WTO Deputy Director-General Anabel González said that companies worldwide need to invest in building a stronger and more agile global trading system for the benefit of all.
The WTO Deputy Director said so during a meeting a meeting of more than 800 Spanish business leaders in San Sebastián on 21 June.
“More than ever, businesses need stable, predictable and uniform conditions to access global markets, something that only the WTO rules-based trading system can provide”, she said.
DDG González highlighted that businesses everywhere face growing uncertainty in global trade due to continued supply chain disruptions, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, trade tensions, war, a looming food crisis and galloping inflation. “But this is also a time of opportunity, and businesses that are nimble, flexible and imaginative will be in a strong position to reap the gains from a rapidly changing trade landscape”, she said.
Pointing to the growing importance of services and knowledge in global value chains, DDG González called on businesses and governments to “work together to bring trade policies up to speed with the realities of a knowledge-based economy and a global, data-driven services market.” She noted that not doing so would deprive countries of a major driver of growth and development in the 21st century.
DDG González also called on business representatives to embrace climate-friendly solutions and to help accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy for the benefit of all. “Trade policy can be your ally in the green transition”, the DDG said, adding that “reforming trade policies to allow green and circular businesses to scale up their activities is essential to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement”.
“We are also seeing a gradual relocation of supply chains that could open the door to new business and growth opportunities, especially for small businesses in developing countries”, the DDG said, warning that policies to unwind supply chains and retreat from trade “would harm everyone and benefit no one”.
“Governments should promote diversification, not decoupling”, she said, while “businesses need to find new ways to compete in a global market that puts a premium not just on efficiency, but also on due diligence, decarbonization and shifting consumer preferences for speedy delivery and personalized products”.
DDG González said that the result of the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference “is a hopeful sign that the WTO can respond to the big challenges of our time.” The landmark package of agreements reached by ministers “is good for people, good for the planet and good for business”.
She concluded by saying that the decision by ministers to start the process of reforming the WTO is a golden opportunity for businesses and other stakeholders from around the world to help build a trading system that “works for businesses, communities and people in today's world.”