Home / News & Speeches / International business engagement key to future of trade, ICC Sec Gen

Speaking at a conference on current challenges to global trade in Lisbon this week, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said business could not afford to sit on the sidelines when it came to global challenges, including reform of the multilateral trade system.

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John W.H. Denton AO, ICC Secretary General

The international conference, hosted by ICC Portugal, brought together experts from a wide range of sectors and experience to consider the future of global trade in light of current challenges.

In his keynote address, Mr Denton told participants that the goals of the international community were “everyone’s business” and that business views were vital to enriching global policy and decision making processes.

“When the business community engages in international processes, it lends significant insight with a distinct perspective focused on outcomes that will create results,” he said.

Mr Denton’s address underscored the role of the private sector in securing peace, prosperity and opportunity for all and how this role could be further enhanced through business engagement in international processes.

Mr Denton said that the Permanent Observer Status granted by the United Nations to ICC in 2016 demonstrated a growing recognition by governments of the importance of business in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for people and planet.

Highlighting another milestone recognising the constructive role ICC plays in major international discussions, Mr Denton announced that ICC had been asked by the Japanese G20 Presidency to co-organise an international symposium on WTO reform on the sidelines of the G20 Trade and Investment Working Group meeting in Tokyo on 9 April.

100 years of making business work

From climate change negotiations to global discussions on Internet governance, ICC has worked for 100 years to bring the expertise of business into decision-making processes at the international level.

Reflecting on these achievements in the world business organization’s centenary year, Mr Denton said that ICC had brought private sector experts together with governments as early as 1927 to develop a global agreement on lowering tariff barriers – a project that was eventually adopted by governments as the general agreement on tariffs and trade, the precursor to the WTO.

Moving to the present day, Mr Denton described the digitally enabled Global Dialogue on trade platform, managed by ICC, as “a new kind of business engagement, where companies actively engage in global processes, providing the impetus and real-world expertise that our institutions need.”

But Mr Denton warned that business must above all meet the challenge of leading with integrity if it was to rebuild the public’s trust and the global trading system that global business relied on as users.

Calling on participants to rethink how their businesses can operate in the service of the global common good, using financial success as a means to achieve something of greater societal value, Mr Denton said: “The interests we share are greater than our divisions and we have more to gain through cooperation than through unilateral action.”

ICC’s mission is as crucial today as it was 100 years ago. Visit ICC@100 to learn more.

For more information, please contact:

  • Dawn Chardonnal
  • (+33) 1 49 53 29 07
  • Head of Global Communications

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