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The project will examine how natural disasters have had an impact on trade in the past and will assess which WTO rules and practices can help countries respond to or remain resilient to such disasters in the future. One example discussed at the symposium was the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement, which establishes procedures for easing the flow of goods among WTO members. Services trade - such as insurance – was highlighted as an important way to cope with natural disasters while the WTO's Trade Policy Review mechanism – a review of members' trade policies and practices – has shown how countries have dealt with these disasters in the past. Participants agreed to explore how the WTO could help further. 

The symposium highlighted the need to ensure that trade continues to flow when countries are struck by natural disasters. The ability to supply goods (e.g. food and medicine) and services (e.g. medical help and telecommunications) was identified as essential for an emergency response. Functioning markets were cited as crucial for economic recovery, and it was said that promoting resilience to such events would help to prevent extreme circumstances turning into natural disasters.

In his opening speech, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo called on international organizations to pool their expertise into this project. The Secretary-General of the International Federation for the Red Cross Elhadj As Sy, Kirsi Madi from the United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction and Ambassador Frances Lisson of Australia also participated in the opening session. DG Azevêdo's full speech is available here. A summary of the symposium will be published shortly. The programme of the symposium is available here.

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