Source: WTO News
Headline: DDG Zhang highlights role of trade in promoting security, peace and development
Thank you, Serge and greetings to all!
It is my great honour to take part in the launch of the 2021 Global Peace Index. I would like to convey sincere apologies from Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who could not join you today. However, as I am settling in my new role as Deputy Director General, this event gives me a first‑hand opportunity to dive into the Trade for Peace topic – a very important subject, that is dear to my heart and one that is not enough talked about.
I am pleased to join a distinguished panel of speakers, including His Excellency Mr. Augusto Santos Silva, Foreign Minister of Portugal; Ambassador Thomas Greminger, Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy; and Mr. Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). I would also like to extend my special appreciation to our moderator Mr. Serge Stroobants, IEP’s Director for Europe and Mena, for his great work.
I am particularly impressed by the work undertaken by the IEP on its annual Global Peace Indices — a body of work that provides a data driven analysis on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies. This work is crucial, especially now as the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened fragility risks across the entire world, while we are still waiting to see its full-fledged impact in the coming years. Now more than ever, we must combine resources, energy, and technical capacity to mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic, particularly on fragile and conflict affected states.
At the WTO, we believe that economic reforms and institution-building play a key role in promoting stability. Trade in particular produces economic opportunities, helps create employment and strengthens institutions. These are indispensable factors for lasting peace and stability, and the underlying vision of the WTO’s Trade for Peace Programme.
Allow me to take this opportunity to give you a brief background on the Trade for Peace Programme. The ideas behind the Programme, started in 2017 when a group called the “g7+ WTO Accessions Group” was established by seven conflict affected acceding and recently acceded LDCs in Buenos Aires on the margins of MC11 in December 2017. These countries are: Afghanistan, Comoros, Liberia, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Yemen. The Group has brought together, for the first time, fragile and conflict affected countries in the WTO. Their vision is to use trade and economic integration as a tool for building their nations to create greater peace and stability.
This vision has culminated into the Trade for Peace Initiative, which now became a Programme for a wider group of fragile and conflict affected countries in the process of joining the WTO, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Syria. The programme aims at promoting the rules-based system as a peacebuilding process by highlighting the role of trade and economic integration in the security, humanitarian and development fields and emphasizing the linkage between trade and peace, which is often overlooked.
As my predecessor and my friend DDG Alan Wolff said, the Trade for Peace initiative reminded us why the multilateral trading system was created in 1947, following the aftermath of the Second World War, that is to promote a new world economic order through increased inter-connectedness to generate prosperity and prevent returning to inter-state conflicts. This was the noble cause which has delivered unprecedented levels of improved standard livings and poverty reduction for billions.
For many countries joined the GATT or the WTO including of RAMs like China the country I come from, The accession has been an indispensable journey for economic development, peace and prosperity which are being enjoyed by their people.
Fundamentally speaking, the purpose of war is nothing more than gaining honor and resources. The glory can be obtained from sports competitions, just like the European Cup that has just started, and resources can be exchanged by trade. The role of the WTO is also to provide a place for dispute settlement to avoid losing control of trade conflicts between countries. Although the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism has been hit, it is still the consensus among members that rules should be used to handle disputes instead of strength.
Over the last few years, Trade for Peace has brought together the trade, peace and humanitarian communities together, and has now formed the Trade for Peace Network in March this year. In inaugurating the Network, the Director-General said:
“I am no stranger to conflict. Growing up in the Southern Nigeria in the 1960s, I witnessed civil strife first-hand. The challenges of state fragility have figured prominently throughout my career, whether at the World Bank where I oversaw a landmark study on the most vulnerable economies or as Nigeria’s Finance Minister.
Trade can help to break the vicious cycles of fragility, conflict and poverty. Trade can raise people’s incomes and build interdependence between communities and countries contributing to shared prosperity and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”
I believe that she will bring a new vision and dynamism to Trade for Peace, by making the WTO play a greater role in contributing to peace and stability. Currently, various activities are taking place under four main pillars: (i) political engagement and institutional partnerships; (ii) outreach and dialogue; (iii) research; and (iv) training and capacity building.
I can say today that the results of the 2021 Global Peace Index further confirms the relevance of our work on peace. The fact that acceding governments continuously dominate the bottom of the peacefulness ranking should inject in all of us a sense of urgency to tackle fragility, using trade integration. I believe we all have a role to play in the fight against fragility. To deliver the peace dividends from trade integration, we must break silos and establish meaningful partnerships. This is why we are proud of the partnership we have established with the IEP, particularly on the research pillar of the Trade for Peace Programme, where our goal is to create a knowledge hub by gathering, generating, and deepening knowledge on the linkages between trade and peace. In this regard, we are particularly looking into the development of a Trade for Peace Index.
Let me end my intervention by saying that working towards achieving sustainable peace is a herculean endeavour. It can only be achieved if everyone does its part. IEP is doing its part by consistently providing much needed data, information, and knowledge on the state of peace. This work provides immense value to the peace-building community and the world at large. So, let me extend a big congratulations to IEP for its great work on peacebuilding and for the launch of the 2021 Global Peace Index. We look forward to our continuing collaboration.
Thank you and I wish you a very successful meeting!