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Source: World Trade Organisation

The full text of DDG Agah’s remarks is below:

Ministers,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting the World Trade Organization to address APEC ministers today.

APEC has always played an important role in fostering economic cooperation across the Pacific Rim. And it has always recognized the role of trade as a major contributor to the region’s growth and development.

APEC’s emphasis on trade cooperation could not be more important today, as we seek to cope with the health, economic and social crises provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to the global economy and to world trade. Global economic output is set to shrink by 4.4% in 2020 – the worst drop since 1945. And while the outlook for trade has improved over the past few months, our economists estimate that the volume of global merchandise trade will still shrink by 9% – the same as in 2009 at the depths of the financial crisis. As of the second quarter, global services trade was down 30% year-on-year.

To recover from this downturn, we will need trade more than ever. Closing markets to trade would provoke new supply shocks, and pass up on the productivity gains that come with increased competition and specialization.

Yet even before the pandemic, trade was slowing down, and global trade policymaking was faltering. The current crisis presents an opportunity to reform, renew and strengthen the trading system, so that it can better contribute to a strong and inclusive recovery. The months between now and our Twelfth Ministerial Conference next year will demonstrate whether we are seizing this opportunity – or whether we are falling short.

Against this background, I will give a quick overview of the current work in Geneva.

The WTO continues to monitor pandemic-related trade policies, allowing governments and other actors to make informed decisions. In parallel, members have intensified negotiations work in many areas. 

In the multilateral negotiations, the first order of business is to conclude an agreement on addressing harmful fisheries subsidies by the year-end target date.

Members have accelerated their discussions based on a single consolidated draft, with a revised text circulated earlier this month. But much remains to be done. Members will need to be pragmatic and focused, with greater engagement and compromise at the political level.

Other ongoing multilateral issues include agriculture and development. Although some members see an outcome on trade-distorting agricultural support as a key priority for MC12, others consider transparency to be more achievable. 

On development, members’ views differ on the G-90’s Agreement-specific proposals on special and differential treatment for developing countries. The Chair intends to work with members to achieve at least some concrete deliverables at MC12. Again, pragmatism and flexibility will be required here.

In addition, groups of members are making good progress under various joint statement initiatives, which remain open to participation by all.  

In e-commerce, members are working to achieve a consolidated text by the end of the year. Participants in the investment facilitation talks are negotiating on the basis of an informal consolidated text. A group of members is also making steady progress in domestic regulation of services.

Members participating in the joint initiative on MSMEs have endorsed a package of six recommendations and declarations to help MSMEs participate in international trade.

Most APEC members are actively engaged in some way in these initiatives. And the energy and momentum we are seeing in this work is very positive.

So that is where we stand today.

Political will, cooperation and pragmatism will be more important than ever to deliver results at this critical moment for the multilateral trading system.

I ask for APEC members’ continued support in that effort.

Thank you.

 

MIL OSI Economics