> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches

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Good morning.

Appellate Body members — past and present,


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with all of you today and to be launching this very special publication.  

It's fantastic to see so many familiar faces here. We are joined today by many of the book's contributors and the leading lights of the international trade community.

There can be few events which have gathered together such a wealth of knowledge and expertise.

And I think this is a remarkable book.

It tells the story of the rule of law in the multilateral trading system.

It shows how it has developed and evolved through the days of the GATT and over the 20 years of the WTO.

I also think it shows why we are so proud of the dispute settlement system that we have today — and why it is so important that it must be strengthened and preserved.

The establishment of the WTO in 1995 is widely regarded throughout as a major milestone in international law. So as we mark the WTO's 20th anniversary, it is the perfect moment to look at this central element of our work in Geneva.

The benefits of our disputes work are wide-ranging, and not always immediately apparent. For example, in addition to the direct impact that it has on disputes on the parties involved, I think the strength of the dispute settlement function was also a crucial factor in the response to the financial crisis.

Having the rules in place is not enough. These rules must be enforced, and it was the existence of our efficient and effective dispute settlement mechanism that helped us to curb potentially disastrous protectionist forces during a dangerous period for the global economy.

In this way, and many others, WTO lawyers and practitioners have provided a great public service over the years to the global community.

They have shown time and again that they are a credit to the Organization, and I think this book underlines that fact.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of those who are involved in its preparation.

I would like to thank the 40 current and former staff members, government officials, and members of the Appellate Body for their fascinating testimonies on the development of the multilateral trading system.

Thanks to you this book is quite unlike anything else in the literature on the WTO. It is a true insiders’ account of the nature of the legal work that we do here.

Among the contributors are some of the pioneers who were involved in the creation of the Organization that we serve today.

And of course I want to pay a special tribute to Gabrielle Marceau for her tireless efforts in shepherding this project from start to finish. Without her hard work, it simply wouldn’t have been possible.

On a personal note, I am pleased to see recognition in the book of the role played by non-lawyers. We have two of them right now as Appellate Body members.  

I am an engineer by profession. I was trained to concern myself with the inner workings of highly complex systems that benefit everyone but nobody understands. So working with the dispute settlement system felt quite familiar.

Indeed, I was fortunate to litigate for Brazil for several years. I also served as a panelist a few times. Therefore I have huge respect for the system — and for all those who work so hard to sustain it.

The rule of law and the dispute settlement system are at the heart of everything we do here at the WTO.

So, for all the reasons I have mentioned, I commend this book to anyone with an interest in international law or international trade.

It should inspire us as we look forward to the exciting and formidable challenges ahead.

I wish I could stay to hear the various presentations and debates which you are having here today. Instead I must go back to the negotiations on the work programme for the remaining issues of the DDA.

I hope that in moving that side of our work forward we might write some new chapters in the history of this organization — and provide you with some content for the next edition of this book!

Before I leave I just want to make one small announcement.

As you know today's event is one of a series to mark the 20th anniversary of the WTO.

In just a few days' time, on the 14th of June, we will be holding an Open Day to say thank you to the people of Geneva for hosting us so generously and graciously for the last two decades. We are calling the event "Merci Genève"

It will be a very interesting and lively day. Delegations will have stalls of all kinds, with their national foods, and there will be exhibitions and guided tours. It will be open for the Geneva community.

So I invite you to join us again on the 14th of June for this unique celebration.

But for now, congratulations once more on this excellent book.  I wish you a very successful conference.

Thank you.


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