SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

Remarks by DG Azevêdo

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Thank you Chair. 

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to start by thanking all those who have intervened in this session.

Despite many other Aid for Trade related commitments, I wanted to be here with you at this closing plenary and assess the week and the way forward.

I have met with many of you, in one format or another, over the course of the week. I have heard your views directly. And I will be well-briefed on your contributions in the sessions that I was not able to attend.

There has been a great sense of energy around the Global Review – and this is reflected in the numbers. Over these 3 days we have seen over 1,500 attendees, 55 sessions and hundreds of pages of analysis. We have had a lively and informed debate, looking at the importance of Aid for Trade, and the direction of the initiative in the coming years.

This high level of interest underlines the significance of this work.

And let’s recall again the scale of what we are discussing:

  • Almost 300 billion dollars has been disbursed in Aid for Trade support since 2006.
  • The latest data available is for 2015, when disbursements reached 39.8 billion dollars – the highest amount for a single year so far.
  • 146 developing countries have benefitted from this support to date – mainly in Africa and Asia, with 27% of the total going to LDCs.

Building supply side capacity and trade-related infrastructure is hugely important. It is a necessary complement to more open markets. And, together, this is a proven recipe for greater growth, development, poverty reduction and job creation.

I have heard this message loud and clear during the course of the Global Review. But what else have we learned?

I want to highlight some of the key messages which have struck me this week – and which I think may be helpful in guiding our future work.

First, I see a close synergy and correlation between Aid for Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Achieving economic growth is a key objective for both initiatives. In fact, the SDGs call for an "increase in Aid for Trade support for developing countries, particularly LDCs".

So we must ensure that Aid for Trade continues to deliver more and better – and that we improve our coordination across the international community.

Secondly, the Global Review has put an important spotlight on LDCs.

There have been a number of sessions focusing on LDCs this week. The message I take away here is that we need to be more innovative. We need to look more closely at the range of specific needs that these countries have and ensure that they are being met. For example, we may need to look at directing help in different sectors.

More than three-quarters of overall Aid for Trade disbursements go to four sectors: transport and storage, energy generation and supply, agriculture, and banking and financial services.

Of course these sectors are essential, but there may be other areas which need focus.

Tourism has been a hot topic this week. Only 1% of Aid for Trade support goes directly to this sector. But, for many LDCs, tourism represents over 10% of GDP.

So that’s my second point – we need to maintain our focus on LDCs, and aim at a world with no LDCs. But to get there we must be ever more ready to innovate and prioritise support on the basis of the specific needs expressed.

My third point relates to the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

With the entry into force of the TFA, implementation is becoming a greater priority for both developing countries and donors. Infrastructure and associated services play a fundamental role in connecting developing countries to international markets.

So this must remain an important focus.

My fourth point is about connectivity.

It is clear that promoting inclusive trade for sustainable development requires us to improve connectivity – both physical and digital. Without connectivity, trade does not take place.

High trade costs have the potential to price many firms out of markets and reinforce economic isolation. This is also evident in the digital networks that intertwine with physical trade infrastructure, and which are integral to trade.

Indeed, one thing that has struck me this week is the recognition that digital connectivity is essential for growth, irrespective of the sector. From tourism to agriculture, being connected is becoming fundamental.

But of course, without an affordable connection, individuals and firms cannot access the marketplace of the world-wide web. And without the necessary skills and regulatory environment in place, micro, small and medium sized enterprises cannot thrive.

So we must act to bridge these gaps in connectivity – both digital and physical.

Failure to do so would be to reinforce existing inequalities between developed and developing economies, and within countries between women and men, rural and urban, and large and small firms.

I think that Aid for Trade must be mobilized to address this challenge.

And this brings me to my final point.

I have been hearing calls from many to mainstream gender issues into our Aid for Trade work.

I agree, and I think we should ensure that future work goes further in taking gender perspectives into account. We need to keep up our momentum in this area.

So those are some of the key messages that I have taken away from the week. And I think that they can inform this work as we look to the future.

Before I close, I would like to note here that, of course, the Global Review comes just a few months before the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Buenos Aires.

Over the coming months I would ask you to reflect on what has been achieved and where we should take this work next. With any initiative of this kind, we need to keep analysing our progress. We need to keep debating the way forward.

This is how we will ensure that the work remains fresh and relevant to members’ needs. This evolution is essential – and it must be driven by you.

This week has provided a lot of food for thought. Enough for a feast!

So let’s work together to ensure that the Aid for Trade initiative continues to go from strength to strength. There is still a lot to do. We are on the right path, but there is a lot further to go.

It has been a great pleasure to host the Global Review. Thank you all for your engagement, and for the knowledge, passion and commitment that you have shown.

Let me also thank the WTO Secretariat, particularly the Development Division, for their excellent work in putting all of this together. I know that it has been a lot of work.

So congratulations to you all. I wish a safe trip to those who now travel home – we hope to see you again as soon as possible.

Thank you all for listening – and for making the Sixth Global Review a great success.

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