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Ministerial Conference opens with signing of presidential declaration in support of WTO

Ministerial Conference opens with signing of presidential declaration in support of WTO
Photo credit: WTO | Cuika Foto

11 Dec 2017

The World Trade Organization’s 11th Ministerial Conference opened in Buenos Aires on 10 December with a forceful declaration by four Latin American presidents pledging support for the WTO and its guardianship of the multilateral trading system.

The unprecedented show of support by the leaders – President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, President Michel Temer of Brazil, President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay and President Tabaré Vázquez of Uruguay – comes as hundreds of trade diplomats, journalists and representatives of civil society gather in the Argentine capital for the latest biennial meeting of the WTO’s highest decision-making body.

In their joint declaration, the four presidents reaffirmed the importance of the multilateral trading system as the “best way to take advantage of the opportunities and to face the challenges of international trade”.

They also underlined the importance of preserving and strengthening the multilateral trading system, including its dispute settlement system, in order to promote rules “based, open, transparent, inclusive, non discriminatory and equitable trade embodied in the WTO, providing it with the tools it needs to face the challenges of the 21st century”.

The joint statement of the four presidents was supported by representatives of Colombia, Guyana, Mexico, Peru and Suriname, who also signed the declaration at the conference’s opening ceremony.

“Trade has been a key source of growth and development,” Argentina’s President Macri declared. “However, we know that the benefits haven’t been shared by everybody, and that has given rise to challenges and a questioning of economic globalization.”

“It is our joint responsibility to rise to the challenges of the 21st century and ensure that they become opportunities for a more inclusive future,” he continued. “As the host country, we want to set the basis for the discussion on how to make the multilateral trading system more efficient, to help it become an engine for development.”

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed the joint declaration of support. “This is a huge display of commitment to the idea of free trade as a force for good, and to the multilateral trading system itself.”

“By any objective measure, the multilateral trading system has delivered,” DG Azevêdo said, noting the 26-fold increase in global trade since the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – the WTO’s cornerstone agreement – 70 years ago. “It is a rare example of effective, functioning, vibrant multilateralism – with all the hard work, difficulty, and effort that this can sometimes entail.”

“The system has helped to build prosperity around the world,” he continued. “It has helped to lift a billion people out of poverty in a generation. It has been tested – and it has held firm.”

DG Azevêdo noted that during and after the financial and economic crisis in 2008, the world did not erect trade barriers as in the past. Less than 5% of world imports have been affected by restrictive measures since the crisis. In comparison, global trade shrank by two thirds during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when protectionism was rampant.

“Trading nations held each other to the commitments agreed multilaterally,” he said. “As a result we avoided unilateral actions, potential trade wars and economic catastrophe.”

“In the heat of crisis, the WTO did what it was created to do. And it will continue to provide stability and certainty – especially in challenging times. That’s why I’m so relentless in beating the drum for the system. Not because it’s perfect, but because it’s essential, it works, and it’s the best we have.” His full speech is available here.

The 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11), which will run until 13 December, is being chaired by Minister Susana Malcorra of Argentina. Trade officials will discuss a range of issues over the next three days, including agriculture, development, fisheries subsidies, domestic regulation of services, and electronic commerce.


Presidential Declaration

Opening Ceremony of the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference

The Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Guyana, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay, meeting in Buenos Aires on 10 December 2017 on the occasion of the Eleventh Ministerial Conference (MC11) of the World Trade Organization (WTO),

Agree that on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, the objectives of improving people’s standard of living, achieving full employment and increasing the production of and trade in goods and services remain every bit as relevant while at the same time contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals;

Reaffirm that multilateralism is the best way to take advantage of the opportunities and to face the challenges of international trade. Consequently, they confirm the importance of preserving and strengthening the multilateral trading system, including its dispute settlement mechanism, in order to promote rules‑based, open, transparent, inclusive, non‑discriminatory and equitable trade embodied in the WTO, providing it with the tools it needs to face the challenges of the 21st century;

Stress the importance of holding MC11 in the Argentine Republic, and thank the Argentine Government and people for hosting this international trade summit, while reaffirming their commitment to obtaining positive and substantive outcomes capable of bringing tangible benefits to the peoples of the region and of contributing to ensuring that the WTO continues to be at the heart of world trade governance;

Undertake to coordinate actions in the WTO in order to pursue the process of reforming the rules of international trade in agricultural products, to work towards the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies, to make progress in domestic regulation in services, and to discuss topics of increasing relevance to the trade agenda of the 21st century, including electronic commerce, micro, small and medium‑sized enterprises (MSMEs), and investment facilitation;

Welcome the entry into force, on 22 February 2017, of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which will facilitate trade flows globally and, in particular, at regional level, while helping to promote and enhance customs cooperation and the integration of our countries into regional and global value chains;

Undertake to strengthen dialogue between the countries in the region, with a view to harmonizing the various initiatives that exist in Latin America, orienting them towards achieving results in terms of regional integration and increased participation in world trade;

Draw particular attention to the work carried out jointly by the Pacific Alliance and MERCOSUR in relation to the Roadmap agreed at the Ministerial meeting in April 2017;

Underscore that, in the current international context of slow economic growth and tentative global trade recovery, a joint effort is needed to consolidate the growth of the respective economies, to reduce inequality and to enhance public policies that promote gender equality and help to create decent and quality employment, coupled with efforts to improve education, to build capacity to innovate and to benefit from new technology, and to work together to eradicate poverty and hunger, in accordance with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In light of the above‑mentioned commitments, they invite other WTO Members wishing to join this Declaration to do so.

Source World Trade Organisation
Website Visit website
Date 11 Dec 2017
 
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