Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo welcomed the positive mood about the WTO’s work following the successful conclusion to negotiations at the Nairobi Ministerial Conference in December. “People are optimistic about the WTO, and excited to work more closely with the organization. This was clear throughout my exchanges with governments and businesses in Davos,” said the Director-General.
The Director-General took part in World Economic Forum sessions on the “Future of International Trade and Investment” and the “Future of Global Trade”, and held a series of meetings with private sector representatives, ministers and other high-level political leaders. He also attended an informal ministerial gathering on WTO issues hosted by the Swiss government on 23 January.
Speaking at this ministerial gathering, the Director-General said the success in Nairobi had confirmed that “the WTO is back on the map”. Building on the success of the previous Ministerial Conference in Bali, he said that these results would “provide a real boost to growth and development around the world — which is particularly vital given the continuing economic uncertainties”. He stressed that the organization should implement the outcomes agreed in Bali and Nairobi, and that WTO members should aim to continue delivering further concrete outcomes.
At the conclusion of this meeting, which was attended by over 20 ministers from a range of developed and developing countries, he noted the constructive and positive tone of the discussion which could potentially help to inform discussions among the full WTO membership in Geneva. The Director-General said:
“It is very welcome that members are already talking about how we can keep delivering in the future and I think that some important commonalities emerged from today’s conversation. First, there is an openness to talk about the pending issues of the DDA and other issues that members want to discuss — without prejudice to what the outcomes might be. We will need to see openness and flexibility on both substance and process if we are to make further progress.
“Second, this conversation must be inclusive. All members should have the opportunity to shape the debate. In addition, the private sector is very keen to get engaged. This is very welcome but again it should be inclusive — we should seek to hear from businesses of all sizes from both developed and developing countries, as well as from other areas of civil society.
“Third, I was pleased to hear from many ministers that they are ready to be more involved in discussions from this point on. Clearly, ensuring that the Geneva process has more frequent political guidance would be very constructive.
“Flexibility, openness, inclusiveness and political engagement will be key ingredients for success. I am very pleased that members are already engaging in a very positive way — and I look forward to continuing this conversation in Geneva.”