Friday, January 25, 2019

Davos focuses on reform

Global trade regime director-general Roberto Azevêdo reviewed the challenges and opportunities facing global trade today – participating in a series of ministerial discussions during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos this week – and stressed that the trading system must evolve if it is to remain relevant.
The meetings included the informal ministerial gathering on World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues hosted by the Swiss government today. The discussion largely focused on possible reforms to the trading system, with a range of different perspectives being aired. The need to address the impasse in appointments to the WTO's Appellate Body was a common theme, along with the need to make progress in a number of other areas.
DG Azevêdo also participated – by invitation – in a Canadian-organised ministerial meeting on WTO reform which took place yesterday; a meeting today where a group of WTO members issued a joint ministerial declaration setting out their intention to launch negotiations on electronic commerce; and a range of discussions organised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) throughout the week.
Speaking at the conclusion of his programme in Davos, the director-general said that trade has been at top of the agenda in Davos. "We had some very productive discussions this week across a range of meetings, and notably we've seen real progress towards negotiations that were announced on e-commerce," he said, adding that it is all very welcome. "It is a sign of the strong and very widely-shared commitment to the global trading system."
"The current trade tensions pose a threat to the entire international community," he added. "The risks are real and have real economic effects. But the opportunities are real too. It is in everyone's interests that we improve prospects for global trade. It is vital for jobs, growth and development around the world. This is what the WTO is all about – so we are taking action."
He said that 2019 will be a crucial year for global trade and for the WTO. "We have an opportunity to tackle the systemic challenges before us and strengthen the WTO for generations to come," the director general said, adding that ultimately the success will depend on whether members are ready for the system to evolve.

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