> Allocutions: Roberto Azevêdo


Minister McClean,
Secretary General Kituyi,
Secretary General Sharma,
Ambassador Williams,
Ms Tembo,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

It is a pleasure for me to be here today to speak about small island states and to help mark this International Year of SIDS.

I too would very much like to thank the organizers: UNCTAD, the Government of Barbados – and especially Ambassador Marion Williams – for inviting me to speak here today.

I must add that I am particularly pleased to be here today for UNCTAD's 50th Anniversary. The creation of UNCTAD in 1964 was a historic moment for developing countries the world over. I extend my sincere congratulations to Secretary General Kituyi and all his staff.

Awareness of the issues and concerns of small island states first came clearly to the fore at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

It was then that small island states and coastal areas first received special recognition.

The Agenda 21 action plan made reference to the protection of the oceans, seas and coastal areas. And it included a programme on the sustainable development of small islands.

As a matter of fact it pointed to SIDS as a "special case" both for the environment and for development.

Small islands were considered to be ecologically fragile and vulnerable.

They were recognized for having special characteristics such as their small physical size, their limited resources and their geographic dispersion and isolation from some markets.

And it was acknowledged that all of these traits place them at a disadvantage economically, preventing them from reaching economies of scale sufficiently large to make a dent in global markets.

This may not sound surprising today – but it was real a breakthrough at the time.

And it is precisely this problem which I would like to discuss today – specifically the issue of how SIDS and Small Economies, as they are known at the WTO, have managed to tackle some of these issues not only at the WTO, but also across the trade community.

Many years have passed since Barbados hosted in 1994 – two years after the Rio Earth Summit – the first Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island States.

The awareness created in the international community at that time became even stronger in the years that followed and then – some seven years later - spilled over into the work of the WTO.

It was in 2001 when certain small island states realized there was a specific need to address the trade concerns of SIDS and to do so at the WTO.

I remember when that conversation started - I was there, and it seemed like a novelty at the time.

Barbados and a number of other SIDS proponents seized their chance with the launching of the Doha Round of negotiations.

They made sure that a Work Programme on Small Economies became part and parcel of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. That was a very very important step.

The focus of the work programme was to find responses to the trade-related concerns of Small Economies so that they could become better integrated into the multilateral trading system.

From the beginning, the proponents of the Work Programme pursued their goals with discipline and vigour.

It didn't take long for trade negotiators the world over to become familiar with the term Small Vulnerable Economy or SVE.

Time has indeed marched on since Bridgetown, Doha, and Port Louis in Mauritius where the 2nd SIDS Conference was held in 2005.

As we approach the 3rd SIDS conference in Samoa in a few months, I think it is time to make a realistic assessment and to take stock of what has and what has not been achieved for SIDS and Small Economies on the trade front.

There are three points which I would like to make:

First - the Doha Work Programme on Small Economies has become the vehicle with which SVEs have successfully introduced their concerns into the Doha negotiations and into the trade community at large.

Through their perseverance and hard work, SVEs have been able to overcome some serious initial difficulties in this task and, I might add, scepticism from some about what actually "constitutes" a small economy.

Second, as things stand today, nothing I hear from WTO members would suggest that small economies and their very particular circumstances and needs would be not recognized in any future work to advance the Doha round. That’s also very important.

Third, SVEs can be proud of the ground they have so far covered in the Doha Round and systemically in the WTO.

They have left their marks on several areas.

Apart from agriculture, industrial goods and services, Small Economies have contributed to the negotiations on rules, especially those covering fisheries subsidies, trade facilitation and Aid for Trade.

There have also been several General Council and Ministerial Conference decisions which have helped to further guide the existing Work Programme and to strengthen the political base of Small Economies overall.

However, with the slow-down in the Doha negotiations, the SVEs have, understandably, turned their attention in the last three years to some pressing trade-related concerns.

And it has indeed paid off.

The Ministerial Decision taken by the WTO in 2011 is one example of this.

This decision was about the examination of the effects of Non-Tariff measures on the exports of small economies – and incorporated significant issues such as Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary measures and Technical Barriers to Trade.

Of course another example of where this has clearly paid off, was in the Bali package which members agreed last December. Because, alongside the substantive gains in the package, ministers also agreed the work programme for small economies.

This puts the focus for the next two years – until the next ministerial conference in 2015 when we will have an opportunity to review all this – on the challenges and opportunities experienced by small economies when linking into global value chains in trade in goods and services.

These new patterns of production are increasingly important in trading relationships among developing countries – and finding your place in them represents an increasingly significant challenge for small economies.

Indeed, it is clear that Small Economies have a series of obstacles to overcome before they can begin to interact more fully in these values chains. For example: access to finance, burdensome customs procedures, high transportation costs, deficient infrastructure, lack of skilled labour, difficulties in complying with international standards, and uncertain regulatory and business environments.

It is a long list.

Many of these obstacles will be the focus of this work over the coming months in the WTO.

And I think they demand our attention.

So there is a lot of work ahead.

But, in closing, I think we should take a moment to celebrate the headway that Small Island Developing States already have made in securing more awareness of their specific concerns and limitations.

They are continuing to forge ahead in an effort to find more solutions for their trade-related concerns.

And I think they should be encouraged and assisted every inch of the way.

The work that has been done by the small economies is of great benefit, not only to them, but to everything we do at the WTO.

This experience shows that the WTO can tailor its rules to address the concerns of a group of members with particular common issues. And this is something that I think was reflected in the Trade Facilitation Agreement in Bali.

So I hope that the WTO can continue to count on the SVEs in this way as we work, on the one hand to implement all elements of the Bali package and, on the other hand, to set a path for the conclusion of the Doha Round.

Small economies will benefit in both cases.

And I know that the tenacity and originality they have shown in coming up with innovative solutions to difficult problems is exactly what we will need in the weeks and months ahead.

So I, and the WTO, will be at the disposal of all of you to continue the work that we need to do to advance the case of the singularity of the small island states and I do hope that your work here is going to be contributing to the efforts that we are undertaking

Thank you very much.


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