> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Good afternoon everybody.

I am pleased to be joining you and trust that you’ve had a constructive first session.

I just want to welcome you all and say a few words about the work that has already been done, and about the challenges that we still need to tackle.

Bali was a first for the WTO.

Not just because it represented our first multilaterally negotiated outcomes — or our first real step towards the conclusion of the DDA.

It was also a first because the Trade Facilitation Agreement broke new ground for developing countries in the way it will be implemented.

For the first time in WTO history, implementation of an agreement is directly linked to the capacity of the country to do so.

Previously it was mostly about giving a certain number of years — so developed countries implement an agreement immediately and least-developed and developing countries just get a few more years. 

Nobody ever talked about whether, when the deadline came, those countries would have the capacity to implement the provisions that were agreed.

So now, and for the first time, we have more than that — we are taking a more dynamic approach.

Under the TFA, not only does a country have to have the capacity before being required to implement the provisions, but assistance and support should be provided to help them achieve that capacity.

Those two things have to be there for the obligation to click into place.

This has never happened before and it did not happen by accident. We made the decision together.

It is one reason why the TFA is so significant. And we must continue to work in this spirit.

There’s no doubt that the TFA was a huge achievement. It represents a significant boost to trade, growth and development.

So we must continue to cooperate in order to put that text into practice. 

And alongside the hard work that has been going on in the Preparatory Committee, there has already been a lot of activity as donors and international organisations — along with the WTO Secretariat — work to mobilize additional support.

The fact that so many of these donors and other organizations are here in the room today further demonstrates their commitment. 

You will be hearing, during the course of the workshop, about examples of trade facilitation measures that have already been successfully implemented with their support.

And I understand that some new ideas and initiatives are also being put forward — including a new "Trade Facilitation Support Program" from the World Bank.

This initiative, supported by the US, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and the EU, will provide technical assistance to countries to help with implementation of the TFA.

It is of course a very welcome step — which we should applaud.

However, I know from my consultations that there are concerns among developing and least-developed members about accessing the necessary support.

Speaking frankly there is a lack of confidence that the assistance they need will be available.

In some instances there is a lack of understanding on how to access this assistance.  

And there is, therefore, a desire for greater coherence, transparency and predictability.

I understand too that donors would appreciate help to ensure their assistance matches the needs of developing and LDC countries.

On their side they would like more information on which of the trade facilitation measures will need the most support. And they would like to have a better idea of the overall scale of the assistance that will be needed. 

The notification requirements in the Trade Facilitation Agreement are intended to help provide some of this clarity. However, since the Agreement has not entered into force this information is not yet available.

The Secretariat has therefore been trying to facilitate communication between donors and potential recipients to bridge this gap and build confidence.  

To help countries find donors, the Secretariat has compiled information provided by donor members and the Annex D organizations with their technical assistance contact points, along with information on how to make a request. 

In identifying requirements for assistance, an important factor is the critical work that has been taking place already for a number of years on needs assessments. 

And once a substantial number of members have provided their Category A notifications this will help donors to gain a picture of what the overall assistance needs might be.

Drawing all this together, it is clear that extensive work has been taking place to help with implementation and deal with the concerns I outlined a moment ago.

But I think we need to do more.

The fact is that the TFA changes the role of the WTO and the nature of the support that we must provide.

We have to recognize that, as things stand, the WTO may not be fully equipped to deal with the demands of section 2.

That is just the reality.

And so we need to think about how we can adapt to deliver on those demands — and we must do this together.

In recent weeks, within the Secretariat, we have been putting our heads together to develop some ideas of how we might be able to do this in the most positive and effective way possible.

This is still work in progress and my mind is absolutely open on this. I hope we will shortly be in a position to share the thoughts we are having internally with members.

Of course I am not talking about interfering with the welcome and essential support that is already being provided by multilateral agencies and donors. 

Rather, I think that we could potentially play a useful role: to create the best possible conditions for the flow of information between donors and recipients on their needs and options; to help to align support with need; and, therefore, to help improve interaction between agencies so that they can coordinate better amongst themselves.

I look forward to discussing all of this in the near future — at which stage we can have a full exchange of views.

There is no doubt that ensuring timely, effective and specific support will be critical. So I trust that we will continue to work together to deliver it.

Of course our objective is not to implement this agreement simply for its own sake — but for the benefits it will bring.

Our real objective here is to facilitate trade, and therefore to improve prospects for growth and development around the world.

That’s what this workshop is all about.

So let’s continue to work together — just as we did in Bali.  

The TFA represents a huge amount of time and energy, as do the other decisions we took in Bali. We’ve done all the hard work of building the bridge. Now it’s time for us to cross it.

Thank you for listening. I hope this afternoon’s session is constructive.

I believe what you are doing here is writing history. You are trying to ensure that this is an outcome that is positive and profitable for all.

So thank you once again. I look forward to discussing these issues with you all again in the near future.


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