now enjoy improved connectivity thanks to a new submarine fibre optic cable system financed and supported by Aid for Trade – and this has helped to boost local services and tourism industries.
  • And at the Busia One-Stop Border Post between Uganda and Kenya, streamlining of customs controls has reduced the average time for goods to cross the border by 80%.


In fact, tomorrow we will be connecting live to the Busia border post to hear more about their experiences on the ground, thanks to TradeMark East Africa.

We should seek to build on these success stories – and many others like them.

Because, clearly, although we have made good progress up the mountain, we are still a long, long way from the summit.

More than 800 million people still live in extreme poverty.

And many are still cut off from the potential benefits of trade.

The LDC-share of world trade is still below 1 per cent. In fact, between 2015 and 2016 the LDC share of world exports actually recorded a marginal fall, from 0.97 per cent to 0.94.

And around 4 billion people are still offline. Only 1 in 4 people in Africa use the internet. And only 1 in 7 people in LDCs. Over half of the world’s population cannot participate in the new global market that the Internet represents. In this sense, this digital divide is also a market-access divide.

Action on all these fronts can go a long way towards building a more inclusive trading system, which makes its full contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

This Global Review is a platform to discuss ways in which we can deliver more – and deliver it more quickly.

Our theme this year is ’Promoting Trade, Inclusiveness and Connectivity for Sustainable Development.’ This relates to all of the issues that I have been talking about just now.

Many factors inhibit connectivity and inclusiveness – whether it’s poor infrastructure, high trading costs, or gender discrimination. And they all act as major constraints on sustainable development.

Work to bring down these barriers can go a long way to connect more people and improve more lives.

Take the example of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which came into force in February this year. It is the biggest global trade deal this century. It reduces the time it takes for goods to cross borders – and will therefore cut trade costs dramatically.

Full implementation of the Agreement could reduce trade costs globally by an average of 14.3 per cent.

Significantly, the benefits will be felt most in developing and least developed countries – and these countries will also be able to access technical assistance to help to implement the necessary reforms.

This is just one area of our efforts under the Aid for Trade banner, but it is illustrative of the impact that this work can have.

My message to you in introducing this Global Review is very simple: we need to do more.

We know what our goals are. We know how to deliver meaningful results. So now we need to do more to follow this work through.

This week is an opportunity to examine precisely where more efforts are needed, and how we can better channel the necessary aid and investment. 

To improve our understanding of these issues, we are launching the 2017 Aid for Trade ‘At a Glance’ publication today.

I encourage you all to take a look – indeed, many of you contributed to the findings here – so thank you for that.

I would also like to thank all those at the WTO who have made this week possible – particularly Shishir Priyadarshi, Michael Roberts and the whole Aid for Trade team at the WTO.

As I said at the outset – let’s be ambitious.

Trade has helped to lift a billion people out of poverty in our lifetimes. We know what can be achieved.

So now let’s redouble our efforts to continue this work. Let’s build a more inclusive trading system, which supports the new Sustainable Development Goals, and which paves the way for a better world.

Thank you.




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