Remarks by DG Azevêdo

Good morning everyone.

Welcome to our colleagues from the OECD. On behalf of the WTO, I am pleased to help launch this publication on Trade Facilitation and the Global Economy. I’d like to congratulate everyone involved.

I won’t speak for very long this morning. I just wanted to add my words of thanks and encouragement – and to underline a few notable elements of this excellent report.

The first point is that I think the report shows the critical importance of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

We all know the potential that the TFA has to cut trade costs. This report takes a closer look at why this matters.

For example, it highlights the difference that this will make for MSMEs, which often face a prohibitively high cost of trading.

It also highlights the fact that inefficient border procedures multiply the costs when goods and components cross borders many times during their production.

This is the economic reality today. Nearly two-thirds of traded goods have components that were made in at least two different countries. Improving facilitation and lowering costs will help to remove obstacles to joining global value chains. And this will help new participants to join these chains of production.

So, we need to keep working to implement the TFA.

Almost 85 per cent of WTO members have now completed their domestic ratification processes. This is great progress, but of course there is more to do.

There is a collective effort behind the implementation of the TFA. And we are very pleased to have partners such as the OECD lending their ongoing support – particularly to provide additional knowledge of what is actually happening on the ground.

This brings me to another notable element of this report, which is that it introduces the OECD’s new Trade Facilitation indicators.

Using information collected in cooperation with: (i) members; (ii) partner organisations; and (iii) the private sector, these indicators will be a very useful tool.

They will support the monitoring and benchmarking of countries’ engagement on trade facilitation, providing verified information on exactly what practical steps have been taken.

And, in this way, they will be of huge help to policy makers. They will allow them to assess the state of their trade facilitation reforms, highlight challenges and identify room for improvement.

This is of huge interest to governments, traders and other stakeholders alike. And it is a real boost to the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, complementing our work at the WTO. This brings me to my final point, which is the importance of cooperation.

We need to keep fostering cooperation, not just amongst organisations, but also with the private sector and other partners who are engaged in trade facilitation reforms.

This has been a fundamental tenet of our work here over the years. And now that the Agreement has entered into force, cooperation continues to be key.

We see this in the TF Committee, which is going to meet right after this event.

The Committee has got off to a good start. It allows members to raise all matters related to the implementation of the Agreement. Delegations are regularly updated on the state of the notification and ratification process. And it is an opportunity for them to lend each other a helping hand – both in sharing their experiences and by offering technical support.

The WTO Secretariat also assists in every possible way – and I am heartened to see partners like the OECD willing to engage and play an important role as well.

The TFA continues to be a positive example for what is possible when we work together for a common cause.

This is one of many lessons that we learned from the whole TFA experience. And we should seek to apply it in other areas as well. It showed us the importance of flexibility and creativity in finding convergence among 164 countries of vastly different economic and development status.

The Agreement is a truly inclusive endeavour. This was true of its design and its negotiation, and it will be true of its impact.

The TFA and its reforms will help smaller businesses to trade, including women-owned businesses. It will deliver greater gains to poorer economies. And it will provide technical assistance and capacity support for those economies in their implementation efforts.

So, let’s keep working together to ensure that the Agreement is implemented as quickly and effectively as possible – to the benefit of all.

Thank you once again to the OECD, and to all of you, for your support. Enjoy the debate this morning.

Source: WTO TFAF