SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Good morning.

I am pleased to join you today. I wanted to be here briefly to congratulate you all for what you’ve achieved so far on this important issue.

The launch of the Informal Working Group on MSMEs was one of the highlights of MC11.

And it was only possible due to the hard work done by all of you — so thank you once again.

I would also like to note the excellent work done by Chile as the coordinator of the Group, and especially Ambassador Casanueva for the great energy and leadership that he has shown.

I think that the MC11 outcome on MSMEs is very important.

It sends a clear message to the wider trade community.

It demonstrates that a large and very diverse group of WTO members are willing to advance this work.

And it shows that members are using the WTO as a platform to discuss issues that are of pressing interest for their economies and citizens.

So I hope that you will be able to translate all this energy into an action-oriented process that can deliver meaningful steps for MSMEs.

To achieve this, how the Group structures itself and moves forward in the months ahead is critical.

I welcome the focus that you are putting on this at today's meeting. I will be interested to hear how you plan to take this initiative forward.

In my view the essential point is that this work should seek to bolster our efforts at the multilateral level. We should seek to ensure that this initiative is helpful and supportive of the wider system. And I applaud the ambition of achieving a multilateral outcome on MSMEs by MC12.

To do this — and to be genuinely inclusive and supportive of the multilateral system — we need to see this ambition reflected in the process from day one.

For example, I think that your discussions should already be taking into account other perspectives — including of those members that are not at the table.

This will help with bringing more and more members into the conversation as you move forward.

So please retain the principles of openness, inclusivity and transparency that have guided your work so far - and continue reaching out to others.

It is hugely impressive that the group has now reached 88 members — drawn from all regions of the globe and all levels of development.

And your efforts here are capturing the imagination of many.

I was in Davos last week and I lost count of the number of business leaders who raised this work with me. It was being very widely discussed — together with the initiatives on e-commerce and investment facilitation. In addition, many ministers raised this work during the Swiss-organised informal ministerial gathering on Friday.

There is great interest — and so I hope that you can use the momentum that you have today.

I want to support this work. And, as with any initiative from members, the Secretariat and I are at your disposal to help in any way we can.

Of course there are other elements of our work this year which may help to raise awareness of MSME issues.

For example, we will continue to engage with stakeholders through the Trade Dialogues programme that we support with the ICC and B20.

In addition, the Enabling e-commerce initiative that we support with the Electronic World Trade Platform and the World Economic Forum will provide a chance to discuss MSME issues as they connect to e-commerce.

And finally the WTO-ICC Small Business Champions programme will continue raising the profile of MSMEs — showcasing projects which provide them with practical support.

This initiative has sparked a lot of interest. We've already announced projects for MSMEs that are being delivered by Google and Mercado Libre. And there are more to come.

With all of this work in mind, I think that MSMEs are now at the heart of the trade debate — and that is where they belong.

So, congratulations, once again.

This work has come a long way in a very short space of time. Let's see how far it can go.

Thank you. 

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