After giving an overview of members’ discussions in all three pillars of the WTO’s work – monitoring, dispute settlement and negotiations – DG Azevêdo said:
“This is an important moment. The decisions members take on the issues I’ve raised today will determine the future of the global trading system. Equally, a failure to confront these issues would also determine the path forward in what could be a very negative way. I personally don’t believe that the status quo is an option. But what happens next is up to you, the members. This is your organisation. I think we have an opportunity now to make it stronger and to set it on a positive path for the future. So I urge you to make your voices heard in this debate.”
In his overview, DG Azevêdo addressed the impact of rising trade tensions on trade expansion and global economic growth. He emphasized the fact that all will feel the effects and that developing countries and least-developed countries would be the most negatively affected.
He outlined the key areas in which reform is being discussed and underscored the importance of engagement on all areas. He also observed that apparently not all issues are on the table yet, and the debate is in its early stages. He said that members seemed to prefer not to attempt to create a package of reforms as it would be better to work to change and adjust progressively, “harvesting what we can when we can”.
The DG observed that the informal meeting comprised a representative group that can contribute significantly to the process of understanding where we are, and considering where to go. He stressed that the WTO has to be better, work faster, and be more responsive to today’s challenges. He noted that no one is talking about trashing the system that we have and “starting from scratch”, adding that the main focus is on preserving the system and building on what we have.