> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Good morning everyone.

Welcome to the World Trade Organization — and welcome to the 2015 Public Forum. 

Since our first Public Symposium in 2001, this event has become one of the highlights in our calendar. And this year is no exception.

Of course, our doors are open all year round. But during the Public Forum, you’re in charge. You’re the boss!

This is the moment when NGOs, academics, the private sector, the media, governments, international organizations, and members of the public come to Geneva to discuss the big issues in trade. 

This is your platform. And so I am glad to see that we have an excellent turnout once again. 

Over the next three days we will have 88 sessions — all organized by you — where we will discuss some of the really big, pressing issues.

We will also have two plenary debates here in this hall, along with exhibition stands, book launches, and much more besides.

There will be plenty of opportunities to share your ideas, and your experiences. 

So I hope you will get involved, join the discussions — and make your voices heard.

Now, this year the WTO is marking a big milestone. 

It is the organization’s 20th anniversary.

And so it is an important time for reflection on our record – on what we’ve accomplished, what we have not accomplished, and on what the future may hold. 

This process of reflection led to this year’s theme for the Public Forum, which is "trade works".

Trade works to leverage economic growth and development.

It works to connect economies, businesses and people across the globe.

It works to create jobs.

And it works to lift people out of poverty. 

But I think perhaps the title is one word too short. It should be "trade works if…" Because none of these benefits are automatic. 

Trade works…

  • if it is accompanied by the right policies.
  • if countries are supported to build the capacity they need to compete. 
  • and if we have a transparent system of rules which are agreed together and are enforced in a fair, open and cooperative way. 

Getting the "if" right is what the WTO is all about. 

And I think our record over the last 20 years is pretty strong. 

WTO members cooperate every day here in Geneva to maintain and improve the trading system. 

Supported by this cooperation we have seen tariffs cut in half and trade volumes double over the last 20 years. 

We have seen the benefits of trade extended to millions more people as developing countries’ share in global merchandise trade has leapt from 27 per cent to over 43 per cent.

And through the Aid for Trade initiative we have seen 245 billion dollars disbursed to help countries improve their trading ability. 

In addition, we have ensured that the rules of trade are observed, by dealing successfully with almost 500 disputes.

And we have struck new trade agreements. 

The Bali Package of decisions, which were taken in 2013, was a big step forward.

This package contained important decisions on Agriculture and in support of Least Developed Countries. And it contained the Trade Facilitation Agreement. 

This agreement will make trade work better for everyone. It will cut the cost of moving goods across borders. And the majority of the benefits will accrue to the developing and least-developed. 

Another recent advance came in the negotiations to expand the Information Technology Agreement in July. 

This will eliminate tariffs on over 200 IT products — worth approximately 7% of global trade. That’s huge.

So deals like this can help trade work better too. 

But of course, we could do much, much more. 

I was in New York just last week to discuss the role of trade in delivering the new Sustainable Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goal to cut extreme poverty by half was reached by 2010 — well before the 2015 deadline. And trade played an important part in that historic achievement.

Economic uncertainty is rising in the global economy. More than 800 million people are still living in extreme poverty. We must therefore ensure that trade is used to its full potential as a tool of growth and development in the years to come.

And our next opportunity to do this will come at our 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in December. 

This is the first time that the WTO holds such a conference in Africa. And so it must deliver to support growth and development in Africa, and beyond. 

I hope that the discussions that we have here over the coming days, will send us towards Nairobi with real momentum. 

So now let me introduce our session here this morning. 

First, I want to extend my warmest welcome to our fantastic panel. We are joined by:

  • Lilianne Ploumen, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.  
  • Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Kenya and of course Chair of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. Amina will be joining us in a moment or two.
  • Yuejiao Zhang,  member of the WTO’s Appellate Body.
  • Susan Schwab, Former US Trade Representative and now Professor at the University of Maryland and Strategic Advisor at Mayer Brown LLP.
  • Anabel González, Senior Director at the World Bank Group.
  • And our moderator Lerato Mbele. 

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all. 

You may have noticed that our panel has something in common. Apart from one notable exception, we are all women! 

This wasn’t something we had planned, but I am delighted nonetheless. I think this may be a first at the WTO.

So, in a moment we will hear a keynote address from Minister Ploumen.

Then I will introduce a short video which illustrates how trade works, by following the production journey of a simple product and the people involved. And after that I will hand over to Lerato to moderate our panel discussion, focusing on how we can make trade work more inclusively.

So thank you all for listening — I wish you an interesting and engaging few days. 


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