Global business outlines trade priorities in a call to WTO members at the MC11 Business Forum

19 December 2017

Global business has emphasised its “strong and unequivocal” support for the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a statement issued at the First Business Forum held alongside the WTO’s 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires on 12 December. This major business forum is the first ever held within the framework of a Ministerial Conference, with ICC co-sponsoring the event.

The statement, prepared on behalf of global business by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and issued at the conclusion of the MC11 Business Forum, contained recommendations to WTO members on the future direction of the World Trade Agenda (WTA) a joint initiative between ICC and Qatar Chamber. These recommendations were developed following prior consultations with businesses and private-sector associations from across the world.

The recommendations focus on three main elements: strengthening the role of the WTO in response to global challenges; establishing a new work programme for the WTO covering priority issues for business; and providing support to WTO members in their MC11 discussions and beyond.

The statement highlights the importance of safeguarding existing multilateral trade commitments, avoiding protectionism, and sustaining the WTO’s dispute settlement function. It also emphasises the key role that the WTO system has played in driving economic growth and development – and urges governments to commit to a new and pragmatic agenda for the WTO in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Commenting on the forum’s outcomes, Chairman of Qatar Chamber and ICC Qatar HE Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim Al Thani commended the World Trade Agenda initiative and its role in the last five years in establishing business priorities by working with the international private sector and governments to define an inclusive and multilateral world trade agenda for economic growth and job creation in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

He added that the forum called for the continued and expeditious implementation of the WTO’s landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), affirming that this contributes to creating innovative public-private partnerships such as the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation – launched at the WTO’s 10th Ministerial Conference in 2015.

Global business stressed the importance of avoiding protectionism in cross-border investment which significantly leads to sustainable economic growth and job creation, he pointed out.

Sheikh Khalifa said that participants of the business forum reaffirmed their strong support for the multilateral trading system under the auspices of the WTO and called on all governments to strengthen the WTO system.

They emphasized the vital role played by the multilateral trading system in lifting millions out of poverty around the world and confirmed their strong support for the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 which requires a pragmatic approach from WTO Members to turn to WTO’s longstanding Doha Development Agenda into a realizable “Sustainable Development Agenda”.

Sheikh Khalifa said that the forum also shed light on the e-commerce,  affirming  the vital role it plays in enabling micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses to access global markets.

ICC Secretary General John Danilovich commented that business is clear in its strong and unequivocal support for the WTO and encourage governments to take pragmatic steps to strengthen the global trading system at MC11. He added that this will require a flexible approach to ensure that the WTO can respond effectively to global challenges.

Mr. Danilovich also stated that the ICC believes the WTO has a vital role to play in enabling more small businesses to grow and succeed in the global economy and encouraged as many WTO members as possible to move forward with new workstreams on e-commerce and MSMEs at MC11, adding “This is a vital response to the challenge to make trade more inclusive.”

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said “I want to thank the ICC and the global business community for these recommendations and for the fantastic engagement that we are seeing between the private sector and the WTO. I welcome this strong show of support, and these constructive ideas about how we can strengthen the trading system and take our work forward in future. Businesses from around the world, from developed and developing countries alike, have already played a significant role in informing and shaping some of the conversations that WTO members are having today. I have no doubt that this constructive engagement will continue to grow and develop, and that members will review these recommendations with interest.”

About ICC
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is the world’s largest business organisation with a network of over 6 million members in more than 100 countries. We work to promote international trade, responsible business conduct and a global approach to regulation through a unique mix of advocacy and standard setting activities—together with market-leading dispute resolution services. Our members include many of the world’s largest companies, SMEs, business associations and local chambers of commerce.

In 2017, ICC was granted Observer Status at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the first time a private sector organization has been admitted formally into the United Nations system.

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