Video message by DG Azevêdo. This is what he said:
Good morning everyone.
Welcome to the WTO and to this event celebrating the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.
I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person today, but I wanted to send this brief message as I believe there is much to be celebrated.
The TFA is ground-breaking in a number of ways. Of course you will be discussing all of this today in more detail, but I’d like to reiterate three key points which I think have to frame the debate.
First, the Agreement was a truly historic breakthrough.
As the first multilateral deal since the WTO was created in 1995, the TFA demonstrated beyond doubt that the WTO can deliver.
Second, the Agreement will have a significant economic impact.
By reducing trade costs globally by an average of 14.3 per cent, the gains would be bigger than the elimination of all existing tariffs around the world. And, crucially, the biggest gains would be felt in the poorest countries.
And, third, the Agreement was truly innovative.
It provides developing and least-developed countries with the flexibility to tailor the implementation of their commitments according to their specific needs and levels of development.
And it also provides for practical assistance for those countries to undertake the reforms.
Donors and partner organizations are stepping in to help provide this support – backed up when necessary by the TFA Facility here at the WTO.
These three points show why the Agreement was so ground-breaking. I think they clearly show that the TFA is the greatest trade reform for a generation.
But I want to make another point here, which is harder to define, but no less important.
Somehow the TFA gave us confidence in ourselves.
It showed what we can do when we work together – for the benefit of all. And in doing so it strengthened the multilateral trading system immeasurably.
This is underlined by the fact that members acted very rapidly to bring the Agreement into force. After the General Council opened the process of accepting ratifications, we reached the threshold in just over two years.
And the effect is contagious. Bali and the TFA helped to inspire our success in Nairobi – and on other fronts as well.
The TRIPS amendment had been languishing since it was agreed in 2005 – until we brought it into force earlier this year. There is no doubt in my mind that the momentum created by the TFA was a big factor here.
We should seek to build on this momentum – both in the implementation of the TFA and other agreements, and in seeing where else we can make progress.
This is especially important as members set the stage for our next Ministerial Conference, in Buenos Aires in December.
So we should seek to learn the lessons of the TFA – from the nature of the agreement itself, to how it was struck.
Reaching agreement was not easy. It took hard work, commitment and dedication. The stars did not align; we aligned the stars.
You will be discussing many of these lessons today – and hearing from people who were directly involved in all stages of this work.
I am happy that many supporters of the Agreement and friends of the WTO are here today to share their views and experiences.
So I trust that you will have a rich and fruitful debate.
I hope that today’s discussions will help to boost efforts in implementing the TFA – and inspire us to further successes in the near future.
Thank you – and good work!