WTO Director-General: Roberto AzevÍdo
Roberto Azevêdo is the sixth Director-General of the WTO. He became Director-General on 1 September 2013, serving a four-year term. At a meeting of the General Council in February 2017, WTO members agreed by consensus to appoint Roberto Azevêdo as Director-General for a second four-year term, which started on 1 September 2017. DG Azevêdo made a detailed presentation to the February General Council outlining the successes that the membership achieved since 2013 and his vision for the next four years. His presentation is available here.
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Since its creation in 1995, the World Trade Organization has become an essential part of global economic governance. As the only international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations, 98% of commerce takes place under the WTO rulebook. The WTO's 164 members monitor each other’s practices and regulations against those rules in order to improve transparency and avoid protectionism – and when conflicts arise, we have built one of the most effective dispute settlement systems in the world to resolve them, having dealt with over 500 cases in just over 20 years. In addition, we also work to build the trading capacity of developing and least-developed countries, helping them integrate and benefit from the multilateral trading system. This is an essential part of our work. The trading system should be inclusive, with the benefits of trade reaching as many as possible around the world, particularly in the poorest countries.
WTO members also work to reform and modernise trade by negotiating new trade rules. In 2013, members successfully negotiated the ‘Bali Package’ which included steps on agriculture, food security, support for the least-developed countries and the Trade Facilitation Agreement. In December 2015, at our Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, we delivered another package of major negotiated outcomes, including the elimination of agricultural export subsidies (which delivered on Sustainable Development Goal 2.b) and the expansion of the WTO's Information Technology Agreement.
These are breakthroughs which will have real-world economic effects, and which can help to improve people's lives the world over. Most importantly, these decisions are not just staying on paper. Members are seeing them through to implementation. In 2017 the Trade Facilitation Agreement entered into force. Fully implemented, this deal is estimated to boost global trade by an estimated $1 trillion each year by streamlining, standardizing and simplifying border processes around the world — with the majority of the benefits going to developing and least-developed countries. In 2017 we also saw the entry into force of the amendment to the TRIPS Agreement, which helps improve access to medicines. These two measures came into force because we received ratifications from more than two-thirds of the WTO membership – and more continue to arrive. This is important in itself. It shows members' commitment to the system and to seeing through the promises made.
Strengthening the multilateral trading system is an ongoing effort, and WTO members have a good basis on which to build. At our 11th Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017, members committed to secure a deal on fisheries subsidies which delivers on Sustainable Development Goal 14.6 by the end of 2019. They also committed to improve the reporting of existing fisheries subsidy programmes. In addition, members took a number of other ministerial decisions, including extending the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions for another two years, and they committed to continue negotiations in all areas. Also in Buenos Aires groups of members, encompassing participants from developed, developing and least-developed countries, announced new initiatives to advance talks at the WTO on the issues of electronic commerce, investment facilitation and micro, small and medium size enterprises.
The WTO provides its members with a tried and tested system of shared rules and principles to support economic cooperation and thereby boost growth, development and job creation around the world. It also provides a forum for members to raise, discuss and potentially solve the complex problems that they face. There is huge value in the system. We should seek to strengthen it, and all aspects of our work, in 2018 and beyond.
- Interview with Bloomberg in Davos, 25 January 2018
- Interview with Bloomberg, 8 November 2017
- Interview with Bloomberg, 26 September 2017
- Interview with Bloomberg TV ahead of G20 summit in Hamburg, 6 July 2017
- Interview with CNBC in Delhi, 12 February 2017
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