Opening remarks by DG Azevêdo

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am pleased to welcome you today to this event co-organized by the WTO and the Government of Cambodia, in support of the EIF.

I would like to thank Minister Sorasak and the Government of Cambodia for co-organizing this initiative, and for their leadership as LDC group coordinator this year.

Today's event is about focusing our minds on one of the most important tasks that we face – specifically, how to ensure that the LDCs have the skills and capacity to trade, and how broader investment initiatives can help in this mission.

Helping LDCs to trade is an essential step in building a more inclusive trading system.

One third of the world's poor live in LDCs. Trade should be a source of hope for those people. And more than that, it should be a tool that they can use to leverage greater growth and development in their communities.

We have made some important progress. Average export growth in LDCs has been higher than in other developing countries over the last decade. But we are starting from a low base here. There is still a huge amount to be done.

Even though the LDCs account for more than 13 per cent of the world's population, their share of world trade is still below 1 per cent.

And WTO studies show that in 2016, the LDC share of world exports actually contracted by 6 per cent, largely due to the falling prices of fuels and mining products. This is a concern for all of us.

It's clear we need to maintain our focus on LDCs. At our last two ministerial conferences in Bali and Nairobi we delivered specific decisions to benefit LDCs.

Each of these decisions includes follow-up mechanisms which allow us to seek further improvements.And work in these areas is ongoing.

LDCs are also a special focus of the WTO's Aid for Trade initiative, which helps countries build their capacity to trade.

Since the launch of the Aid for Trade initiative in 2006, more than 80 billion dollars of Aid for Trade resources have been disbursed to the LDCs – with annual flows growing 86 per cent.

And of course delivery bodies like the EIF play an essential role here.

In fact the EIF is the only multilateral partnership dedicated exclusively to assisting LDCs in their use of trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

It does vital work. And it has made real impact on the ground, which I've had the chance to see first-hand.

Fifty-one countries have benefitted from EIF support since the initiative was created.

In 2016 alone the EIF supported 189 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in LDCs around the world. This has helped them to improve production and create jobs producing a range of goods – from textiles to spices, mangoes, honey and many other areas.

I would like to thank everyone who supports this initiative in many ways, especially the EIF Trust Fund donors for their generosity.

And I would like to call on all EIF partners to remain engaged and help take this initiative from strength to strength.

On the eve of our 11th Ministerial Conference, this event is a welcome reminder of the power of trade to drive inclusiveness and development.

So I want to take this opportunity to underscore, once again, the WTO's support for the EIF and our commitment to working collectively in the interests of the LDCs.

Working together, we can ensure that more LDCs benefit from global trade, and that the global trading system is truly working for the common good.

Thank you.




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