By Obinna Chima
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has called for increased trade cooperation across the globe so as to enhance growth of the global economy.
Addressing a WTO economic conference entitled ‘Updating Trade Cooperation: An Economic View,’ recently, the Director-General, WTO, Roberto Azevêdo argued that current trade tensions provide an opportunity for the rules-based multilateral trading system to prove its value and for reforms to be deliberated in response to the evolving global economy.
Sound analysis and strong evidence are vital in this effort, Azevêdo noted.
According to the global economy is presently in a momentous period in global trade.
“We face a wide range of challenges. But also I believe that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to renew cooperation in global trade.
“Trade has proven to be an engine of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development. The multilateral trading system makes a huge contribution to that end.
“We have to ensure that the system continues to play this positive role, and that it helps members deal with the challenges of the modern world. Events like this can make a huge contribution to this debate,” he pointed out.
Azevêdo, said one way to strengthen the system was by making case for trade, with strong evidence and data. “Economic research is vital here. And so I hope that this will be on your minds today as well. The benefits of cooperation on trade issues are many.
“The multilateral trading system provides a platform for a myriad of economic gains to be realised. And underpinning everything, it provides stability and predictability.
“The system effectively provides the constitution for global trade, establishing shared principles which underpin trading practices around the world.
“It provides the only global forum for discussion and debate on trade issues. It provides the mechanisms for countries to monitor and review each other’s trade policies. And it provides the means to settle disputes when they arise,” he added.
He, however, pointed out that the tensions in the global trading environment poses a big risk – both systemic and economic.
“We need to find ways to ensure that the system remains resilient, but also to ensure that it is fully responsive to members’ needs and priorities.
“In recent years the WTO delivered major deals which promise significant economic gains, including: the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the expanded Information Technology Agreement and the deal to abolish export subsidies in agriculture.
“I think it’s clear that we have many challenges before us today. But we should keep a proper perspective on the problems that we face. The trading system has been under pressure before, and each time it has emerged stronger. In 2008, faced with the worst economic crisis for many decades, the system proved its value, preventing an outbreak of protectionist measures. In 2013, after years of deadlock, we proved that we could deliver negotiated results. Today, we must rise to the challenge again, and turn this crisis into an opportunity to renew and strengthen the system for the future. “
Developing sound economic analysis on the key issues before us is vital in this effort. So I wish you a very productive discussion today. And I look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations.