Azevêdo: Trade is Key to Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
Trade can play an important role in achieving sustainable development. So said World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo when he spoke at a gathering at United Nations headquarters on September 25.
Azevêdo is attending a United Nations summit, where member states are set to endorse the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda sets out 17 proposed goals and 169 targets aimed at stimulating action over the next 15 years towards building a more equitable and sustainable world.
The proposed Goal 17 specifically calls for promoting a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the WTO, including through the conclusion of negotiations within the Doha Development Agenda.
“Trade is one of the best anti-poverty reduction tools in history,” said Azevêdo. “By boosting economic growth, trade was a catalyst for reaching the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty in half – well ahead of this year’s deadline.”
“So it is right that trade continues to play its full part within the post-2015 sustainable development agenda,” Azevêdo added.
Among the trade-related proposals in the development agenda, Azevêdo noted that Goal 2 looks at reforming agricultural markets to end hunger, “a key element of our agenda at the WTO,” he said. “Goal 3 reaffirms the flexibilities offered by the WTO’s rules on intellectual property to protect public health.”
Goal 8 calls for the increased support for the poorest countries to participate in global trade. Goal 17 calls for the conclusion of negotiations on the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda.
“To help deliver on these goals, and maximize the power of trade in tackling poverty and hunger, we must ensure that more people can participate in the trading system,” Azevêdo said.
The two key tasks facing the international community to achieve the goals set out in the development agenda, according to Azevêdo, are building trade capacities and reforming trade rules “to make them fairer, more sustainable, and more pro-development.”
“A series of programmes under the WTO’s Aid for Trade initiative help countries to improve their trading ability and tackle their infrastructure constraints,” Azevêdo noted. “To date more than $245 billion have been disbursed through the program. Research has found that one dollar invested in Aid for Trade results in nearly eight dollars of exports from developing countries in general, and in 20 dollars of exports for the poorest countries.”
Reforming trade rules means implementing the decisions that WTO members took at the organization’s Ministerial Conference in Bali in 2013, according to Azevêdo. These include, he said, taking steps on agriculture and food security, implementing a package of decisions for less developed countries, and ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
“All too often, high trading costs caused by border delays and red tape exclude developing countries from joining trade flows,” said Azevêdo. “The Trade Facilitation Agreement aims to tackle these costs by streamlining customs processes around the world. The agreement could cut the cost of trade by up to 15 percent in developing countries and create 18 million developing country jobs.”