The 5th WTO Global Review of Aid for Trade conference was held in Geneva from 30 June – 5 July 2015, and demonstrated the strong commitment from donors and developing countries to undertake aid for trade and to support the UN-led post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. The theme of the conference was ‘reducing trade costs for inclusive sustainable growth’. The event strengthened Australia’s reputation as a leader in aid for trade and advanced a forward-leaning agenda which put a spotlight on the economic empowerment of women and the Pacific region. Australia will again demonstrate its leadership at the 6th WTO Global Review of Aid for Trade, which will take place in Geneva from 11 – 13 July 2017 under the theme of ‘promoting connectivity.’
Economic empowerment of women
In the plenary session on this issue, co-organised by Australia, there was a shared view that more aid for trade activities should focus on or incorporate issues that help advance the economic empowerment of women. Panellists from Accenture and Google Indonesia described the proactive steps their firms have taken to increase the representation of women at all levels. Representatives from several women-owned and run small businesses based in developing countries suggested possible areas of focus for future aid for trade efforts. These included helping female entrepreneurs have better access to finance, strengthening their ability to understand export markets, and improving workplace conditions of the export industries in which many women are employed.
Increasing knowledge and access to information and communications technology were also identified as crucial for increasing women’s ability to engage in the competitive global market place. In the closing statement, Australian Permanent Representative to the WTO challenged donors and recipient governments alike to think innovatively in developing new programs and reassessing existing policies to maximise their impact on increasing the economic empowerment of women. (International Trade Centre’s Women and Trade Program)
Listen to the full audio of the session
Focus on the Pacific
Through Australia’s efforts, and in partnership with the World Trade Organization and the Enhanced Integration Framework, the Conference had an unprecedented focus on the Pacific. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo drew special attention to the region in his remarks opening the Review, stating, “the Pacific is a case in point. By the simple fact of its geography, that region faces some of the biggest natural hurdles to connecting to the global trading system.”
Pacific issues featured in the session on the Asian Development Bank’s Report on Aid for Trade in Asia and the Pacific and in discussions on small and vulnerable economies. High-level representatives from Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and the Permanent Representative of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat were appreciative of the conference’s focus on their region, as a welcome sign of the recognition by the WTO and donors of their particular and substantive challenges.
Australia, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), WTO and Pacific Island Forum Secretariat co-hosted “Discovering Pacific Trade Potential” an evening reception at the Review which highlighted the cuisine, culture, art, exports and opportunities of the Pacific.
The 5th Global Review reaffirmed the important role agricultural trade plays in development. Australia highlighted its commitment to supporting efforts of developing and least developed countries to increase their participation in international agricultural markets. Key issues noted by developing countries included examining ways their agricultural producers could move up the value chain, mechanisms to leverage private sector investment, and the importance of increasing agricultural productivity to the social and economic wellbeing of women and children in rural populations. (Global Donor Platform on Rural Development)
Trade in Services
In the trade in services plenary session, co-organised by Australia, both the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and the International Trade Centre took the opportunity to further elaborate on their global projects that promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth for developing countries and least developed countries though capacity building for services trade and encourage domestic reforms.
Throughout the Review, delegates repeatedly stressed the importance of trade facilitation to addressing high trade costs. Studies released at the review identified Trade Facilitation as the top aid for trade priority for both developing countries and donors. Ratification, entry into force and full implementation of the Agreement on Trade Facilitation was identified as vital to this effort. Many delegates reaffirmed their countries commitment to meeting the target of entry into force by the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference to be held in Nairobi this December.
Trade, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction
The World Bank and the World Trade Organization’s latest report ‘The Role of Trade in Ending Poverty
’ released on 30 June 2015 coincides with the convening of the 5th Global Review, and examines the links between trade, economic growth and poverty reduction. Although the drivers of poverty are multi-dimensional, the basic requirement for sustained poverty reduction is economic growth. International
trade which has boosted economic growth and access to new technologies and innovations needs to continue to play a key role in poverty reduction – particularly to help alleviate the extreme poverty currently experienced by around 1 billion people. As noted in the report, while trade can lift economic growth, the poor do not automatically benefit from new trade opportunities. The challenge for policy-makers is to help countries deliver the benefits to all their citizens, including by addressing the key constraints the extreme poor face in benefiting from trade