Observations du Directeur général, M. Azevêdo

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Ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon again.

Welcome to this session organised by the Standards and Trade Development Facility.

During the previous session we launched a publication that outlines the ongoing cooperation between the WTO and the FAO.

The STDF is a clear example of this partnership.

We founded this initiative over 10 years ago together with a range of other partners to help developing and least-developed countries implement standards and meet SPS requirements in importing markets.

And the STDF has delivered on this front.

To date, the STDF has carried out over 150 projects and has provided significant support to the most vulnerable. Some 65 per cent of project resources are dedicated to LDCs.

So I think that this is a great example of Aid for Trade in action.

But of course, I think we can do more to help developing countries meet the standards for safe trade in food and agricultural products.

Technology is an important element here – and of course automation will be the focus of your discussions this afternoon.

The use of electronic systems can help to improve traceability, reduce food wastage, and strengthen food safety.  

Technology can also help to cut bureaucratic costs, helping to lower the time and cost to export.  

For example, Kenya launched its electronic phytosanitary certification system in 2011. By 2016, more than 892,000 digital phytosanitary certificates had been issued.

This has helped to increase government revenue in that area by a phenomenal 75%, and also helped to build higher levels of trust among trading partners.

Implementation of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement is also a case in point here.

The TFA is the biggest trade deal for a generation. By simplifying, modernizing and harmonizing complex border processes, the Agreement helps to speed up the movement of goods across borders.

This deal also encourages countries to incorporate electronic documents into their customs processes. For example, it requires members to ensure all necessary forms and documents can be accessed online. It also encourages members to provide electronic copies of documents to allow for pre-arrival processing of goods. In addition, it helps to improve coordination between customs by ensuring that when an electronic document has been submitted, paper documentation should not be required.

These modernising reforms are what make the Agreement so impactful. Full implementation could cut global trade costs by an average of 14.3% - and developing and least-developed countries will stand to gain the most.

These are just a few examples of how new technologies can help cut trade costs and ensure more people can start trading.

However, this cannot happen overnight.  There are still huge gaps in connectivity, in the availability of technologies, and in the skills to use them.

And the risk is that if we do not act, these gaps will continue to rise – and become unsurmountable obstacles.

So I think that today's discussion on going paperless with SPS systems is very important.

You will have the opportunity to share experiences and identify best practices. But more than that, this session is a chance to discuss the practical steps we need to take to ensure that developing countries can leverage new technologies to promote safe trade in food and benefit their communities.

Working together across the international community I'm sure that we can make a big difference.

So thank you for listening. I wish you an excellent session – and look forward to hearing about your discussions.




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