Business leaders meeting today (30 May 2016) at the WTO headquarters outlined how the organization could address the current needs of the business community. In addition to the current negotiating agenda, they urged the WTO to look at a wide range of issues such as electronic commerce, rules to better facilitate services and investment flows, support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, action to provide trade finance, and many others.
The Trade Dialogues event brought together over 60 business leaders to discuss the challenges and opportunities they face in conducting trade operations and to discuss how the WTO can help in dealing with them. The attendees were from small and large enterprises, from developed and developing countries, and from a variety of sectors. The event was held at the request of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the B20 group of leading independent business associations from G20 economies, and facilitated by the WTO. The businesses that participated in the event are listed below.
This high-level event for the business community is the first of its kind to be held at the WTO. It is part of a series of ‘Trade dialogues’ that will provide a range of stakeholders with the possibility to discuss their concerns on trade-related matters.
Participants were welcomed by WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo. This opening session was followed by break-out sessions where participants engaged in a focused dialogue in small groups. These sessions were chaired by four ’discussion leaders’:
Sunil Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti enterprises, and First Vice Chairman of the ICC
Frank Ning, Chairman of Sinochem and Chair of the B20 trade and investment taskforce
Carole Kariuki, CEO of KEPSA, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, and
Kati Suominen, Founder and CEO of TradeUp.
The participants then reconvened and shared their conclusions in a direct exchange with the Director-General and the chairman of the WTO General Council, Ambassador Harald Neple. At a working lunch, the views of other important stakeholders, such as consumers, represented by Consumers International, and labour, represented by the International Trade Union Confederation, were also heard.
At the final session, the discussion leaders and other participants shared the outcome of their deliberations with the WTO membership through a dialogue with ambassadors and permanent representatives.
A summary of the issues raised at the meeting is available here.
DG Azevêdo said:
“After two successful WTO ministerial conferences, there has been a resurgence of private sector interest in the work of the organization. I have seen this at all of the major meetings I’ve attended, and in the many capitals I’ve visited around the world over the last six months. This growing engagement is very welcome. Trade negotiations do not occur in a vacuum, so I think it is important for WTO members to hear directly from business on the challenges they face in the real economy — as well as from consumers and workers, and other voices in civil society.
“So, when I was approached by the ICC and B20 earlier this year to facilitate a dialogue between business leaders and WTO members, I thought that it would be a great opportunity. We have had over 60 participants today, from six continents, and I’m pleased to say that the exchanges have been of a very high quality. We have heard some fascinating insights on the issues that businesses face in the trading system — particularly smaller enterprises — and ideas on how those issues might be tackled.”
Sunil Mittal, First Vice Chairman of the ICC, said:
“We must do the utmost to put into operation the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which has the potential to bring enormous benefits to the world economy. We must make sure that this agreement is ratified and implemented as soon as possible. The WTO needs to develop rules and standards to make sure that the efficient growth of e-commerce is secured, since it has the potential to revolutionize trade flows around the world.”
Frank Ning, Chair of the B20, said:
“The future accomplishments of the WTO will be critical in achieving a more efficient and friendly business environment, and a more inclusive and sustainable global economy.”
Carole Kariuki, of the Kenyan Private Sector Alliance, said:
“Trade is an integral part of the equation in generating growth and creating jobs and the WTO plays a vital role in ensuring that governments comply with the commitments they have made in making trade easier.”
Kati Suominen, of TradeUp, said:
“A World Trade Organization in the 21st century can only succeed if it engages those that trade across borders every day - businesses, small and big. As world trade changes and digitizes, WTO’s rulemaking, research, and capacity building functions need to be bolstered and adjusted to meet the needs of its private sector stakeholders. This can help unlock the power of trade, disruptive technologies, e-commerce, and FDI to drive inclusive growth, job creation and sustainable development.”
The companies and organisations represented at the event were:
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)
Bharti Enterprises Limited
Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH
Boniswa Corporate Solutions
Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC)
Corrs Chambers Westgarth
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited
Dow Chemical Company
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)
National Petrochemical Industrial Company (NATPET)
Nestle Skin Health S.A.
Oryspa Spa Solutions Inc.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Singapore Business Federation
Syndicat des Industries de Madagascar
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)
Teyseer Group of Companies
TradeUp Capital Fund
World Economic Forum (WEF)
World SME Forum
W.J. Towell & Co.