Geneva, Switzerland

01 October 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at World Trade Organization Public Forum [as delivered]

I am just coming from New York after a hectic two-week General Debate session, so please excuse my voice, my voice has gone down – I’ve almost lost my voice.  But I am speaking out, I use my voice to raise human rights, and for poor people and marginalized people. 

I thank the World Trade Organization for bringing us all together.  It’s a great pleasure for me to be here for a second time.  I was here a few years ago.

As you have been discussing already, international trade is one of the defining activities of our era. 

Goods, services and ideas are on the move as never before.

Without trade, my country Korea could not have risen from the rubble of the Korean war and become a developed country.

Without trade, China could not have achieved the impressive growth that has slashed poverty.

Wherever we look – from Indonesia to Brazil, from Australia to Europe – trade provides a path to accelerated growth and prosperity.

History has unfolded along the routes of global trade, from Timbuktu to the Silk Road.

The entrepreneurial drive is clear.

The question is not whether trade matters, but how we can make trade a better driver of equitable, sustainable development.

How can we make trade the foundation of a life of dignity for all?

In countries that trade, wealth is made – although that wealth is not always distributed equitably. 

But, where trade is absent, economies cannot grow.  They stagnate.  

And when trade falters, the most vulnerable are the first to pay the price.

That is why we need to promote trade that benefits as many as possible, especially women, young people and the least advantaged.

Many least developed and land-locked developing countries have yet to fully benefit from increased global trade.

We must integrate Africa, least developed and land-locked developing countries into the global economy through open, non-discriminatory and equitable trade.

This is critical to diversifying their economies and making them more stable and resilient.

Next year, Governments have three interconnected commitments -- three essential deadlines.

This is going to be a very crucial year.  

First, we have to accelerate the MDG process and meet the targets as much as we can.

Then Member States should define, shape the future development agenda, what we call the Sustainable Development Goals. 

And by the end of December next year we must have a universal, legal, climate change agreement in place.

These are three very important responsibilities that Member States and the whole international community must meet. 

Trade has a major role in this. 

International trade is an essential component of an integrated effort to end poverty, ensure food security and promote economic growth.

An ounce of trade can be worth a pound of aid.

That is why Member States working on the Sustainable Development Goals have emphasized the importance of the multilateral trading system.

On the other hand, trade can have profoundly negative impacts on the environment, not least in terms of carbon emissions through the production, transport and consumption of traded goods.

Therefore, as part of the sustainable development goals, we must promote policy coherence between the economic, financial and trade systems and environmental sustainability, including the climate change agreement. 

Coherence will ensure that trade rules contribute to, rather than detract from, regulations to protect the environment.

Trade can – and should -- benefit everyone.

That is why the international community needs to avoid protectionism.

We need an open, fair, rules-based and development-oriented international trading regime in the spirit of the Doha Development Round.

That means correcting market distortions caused by export subsidies or import tariffs.

It means letting Least Developed Countries benefit from duty-free and quota-free exports.

And it also means addressing countries’ internal impediments to trade – such as lack of productive capacity, excessive red tape or inadequate infrastructure.

We must also work to resolve outstanding issues related to the Bali package.

We must focus on a work programme for tackling the remaining core issues in the Doha Development Agenda.

Because of the slow progress on a multilateral trade agenda, bilateral, regional and inter-regional free trade agreements have proliferated.

Where these benefit development and free trade, we should welcome them.

But we should also beware creating fragmented trade rules and undermining the consistency of the multilateral system.

That is why the United Nations fully supports the efforts of the WTO to conclude the Doha Round.

This remains the best route to fairer, development-oriented trading systems.

Throughout history, trade has joined us and lifted us.

We are now joined as never before.  And living standards have risen for an unprecedented number of people in all regions.

But we still have a long way to go to fulfil the promise of the Millennium Development Goals.

Sustainable development remains an aspiration.

And climate change is a growing threat.

If managed well, international trade can be a key driver of sustainable development.

Let us use the power of trade to improve the well-being of people everywhere while carefully managing the planet’s natural resources and ecosystems.

Let us transform the way we do business by creating an enabling environment for trade and investment that will help deliver sustainable development.

Trade matters to everyone.

Thank you.