WTO NEWS: SPEECHES — DG ROBERTO AZEVÊDO


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> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches

> Fifth Global Review of Aid for Trade

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank all those who have intervened this afternoon.

I have been kept well-briefed on your contributions throughout the Global Review, and I want to thank you for participating.

There has been a great sense of energy this week, which is reflected in the numbers for this event. We have had over a thousand attendees over the last three days, 46 sessions and several thousand pages of analysis. And it has also been reflected in the lively exchanges and debates that we have been having.

I want simply to highlight some of the key messages which have come out of the Global Review — and then to pose some questions that might guide our future work. And of course it is you, the members, who will then discuss, shape and define that work.

I think the clearest message is that trade costs matter. And that we cannot afford to neglect the impact that these costs have on connectivity.

Trade will be a key element in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals. If trade costs remain prohibitively high, particularly for the poorest, then we know that we will fall short. 

But we also know that trade costs are not set in stone. We can take action to reduce them — and indeed a lot of good work is already under way. 

The Global Review profiled a tremendous range of initiatives across Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. 

Indeed, the Pacific is a case in point.

By the simple fact of its geography, that region faces some of the biggest natural hurdles to connecting to the global trading system. And so I have been pleased to note the success of various projects which are working to support the Pacific Islands. 

We also developed our understanding of the disproportionately heavy trade costs which are borne by SMEs. And we heard about different approaches which could help them to shed this burden.

Another theme that emerged strongly was gender. Women face a range of constraints that limit their ability to participate in trade. And I think that this is an area that needs further research and action. 

Many of the sessions and speakers focused on trade facilitation. Slow and inefficient border procedures remain a key reason why trade costs are stubbornly high. 

Implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement is something we can do collectively and individually to address this. The first step is ratification. Two-thirds of WTO members must ratify the agreement for it to enter into force. So this must be a priority.

We heard yesterday from Minister Amina Mohamed of Kenya, who will chair our 10th Ministerial Conference, about how important the timely entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement will be.

This is not least because of the Agreement’s unique architecture which recognises the need for technical assistance to help WTO developing country members to meet their commitments.  Indeed, the WTO’s own Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility was established last year with this important need very much in mind.

We also heard about trade facilitation efforts which are being pursued at regional level — like those which have cut transit times and costs so significantly in East Africa.

These efforts are very positive. They show the huge value that there is in this work — and I think they can help accelerate TFA implementation.

We also heard about the importance of allying investment in hard infrastructure — like ports, airports and roads — with investment in soft infrastructure. Getting the regulatory processes right and creating a stable, transparent and predictable business environment is an absolutely vital element.

And we heard about some surprising benefits that trade facilitation may also bring. Overcoming the problems and delays faced by humanitarian relief and reconstruction agencies in dealing with crises or natural disasters is one powerful example.

As you all know, this is a year of milestones.

When we were approaching this 10th anniversary of Aid for Trade, some asked whether the initiative was still delivering.

So what conclusions can we draw after this Global Review?

I think we can say with certainty that Aid for Trade is a topic on which members remain actively engaged and committed.

Aid for Trade is delivering, but as with any such initiative, we need to remain flexible and open-minded about how it can do more, and what the future priorities should be.

I think that we need to consider the various suggestions which have been made this week for how we might take the initiative forward.

For example, some suggested a more systematic approach to the monitoring of trade costs. I think this is an interesting idea where more work could be done in a number of ways. But of course members will need to consider this and discuss what approach they may want to take.

There were three other elements which stood out to me as issues to be considered by members when discussing the future of Aid for Trade.

First is the need to adapt this work to complement the new Financing for Development framework that will be agreed in Addis Ababa in just two weeks’ time.

Second, members will need to have a similar discussion about how the initiative should evolve to reflect the post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals when they are agreed in New York in September.

Third, I have heard many delegations emphasising the need to deliver for small, weak and marginalised countries. I think this is an extremely important point which needs to be considered.

It has been highlighted, for example, that the LDCs are not currently the main recipients of Aid for Trade funding. In this context I was happy to note that the LDCs and their concerns were the focus of many of the sessions and that members continue to give them priority.

In addition, yesterday we launched the new phase of the EIF. I was delighted that Norway announced a very significant donation to the new phase at that event. We will need to secure further pledges for the EIF over the coming months so that it can continue and enhance its work in supporting LDCs.

So I think we have a lot of food for thought. And in concluding my statement I would like to offer a few suggestions on the route ahead. 

Clearly, to travel along the path of inclusive, sustainable growth, we must do more to bring down high and excessive trade costs.

For us in the trade community, there are some clear and immediate actions which are within our reach and which can contribute to this agenda in a concrete manner. 

First, we must implement the Bali Package — including the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the LDC decisions.

And second, we must deliver outcomes at the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi which support growth and development.  

As the Global Review comes to a close, there are many elements which have emerged from the discussions that are worthy of further attention, a few of which I underlined this afternoon.

So I invite members to reflect further. I will report more formally to the General Council on all of this at the end of this month.

I am very proud to have hosted this Global Review, and to have seen such a wealth of knowledge, passion and commitment on display.

It has reinforced my belief in what we can achieve when we are creative and open-minded.

So let’s keep this discussion going.

And finally, before I close I want to say two things:

  • First, it’s only Thursday, so there is more still to come this week! Tomorrow we are co-hosting a ’Trade Data Day’ along with the ITC, UNCTAD, and the World Bank. This is a technical seminar that will focus on non-tariff trade policy measures, trade in commercial services, and future data challenges. So everybody is welcome to get involved in that conversation.
  • Second, I want to thank everybody at the WTO who has worked so hard to make this Aid for Trade Global Review a success. And it really has been a success!

Congratulations to you all.

Thank you.

 

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