SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

I want to start by thanking all those who have intervened in this session, and in other discussions during the week.

The WTO is proud to be the home of the Global Review of Aid for Trade.

Over three days, we have seen intense, inclusive and constructive discussions about the importance of Aid for Trade for diversification and empowerment.

Engagement has been very high. More than 1,500 people have taken part, including many ministers and other leaders, with a total of 84 sessions held.

This closing session is a welcome opportunity to reflect on some of the main issues debated, and also to look at the way forward for the initiative.

There is no doubt about the significance of Aid for Trade.

Since it was launched just over a decade ago, over USD 409 billion have been disbursed under this initiative, reaching 146 countries or territories. And that support has been targeted at helping the recipients to build their trading infrastructure and capacity.

Building supply-side capacity and trade-related infrastructure is hugely important. It is a necessary complement to more open markets. And, together, this is a proven recipe for greater growth, development, poverty reduction and job creation. All this is essential to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the global economy changes, we must ensure that this initiative remains responsive to the needs of members.

The 2019 Review has been focused on supporting economic diversification and empowerment. This is fundamental when we look at the current landscape.

We are faced with huge economic change today, driven by many factors - including new technologies. This is reshaping the way our societies operate and interact.

The trade and development community must ensure that initiatives like Aid for Trade can adapt and continue to make a meaningful contribution on the ground.

We have seen this concern reflected in many of the debates during this Global Review.

For example, a theme that emerged strongly from the review was the importance of digital connectivity for diversification and inclusion. 

We heard how digital approaches are being integrated in Aid for Trade activities. We learned how they are being applied to the movement of cargo, and how these approaches can be used to bring the most fragile into trade flows. 

In fact, many have highlighted digital inclusion as a critical part of diversification. 

I heard the call from Côte d’Ivoire just now – and from others during the week and on different occasions – for the Secretariat to help developing and least-developed members to participate in e-commerce work at the WTO. As ever, we’re ready to respond to members requests for support so will be looking into that.

Further work here could be important to keep the Initiative relevant and responsive. Of course, there may be fruitful connections here with other areas of work in the WTO.

Promoting greater economic sustainability was also a highlight in the discussions.

Yesterday's session on diversification and the blue economy helped to underline this issue. Ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, over-fishing and illegal fishing; all these phenomena are putting livelihoods at risk and jeopardizing the future of many coastal economies.

Current WTO negotiations to tackle harmful fisheries subsidies would be a very important step to help address this urgent issue. Peter Thomson, the UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, made this case at our session yesterday morning. I hope WTO members will heed this call and redouble their efforts towards a successful deal.

In a similar vein, we also had very interesting debates on how to build diversification in climate sensitive sectors and how to promote adaptation measures that increase resilience. This morning's session touched on the impacts of tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth. It underscored what is at stake, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable. This could be another area for additional Aid for Trade work.  

Inclusion and empowerment also featured prominently in the debates.

This includes the many debates on women's economic empowerment, which were a true highlight of this review. In fact, I believe this is an area where we can point to real progress. At the end of the last Global Review, we heard a strong call to mainstream gender issues into our Aid for Trade work.

Today, a very significant majority of Aid-for-Trade strategies – both of donors and partner countries – have incorporated women's economic empowerment.

The Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment is also another important platform on which we can build. We also heard the call for more data on this issue. The WTO and the World Bank launched a joint research project to deepen the understanding of the linkages between trade and gender. So I think there is much more to come in this area.

Other debates around inclusivity and empowerment included a particular focus on ways to empower LDCs. There was also a focus on small businesses and young people. I think these are also very important dimensions for future Aid for Trade work.

Finally, we also heard about important work done to help drive diversification efforts via other avenues, such as: quality infrastructure, the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the role of new forms of manufacturing, and the role of the services economy.

The list goes on. And I think that the richness of the debate clearly reflects two things: first, that Aid for Trade continues to be a fundamental tool to help economic empowerment; second, that there is much scope for this initiative to adapt, change, improve and evolve in order to keep helping members to address structural challenges, both old and new.

Precisely how we shape the future of this initiative is up to WTO members. And I think that this Global Review has offered us a lot to build on.

So let’s continue working together to ensure that the Aid for Trade initiative continues to go from strength to strength.

I look forward to our discussions on the next stages of this work, and to hearing members' ideas for how we can use the Aid for Trade platform to address evolving development needs and priorities.

Finally, let me thank the WTO Secretariat once again for their excellent work in putting all of this together. That applies particularly to the Development Division but also to colleagues from across the house. I know that it has been a lot of work – and I am sure that it is appreciated by the membership, and all of the participants here this week.

Congratulations to you all.

I wish a safe trip to those who now travel home – we hope to see you again as soon as possible.

Thank you all for listening – and for making the Seventh Global Review a great success.

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