SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Ambassador González,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning – and thank you for the kind invitation.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you at this juncture because I understand that the joint initiative is moving into a new phase.

You are now commencing a more concrete discussion on what a multilateral framework on investment facilitation could look like.

This is a welcome step.

So I want to commend you all – and let me note especially the work done by Ambassador González in coordinating the efforts of this group.

It is impressive to see what you have accomplished so far. The debate on investment facilitation for development at the WTO has advanced considerably over a relatively short space of time.

Throughout your discussions, you have helped to highlight the interlinkages between trade, investment and development. I think that this has helped to shift from a more controversial debate about investment protection towards a more positive focus on facilitation of investment. The fact that many developing and least-developed members are engaged in these conversations is also very positive.

I think engagement has been high because your discussion has resonated with the challenges faced both by governments and the users of the trading system, including businesses.

For trade to flow smoothly, you need the appropriate infrastructure. You need roads, railways and telecommunications. You need human capital and proper institutions. And all of this requires investment.

But investment reaches far beyond the needs of infrastructure. It is also essential to help build production facilities and to establish plants that are modern and competitive globally. Indeed, foreign investment often helps to create facilities that are more technologically advanced and which practise more environmentally friendly methods of production.

Furthermore, investment can help us realize potential that in some cases has not yet been explored. How often have we seen potentialities and opportunities that remain dormant in developing countries simply because of lack of resources to make them a reality?

There is now a much clearer understanding that in today's globalized and digitalized world, that advancing investment is an essential step in advancing trade and in advancing development.  This makes it even more important for policy-makers to take an integrated and coherent approach. 

Equally, economies will not fully realize the growth and development gains from investment unless they also work to facilitate it.

In this vein, more and more countries are introducing measures to simplify investment-related administrative processes, cut red-tape and improve the business environment.

In fact, many developing members have made investment facilitation a cornerstone of their development strategies.

Clearly, there are some interesting opportunities here. Conversations at a global level could help to complement these national efforts, as well as look at ways to help ensure that everybody has the capacity to undertake these reforms.

While not all members are engaged in this work here, it is clearly evolving fast. You have advanced in an open and transparent manner. Interest levels are high, with many non-signatories also participating in the discussions. I encourage you to remain open and transparent, and to keep working to inform and interact with the full membership.  

Last year your discussions have helped to identifythepossible elements of a multilateral framework to facilitate investment. So, looking forward, you have a good sense of what these structured discussions should now address.

For example, I understand you would like to further develop the possible elements, aimed at: 

  1. Improving the transparency and predictability of investment measures,
  2. Streamlining and speeding up administrative procedures and requirements,
  3. Enhancing international cooperation, information sharing, and the exchange of best practices,
  4. Exploring technical assistance and capacity building support, and
  5. Looking at how this topic relates to other issues in the global economy – including, for example, the challenges faced by smaller businesses.

You are taking steps towards a more outcome-oriented phase of this initiative. It's now about finding out how to reach your objectives. Your conversations will now focus on practical, example-based discussions, which could help to advance these topics. I understand many members have already circulated concrete examples for the thematic discussions.

 This new phase kicks-off today with a discussion on how to improve the transparency and predictability of investment measures. And I understand that you have a full pipeline of discussions planned over the next few months.

I think that the approach you are taking is very positive.  

Meetings are organized with a clear focus, theme and structure. This allows all members to better prepare and engage in your thematic discussions. With this approach, you are giving yourselves the best possible chance to find creative solutions and build further momentum behind these conversations. And the engagement of your capitals is particularly important here – either by participating in the meetings or being fully briefed on the discussions.  

As I have said many times, members' capacity to be creative and flexible is vital.  

Of course, this does not mean forcing members to join any initiative that they don’t want to join. Nor does it mean abandoning longstanding issues on our negotiating agenda. It simply means allowing members to have conversations in those areas which they want to explore.

Ultimately, I think that our ability to make progress in this – and other – areas will be key to showing the continued importance, relevance and credibility of the WTO.

While we work to respond urgently to the broader systemic issues that we face in the trading system, we also have to deliver in areas of immediate, practical economic importance to members.

For many members, facilitating investment is clearly one such area. It is critical to expanding development, fuelling innovation, generating jobs, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Astana is an obvious landmark for all conversations that are now ongoing. So this group should also reflect on how they want to use MC12.

So keep up the hard work.

Thank you for listening. I look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations.

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