> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Welcome to the 5th Global Review of Aid for Trade.

I am pleased to be joined this morning by:

  • Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General,
  • Dr Jim Kim, President of the World Bank Group,
  • Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank, and
  • Joakim Reiter, UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General.

I am grateful to Joakim for stepping in on behalf of Secretary-General Kituyi, who has sadly suffered a bereavement. Our thoughts are with him today.

Along with our speakers this morning, I am also delighted to be joined by all of you.

We have a huge range of people taking part in the Global Review this year, including:

  • Over 20 ministers from around the world — also from the Pacific, which is the region that faces the highest natural trade costs due to its remoteness,
  • A similar number of leaders from international organizations,
  • Representatives from the private sector,
  • And more than 1,000 trade and development professionals.

So welcome, once again, to you all.

Our theme this year is reducing trade costs to support inclusive, sustainable development.

High costs suffocate trade. They limit the gains from trade. Worse, the burden of high trade costs falls heaviest on the poorest countries, the smallest firms and the lowest income consumers.  

In Africa, high trade costs in the region mean that only 5 per cent of imported food staples are bought from other African countries.

If it's taking 40, 50, 60 or more days to export your produce, then you're not getting the most out of the trading system.

The phrase “time is money” has never seemed more appropriate. If it takes that long to move your goods then it will drive up your costs and you will simply be priced out of the market.

As a result, you will be stuck at the first link of the value chain, and operate mostly with non-time-sensitive commodities. 

In 34 of the 49 LDCs, just three products account for 70 per cent or more of their merchandise exports.

Unbalanced economies struggle to deliver balanced development outcomes. Without diversification, inclusive, sustainable growth is all but impossible.

High trade costs disconnect the economy from international flows of goods and services. They therefore stifle creativity — the motor behind productivity that drives economic growth.

Consumers also get a raw deal. Prices of imports are higher and choice is limited. 

That's a big problem if you earn less than a dollar and 25 cents per day — and around 1 billion people still live in this condition.

This is why reducing trade costs — particularly for the poorest — is so important.

This is a very important year for trade and development.

If you’ll forgive me using a few more numbers …

  • This is the 5th Global Review,
  • We are preparing the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi — making it the first Ministerial Conference to be held in Africa,
  • And we are marking the WTO’s 20th anniversary year.

Over those 20 years the WTO has contributed a great deal to development around the world, and the integration of developing countries into the global trading system.

Since the early 1990s, 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.

Around two-thirds of that poverty reduction has come from economic growth in developing countries — and trade has been a major driver of that growth.

So this year, as the world comes together to define the post-2015 development agenda and agree on the new Sustainable Development Goals, I think we have to make sure that trade plays its full role.

And with this in mind, I think we need to do much more.

Many people remain disconnected from the trading system, or do not feel its full benefits.

We must find ways to further cut trade costs, lower trade barriers, reduce distortive subsidies, and increase people’s capacity to trade, so that the poorest can access more of the benefits that trade can provide.

Fortunately, we have many tools at our disposal to deliver all of this.

First, as we will hear today, we can achieve a great deal through the Aid for Trade initiative itself.

Aid for Trade makes a big difference on the ground, which is what we are all about. In more than 15 African countries, disbursements through this initiative are worth more than 2 per cent of their GDP.

It is vital therefore that we maximise the results that Aid for Trade can deliver.

I’m pleased to say that the evidence harvested in the Global Review shows that this is happening. Aid for Trade is helping to link people into the trading system — and therefore it is improving lives.

Second, we can take a leap forward in cutting trade costs by implementing the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement which was finalised in Bali in December 2013.

The ‘Aid for Trade at a Glance’ report highlights many examples of where border modernization efforts are yielding success.

Cambodia, Guatemala, Kenya, Lesotho, Peru, Tajikistan and Togo are just some of the WTO members that are reporting faster clearance times, higher customs revenues and savings for traders from border modernization efforts.

These examples give a sense of the impact that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement can have. We are talking about a potential annual boost to the global economy of 1 trillion dollars — and 18 million new jobs in the developing world.

And there is a lot of support available to help countries implement the Agreement. The WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility will be an important channel to deliver support, as well as the programmes of many of our partners who are here today — international organizations, development banks, donors.

Delivering the other decisions which were taken in Bali will be very critical as well — particularly those which aim to provide benefits for the LDCs.

Moving on, the third — and potentially the most important step we can take here — would be to negotiate new development outcomes at our Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December.

This is a major focus of our work this year — and we are doing all we can to help members deliver.

Negotiations are intense. It's tough — like everything else we do. But we're still talking and moving in the right direction.

There will be many opportunities to discuss each of these issues, and more, over the next three days.

Indeed, there will be many sessions and debates to get involved in, as well as a wealth of new reports and data to consider.

So let me pick out just some of the key points as I see them:

  • First, trade costs remain too high. They still act as a powerful brake on the development of the poorest. They penalise small business and the poorest consumers.
  • Second, to travel along the path of inclusive, sustainable development, we must do more to cut trade costs.
  • Third, for developing countries and their financing partners, this means prioritizing trade issues and mobilizing resources in order to build capacity.  
  • Fourth, here at the WTO the message is even simpler: implement the Bali Package — including the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and deliver for development in Nairobi. 

Let’s make 2015 the year of trade and development.

I wish you all a very productive three days.

Thank you.


RSS news feeds

> Problems viewing this page?
Please contact [email protected] giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.