Remarks by DG Azevêdo

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am very pleased to welcome Jack and Rick. It's great to have you with us, and to have the opportunity to launch this joint initiative together here at the WTO's 11th Ministerial Conference.

The internet and new technologies are revolutionizing our lives. If you have a phone, you are now connected to a global marketplace.

This means entrepreneurs everywhere can leapfrog barriers such as physical distance, or lack of information, and leverage the opportunities that trade presents.

This could be the greatest force for inclusion in the global economy that the world has ever seen.

But inclusion is not automatic.

Without the right approach, the big players could easily dominate this market at the expense of smaller businesses. Poorer countries could be left behind.

If we want it to be inclusive, we have to work at it.

We know that around 4 billion people do not yet have internet access. In least developed countries over 70% of people still cannot afford basic internet connection.

This digital divide means that the benefits of digital trade continue to be unevenly distributed.

But even with an internet connection in place, there are still many other barriers that can stop businesses from engaging in e-commerce.

To take part you need to have the appropriate ICT infrastructure and services. You need to have functioning trade logistics. You need to have the legal and regulatory frameworks in place. You need to have access to finance. The list goes on.

Getting this right is a challenge for all of us.

WTO members are now discussing these issues – trying to deepen their understanding of the issues and look at how we can ensure that e-commerce is a tool for inclusion and development.

So this collaboration on the Enabling E-commerce initiative comes at a perfect moment.

Jack and I met in Hangzhou during the G20 last year. In April we welcomed him at the WTO in Geneva. We've been exploring how we might work together on these issues.

And I have the great pleasure to say that we both share this vision of an internet for all; of e-commerce as a real opportunity for smaller players, entrepreneurs and regular citizens.

So when the eWTP and the World Economic Forum approached us a few months ago with the idea of joining forces on a high-level, public-private dialogue on e-commerce, I didn't think twice.

It struck me as an ideal opportunity to enhance this vital debate.

Our three organisations combined can provide a unique platform to achieve this. So I am looking forward to working together to ensure that we realize the potential of e-commerce to change people's lives around the world.

We will start this work straight away, with a meeting at Davos in January.

This will be followed up by other events, including a major one in Geneva later in the year. But this is not just about holding events. It will be a continued results-oriented dialogue, and an evolving partnership.

So I'm excited to get started.

Thank you.




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