Message from the Director-General
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After a successful Ministerial Conference in Bali in December we can be sure that 2014 will be a busy and exciting year for the WTO. The Conference marked a historic moment for the WTO, demonstrating to the world that we can deliver negotiated trade agreements for the benefit of all.
The Bali package delivered outcomes in a range of important areas: from streamlining customs procedures globally, to advancing disciplines and commitments on some agricultural issues, to providing new support mechanisms and generating new opportunities for our poorest Members. The package was a success precisely because it delivered for everyone ó it received strong support from least-developed, developing and developed Members alike.
The benefits of the package are similarly diverse. Economists forecast that the Bali package will provide a significant boost to the global economy, delivering much needed growth and jobs. Estimates vary, but it could be worth up to $1 trillion per year to the global economy ó generating up to 21 million jobs across the developed and developing world. Entrepreneurs in the Least-Developed Countries will have new opportunities to participate in global trade, as will the many small and medium sized enterprises across the world that were previously reluctant to engage in trade for fear of becoming entangled in red tape. In addition, trade in agriculture will now be somewhat more transparent and predictable for many products and markets, and governments have agreed to work to ensure that agricultural export subsidies will be kept in check.
But these outcomes do not fully reflect the achievements of Bali; there was a great deal more at stake. I said at the start of the Bali Conference that the very future of multilateral trading system hung in the balance. Ministers responded positively, demonstrating the flexibility and political will needed to cross the finishing line, and by doing so they also showed the importance that they attach to the WTO.
The multilateral trading system, which is embodied by the WTO, has been the foundation for non-discriminatory, inclusive, transparent and predictable world trade since its creation in 1948. Since then global trade has grown from $59 billion to over $18 trillion, global incomes have risen, many countries have climbed the ladder of development and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. Trade, underpinned by the multilateral trading system, has been a powerful force for growth and development.
However, both trade and the international economy are evolving. The most recent WTO Report on G-20 Trade Measures, published in December, found that trade restrictions are on the rise, with 116 new trade restricting measures being identified over the preceding six months. The multilateral system is the only system that can truly and adequately respond to the challenges that are appearing on several fronts.
This is why it is so important that we are entering the New Year with renewed momentum. Bali is just the beginning; we must now redouble our efforts to advance and conclude the Doha Development Agenda which the WTO launched in 2001.
The Bali Ministerial Declaration instructed us to prepare a clearly defined work program on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues by the end of 2014. This is a significant challenge but the momentum that Bali generated, along with the more inclusive approach to our work which it engendered, enabling all countries to have their say, has raised hopes across the Membership that it is achievable.
We need to take a fresh look at how we approach Doha issues. I listened intently to Members in Bali as they outlined their vision for moving these talks forward. Ministers expressed a wide range of different views on the next steps.
As we set the course for the future of these negotiations it would be unwise to prejudge any outcome of Members' deliberations. All proposals should be accorded consideration and respect. With the right spirit, sufficient political will and a healthy dose of flexibility, I firmly believe we can put the Doha round back on track.
But of course this will not be the only element of our work in 2014. The past two years have seen 47 disputes brought before the Dispute Settlement Body. This is an indication both of Members' confidence in the system's ability to resolve commercial conflicts and of the large number of trade tensions that exist in the world today. I have no doubt that the Dispute Settlement Body will continue to be very active this year.
There will be 15 Trade Policy Reviews of WTO Members this year, enabling Members to expand their understanding of the policies of their trading partners. Our economists will also keep close watch on developments in the trading system. Such reviews are crucial to the smooth functioning of the Organization because they provide Members with the transparency that is vital in a rules-based trading system.
Our technical assistance and training programmes will continue to provide our developing and least-developed Members with the tools they need to enhance their capacity to participate effectively in the trading system. We will also continue and strengthen our outreach efforts so that we can better explain our objectives to the public, the media and civil society.
The revised Government Procurement Agreement will come into effect during the first quarter of 2014, and we hope and expect that some new signatories will join the 43 WTO members that are already party to this agreement. In addition, building on the formal decision approving the Accession Protocol of Yemen at the Bali conference, we will continue to work with countries seeking to join the WTO, thereby further strengthening the multilateral system.
2013 was an historic year for the WTO. I am confident that with the same dedication and commitment we saw from our Members last year, we will continue to make significant progress in 2014.
I look forward to your continued interest and engagement in the WTO.