This year, the WTO’s 11th annual ministerial conference takes place at a time when the future of the international trading system seems more uncertain than at any time since the organisation was founded. While global trade growth has seen brighter growth in 2017 than recent years, economists have warned that policy uncertainty is the major risk factor keeping trade from fulfilling its potential to create jobs and drive development.
The WTO is a multilateral institution that depends on consensus-driven decision-making and—as has been widely reported in the press in recent days—some governmental delegations arriving in Buenos Aires have varying views on the future direction of the WTO system.
In a strong sign of business support for the multilateral process, the first ever official business event at a WTO forum will be held in Buenos Aires on 12 December—co-hosted by the Argentine Ministry of Production, ICC, the World Economic Forum and the B20.
ICC Secretary General John Danilovich said: “The MC11 Business Forum will provide a unique opportunity for international business to show its strong support for the multilateral trading system. We believe that governments at MC11 must commit to a progressive agenda for the WTO: one which strengthens the institution itself, while enabling trade to do more to tackle global challenges.”
What’s on the agenda?
The high-level roster of speakers at the MC11 Business Forum includes the foreign affairs and trade ministers from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Indonesia and India; as well as other key public sector decision-makers such as EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal.
From the private sector, a number of top executives will be present, including: Marcos Galperin, CEO of MercadoLibre; Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines; Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of Worldpay; and Patrick Hruby, Vice-President of Small and Medium Businesses in Latin America at Facebook.
The forum will open with a discussion on the future outlook and opportunities for global trade before then focusing on key topics such as the internationalisation of SMEs, trade and investment facilitation, trade in agriculture, digitalisation, and the intersection of trade and gender.
In the forum’s final plenary session, ICC Secretary General John Danilovich will team up with board members from the Argentina B20 group and the World Economic Forum to deliver the private sector’s recommended roadmap for the future of the WTO.
View the full programme for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference Business Forum here.