Trade & investment

Business must do more to speak up for multilateral trade says WTO D-G Azevedo

  • 3 October 2018

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Roberto Azevedo has called on the private sector to be more vocal with governments in support of the WTO warning that remaining silent is interpreted as agreement when it comes to global governance.

Mr Azevedo’s remarks were made during an International Chamber of Commerce and Business-20 Trade Dialogues panel session hosted on the opening day of WTO Public Forum taking place this week in Geneva.

The co-hosted panel session is the latest event aimed at mobilising support for the WTO and its multilateral rules-based approach following the first ever WTO Business Forum during the 11th Ministerial Meeting in December 2017 in Buenos Aires and a Trade Dialogues meeting in June this year.

Mr Azevedo said, “At the end of the day, negotiators need to hear from the private sector as to what their priorities are. It is vital to engage with members directly. This is a constant process and I’m delighted that we are using the WTO Public Forum for this continued engagement.”

Moderated by Australian Ambassador Frances Lisson, the panel featured ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO, B20 Chair Daniel Funes de Rioja and B20 Policy Sherpa Fernando Landa who collectively presented Mr Azevedo with a set of business recommendations resulting from both the June Trade Dialogues meeting as well as a more detailed on-line follow up exercise with a wider range of small and large industry representatives from around the world.

“Business is fully aware that global trade governance is being challenged and surrounded by uncertainty,” the statement said.

Focused on the four themes of ecommerce, investment facilitation, MSMEs and Sustainable development the ICC-B20 session presented the private sector with an opportunity to share concrete and specific proposals on how to advance WTO’s agenda.

Speaking on behalf of 1.2 billion workers across the developing and developed world, Mr Denton said it was in ICC’s DNA to support the multilateral system.

“Businesses are consumers of WTO decisions, hence we have claims and expectations and we put them forward. It would be outrageous to ask us not to do so,” Mr Denton said.

“ICC stands ready, willing and able to support multilateralism. In that context, we will be launching a digitally enabled Global Dialogue on Trade to help re-build a fit-for-purpose WTO for the 21st century. Critical areas where we would like to see movement is the role of the WTO in enabling e commerce and sustainable development.”