Competitive markets

In global trade gathering, business urges governments to play by the rules

  • 7 June 2018

In a clear show of support for the multilateral trading system, global business representatives today joined trade policymakers today at the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) headquarters in Geneva to discuss future reform of the multilateral trading system.

.@ICCWBO and @B20 joined trade policymakers today at the @WTO headquarters in #Geneva to discuss future reform of the multilateral trading system. #TradeMatters Click To Tweet

Led by ICC Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, incoming ICC Chairman Paul Polman and new ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO, business delegates discussed a range of ideas to enhance the contribution of global trade to inclusive growth and sustainable development as part of the WTO’s “Trade Dialogues” process – launched in 2016 with the support of ICC and the B20.

Commenting on rising trade tensions which have cast a shadow over future prospects for trade-led growth, Mr Denton said: “The global business community’s position on trade is unambiguous. Far from being a zero-sum game where some countries take advantage of others, rules-based trade has lifted incomes and created jobs around the world. Today we risk returning to a pre-WTO system where might equals right –  jeopardising the future economic security of billions of people.”


Mr Polman added: “Governments are increasingly making plans to align global trading policies with national development approaches, to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It is critical that new forms of innovation and cooperation continue to be explored, amongst business, government and multilateral institutions. That is why Dialogues – such as today’s – are necessary. They can help us accelerate and ultimately achieve a global transition towards more sustainable growth economy.”


Speaking at the conclusion of the event, Mr Mittal emphasised the importance of progressive WTO reform in response to current global challenges, including digitalisation: “Digital economy is changing the composition, nature and speed of global trade leading to policy friction – today’s trade rules reflect 20th century patterns of trade. With the size of ecommerce, touching US$ 25trn, digital infrastructure is a key determinant required by SMEs in developing countries to be a part of the global value chain. There is a need to focus on bridging the digital divide in a meaningful manner to initiate the negotiations. Without addressing the problems of SMEs in a digital environment, it will further marginalize them.”

ICC, which represents over 6 million private sector members in more than 100 countries, is the world’s largest and most representative business organisation and served as the co-organiser of the Trade Dialogues event—a set of high-level discussions bringing business and government stakeholders together to share insights on the WTO agenda and the future of global trade.

At this year’s Trade Dialogues, ICC chaired discussions on e-commerce, trade and sustainable development, and investment facilitation. Following the WTO’s 11th ministerial conference in Buenos Aires last year, groups of the organisation’s members have banded together in ‘joint initiatives’ to further global rules on these and other topics.

Read more about the Trade Dialogues and ICC’s trade and investment work on our website.