SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO

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Thank you Chair,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am glad to join you today for this last meeting of 2019. Thank you for the kind invitation.

This has been an intense year for the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation.

The Ministerial Statement launched in Paris this past May gave a big boost to your efforts. You have been working hard, in an open, inclusive, and transparent manner. Your work has paid dividends: I understand that you feel you may be in a position to deliver a meaningful outcome by our Ministerial Conference in June 2020 in Kazakhstan.

So congratulations to all of you — especially to the Chair, Mr Jaime Coghi, for his leadership.

It is very encouraging to see this work moving forward, for a number of reasons.

First, your debates are clearly in tune with broader developments in the global economy.

Just a few weeks ago, Korea, on behalf of MIKTA, organized a workshop on this same issue. At the meeting, representatives from business, government, and international organizations underscored the importance of transparent and predictable regulations for services trade. 

Competitive, dynamic services markets cannot thrive in the absence of well-functioning regulatory frameworks.

In fact, this year, our very own World Trade Report found that the costs associated with trading services are about twice as high as trade costs for goods. And a good portion of these costs relates to local regulations. 

When businesses assess the export potential of services markets, they need clarity on what the regulatory processes are, how long they take, which fees are involved.

They also need to be able to seek clarification from the authorities, and to have confidence that regulatory decisions are independent and impartial.

The MIKTA workshop helped to illustrate some of these needs, and I understand that your work is also converging along these lines. This kind of responsiveness to the users of the trading system can only be a positive thing.

In a similar manner, your work has also sought to take account of work in other fora to promote synergies. This is my second point.

The disciplines that this group is developing are built not only on the efforts of the Working Party on Domestic Regulation, but are also aligned with other international instruments of good regulatory practice.

In fact, many members, developing and developed, have already used these instruments to guide their own regulatory reforms.

Ultimately, the goal is to enhance regulatory quality and facilitate services trade, not to constrain policy choices.

Everyone stands to benefit from this work. This is reflected in the diverse membership of this group, comprising members at all levels of development. Disciplines on good regulatory practice are compatible with a variety of regulatory systems and approaches.

Finally, this group has been advancing with a pragmatic mindset. I urge you to keep up this spirit.

Fifty-one participating members have already submitted indicative draft schedules.

The next months will be of critical importance in accomplishing the objective you set out in the Paris Ministerial Statement last May. I hope you will use the break to re-energize and come back ready to hit the ground running in 2020.

And of course, I would urge the group to remain open, to keep communicating with all members, and to proceed in a way which takes into account the concerns of others.

This kind of inclusivity is essential in ensuring that this work is supportive of the trading system.

Ultimately, members are free to participate or not. No member can be forced to join any initiative that they don’t want to join.

At the same time, members must be able to address issues they consider to be of importance to their economies. This is key to ensure that the WTO remains responsive and relevant in today's world.

Essentially, this is what this work is all about. So keep up this momentum — continue to advance in ways that are transparent and inclusive.

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

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