Business, trade experts work to break deadlock in global trade talks

  • 14 March 2012

Business leaders and trade experts are meeting today in Geneva for the first conference on the ICC Business World Trade Agenda, an initiative of ICC proposing that business works together with governments to drive more effective trade talks.

More than 70 business experts – including CEOs, senior corporate executives, and representatives of business organizations – together with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy, are attending the event. Participants will begin defining the elements of a business world trade agenda, underscoring world business’s collective desire to move global trade talks out of deadlock.

Global business leaders involved in this initiative aim to define multilateral trade negotiation priorities for business and to help governments set a trade policy agenda for the 21st Century that contributes to economic growth and job creation.

“It is crucial that governments work directly with the global business community to find answers to the current economic crisis,” said ICC Chairman Gerard Worms. “Opening trade and investment offers a stimulus to the global economy and would give business the clear sign that governments will not resort to protectionism.”

For the first time in 60 years, the multilateral trade negotiation process is at a standstill and after 10 years, the Doha Development Agenda has reached a stalemate. Yet global trade remains a mainstay of the world economy and it is therefore crucial that global trade rules address the needs of the global marketplace.

“Business is especially troubled by the threat of increased protectionism from the world’s major economies. During this economic crisis, governments should be opening markets to stimulate their economies rather than putting up barriers to trade,” Victor K Fung, Chairman of the ICC Business World Trade Agenda initiative and Honorary Chairman of ICC said.

ICC launched in December 2011 the Business World Trade Agenda – at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva – answering the call from G20 leaders at the recent Summit in Cannes for new approaches to trade negotiations. ICC is bolstered by the support it has received from the WTO in engaging business to provide recommendations to advance global trade negotiations.

“The business community is a key constituency for the WTO. Businesses – small, medium and large – produce the goods and services that are traded around the world every day,” Mr Lamy said.

“WTO rules provide a transparent framework within which these businesses can operate globally. But the rules are not perfect. Businesses can recognize bottlenecks in the system and have an important role to play in suggesting where solutions to these obstacles may be found. The World Trade Agenda programme launched by ICC is a serious effort aimed at fostering better dialogue between business and trade policymakers. Such dialogue is essential if we are to ensure the WTO and the global trading system remain vibrant,” Mr Lamy said.

ICC upholds that without a strong business-led effort to bolster rules-based global trade, the primacy of the multilateral trading system will erode, giving way to a more fragmented and less favourable environment for cross-border trade and investment by companies.

The ICC Business World Trade Agenda initiative will be compiling the recommendations gathered from today’s conference into initial proposals that will be put forth to the global business community by means of consultations ICC plans to hold around the world over the next year. The Business World Trade Agenda Summit, set to take place in Doha in April 2013, will provide an opportunity to take stock of this process.

ICC will also feed these proposals into the G20 policy process, with the aim of strengthening the trade and investment policy component of the G20 agenda.

For more information on ICC’s activities for the G20 visit the ICC G20 Advisory Group.