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Minister di Malila,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

I am pleased you could join us this morning to launch this publication on trade and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Three years ago, world leaders came together to set these 17 ambitious goals – including ending poverty by 2030.

I applaud that vision. I think targets like these are essential. No one has ever climbed a mountain without first fixing their eyes on the summit.

Now we are all sherpas on that climb. And I think that trade, and the WTO, can bear its full share of the load.

Combined with the right financing and capacity-building assistance, trade is a vital catalyst for development. This is demonstrated by the experience of recent decades, as greater trade cooperation has helped to transform the welfare and living standards of so many people around the world.

The figures tell the story.

Developing countries' share of global trade has jumped from 28 to 46 per cent over the last 20 years.

In turn, this progress helped to lift one billion people out of poverty, and it delivered on the Millennium Development Goals.

We must ensure that trade continues to play this positive role.

To focus our minds on this task, we have prepared this publication. I was pleased to present an advance copy to UN Secretary-General Guterres when we met earlier this year.

The report highlights the contribution that we think trade can make in meeting the SDGs.

It emphasizes the importance of mainstreaming trade into national policies to expand economic opportunities. And it looks at the role that international cooperation and the multilateral trading system can play in these efforts.

The report also puts forward ten recommendations which would help to ensure that international trade contributes to accelerating progress in achieving the SDGs. These range from continuing to reduce trade costs, to enhancing trade in services.

One key recommendation is strengthening the multilateral trading system to support efforts to achieve the SDGs.

There is no doubt that a strong trading system is essential here. The stable, predictable, rules-based framework that the system provides helps to underpin growth and development. It provides everyone with a seat at the table.

It also helps to ensure that everybody can participate by providing developing countries with the necessary practical support to build capacity and trading skills. This is a key pillar of our work.

The WTO runs a range of training programmes, tailored to the needs of developing country officials, so that they can successfully navigate the system. The WTO is also host to the Standards and Trade Development Facility, the Enhanced Integrated Framework and the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility. These are partnerships in the trade area that help countries better take advantage of trade opportunities.

And of course, we have the Aid for Trade initiative, where we cooperate with UNCTAD and other partners, to ensure that developing countries receive targeted assistance to improve their trading infrastructure.

Since it was launched just over a decade ago, over 300 billion dollars has been disbursed under the Aid for Trade initiative, reaching 146 countries. Each dollar has been targeted at helping those countries to build their trading infrastructure and capacity.

This work is mentioned in SDG 17 on partnerships aimed at increasing participation of developing countries and LDCs in world trade. And it is also referenced in SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth where increasing Aid for Trade flows is a specific target.

In fact, beyond the overall impact that trade can make in SDG 1, cutting poverty, and SDG 8, fuelling economic development, there are a range of specific trade elements in the SDGs.

Members have already delivered a key part of SDG 2, on ending hunger, with their 2015 decision to abolish agricultural export subsidies.

They have also made progress on achieving SDG 3, on health and well-being. This happened last year when members brought into force the amendment to the TRIPS Agreement which helps developing countries to access generic medicines at more affordable prices.

And now discussions are underway on fisheries subsidies. Members have committed to securing a deal to limit harmful subsidies by the end of 2019. Success here would deliver on a key target of SDG 14 on the sustainable use of our oceans. So we must keep working to that end.

Other elements of our work connect to the goals as well:

  • the decisions taken to help least developed countries to better integrate into the trading system
  • our efforts to make progress on issues such as domestic support in agriculture and food security
  • closing the gaps in trade finance provision is another key step
  • and we must keep advancing the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. This deal can help to make trade more inclusive by dramatically cutting trade costs, particularly for the poorest countries.

We need to keep advancing on all of these fronts.

However, we should also guard against anything that could imperil this work.

If we continue to erect trade barriers in the way we are seeing today, this is the outcome that we risk.

Further escalation could do serious economic harm, hitting the poorest economies the hardest and setting back efforts to achieve the SDGs.

Our challenge is to respond urgently to resolve the broader tensions in global trade, while also keeping up our work.

This publication is a welcome and timely reminder of the importance of this work, and of our shared goal of building a more prosperous and peaceful world for all.

Trade has proved to be a transformative force in the lives of many, many people. We know what can be achieved. And we have achieved a lot in recent years.

So let’s redouble our efforts to continue this work. Let's build a more inclusive trading system, which supports the SDGs, keeps pace with the evolving nature of trade, and which paves the way for a better world.

We have an excellent panel with us today to discuss these important issues. I wish you all an excellent discussion.

Thank you.



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