WTO Director-General: Roberto AzevÍdo
Roberto Azevêdo is the sixth Director-General of the WTO. He became Director-General on 1 September 2013, serving a four-year term. At a meeting of the General Council in February 2017, WTO members agreed by consensus to appoint Roberto Azevêdo as Director-General for a second four-year term, which started on 1 September 2017. DG Azevêdo made a detailed presentation to the February General Council outlining the successes that the membership achieved since 2013 and his vision for the next four years. His presentation is available here.
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Since its creation in 1995, the World Trade Organization has become an essential part of global economic governance. As the only international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, 98% of commerce takes place under the WTO rulebook. The WTO's 164 members monitor each other’s practices and regulations against those rules in order to improve transparency and avoid protectionism — and when conflicts arise, we have built one of the most effective dispute settlement systems in the world to resolve them, having dealt with over 500 cases in just over 20 years.
The WTO also works to reform and modernise trade by negotiating new trade rules. For much of the organization's history, these negotiations yielded few results — but in recent years we have started to change all that. In 2013 members successfully negotiated the 'Bali Package' which included steps on agriculture, food security, support for the least-developed countries, and the Trade Facilitation Agreement. In December 2015, at our Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, we delivered another package of major negotiated outcomes. These are breakthroughs which will have real-world economic effects, and which can help to improve people's lives the world over.
The Trade Facilitation Agreement will boost global trade by an estimated $1 trillion each year by streamlining, standardizing and simplifying border processes around the world — with the majority of the benefits going to developing and least-developed countries. Meanwhile, the decisions taken in Nairobi include a range of measures which will help improve food security and the delivery of food aid, boost the least-developed countries' ability to benefit from trade, as well as new disciplines that eliminate agricultural export subsidies. Indeed, the Nairobi Ministerial Conference produced the most significant reform of agriculture trade in the WTO's history, helping to level the playing field for the benefit of farmers and exporters, particularly in developing and least-developed countries.
The Nairobi Conference brought another big breakthrough with a deal to expand the Information Technology Agreement. This was the WTO's biggest tariff-cutting deal in 19 years. It will eliminate tariffs on a range of IT products, which account for around 10% of global trade. While agreed by a group of members, the benefits of duty-free market access in these markets will be available to the entire membership.
While the Nairobi Conference was a significant success, it also posed a challenge as members could not reach a common position about the future of the negotiating agenda. Ministers therefore instructed their representatives in Geneva to find ways of advancing negotiations. This is now a key priority for the organization and it will require the commitment of each and every WTO member.
The unprecedented achievements of recent years are bringing the negotiating work of the WTO into line with the other parts of the organization which already function very effectively — from our dispute settlement and monitoring activities, to our work to build the trading capacity of developing and least-developed countries. We aim to build on this, and to strengthen all aspects of our work, in 2017 and beyond.
- Interview with Bloomberg TV ahead of G20 summit in Hamburg, 6 July 2017
- Interview with CNBC in Delhi, 12 February 2017
- Interview with CNBC in Davos (Part 1 and Part 2), 18 January 2017
- Interview with BBC HARDtalk, 2 November 2016
- Interview with Sky News, 26 October 2016
- Interview with Sky News, 07 June 2016
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