On 30 June, WBG President Dr. Jim Yong Kim and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo launched The Role of Trade in Ending Poverty, a joint report which sets out an agenda for maximizing the contribution trade makes to poverty reduction. Examining extreme poverty through the lens of four characteristics that hold the poor back from benefiting fully from trade opportunities - rural poverty; gender; fragility and conflict; and informality - the report provides a broad framework for deepening the poverty impact of trade integration. Supporting this, Dr. Kim and WTO DG Azevêdo announced that the Aid for Trade initiative will be used in future to focus more intensely on the poverty impact of trade-related assistance. In a joint press release they also announced a new collaboration, led by the Bank Group and WTO, to develop better indicators for monitoring and reducing trade costs facing the extreme poor. This also featured in a joint op-ed in The Guardian by the two leaders.
Opening High Level Session
President Kim also delivered an address to the opening plenary of the Global Review. The speech provided a strong statement on the importance of trade in achieving the Twin Goals, by lowering trade costs between countries, and doing more to connect the poor to market opportunities. President Kim made the case that evidence showed the greatest impact on poverty has been achieved in countries that connected their people to markets, while undertaking complementary reforms to ensure gains were widespread. At the opening plenary, the WTO DG and OECD Secretary-General launched a new publication on Aid for Trade including a chapter from the WBG on the evolution and drivers of trade costs. The chapter - drawing on the WB-UNESCAP Trade Costs Database - shows that trade costs for low-income countries continue to be around three times higher than for advanced economies, and sets out the key reforms to be undertaken in order to reduce this gap.
WBG Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice Event
On 29 June T&C hosted an event on the role of the new global practice in helping developing countries build competitiveness and lower trade costs. The event demonstrated the ways in which the Global Practice can link the trade agenda with other drivers of competitiveness. For example, the Lesotho Minister of Trade and Industry talked about how the WBG's support for building private sector competitiveness there, combined with efforts to lower trade costs, had contributed to private-sector led growth. Similarly, Patricia Francis, the Chair of Jamaica's Trade Facilitation Taskforce, outlined how WBG support for Jamaica's goal of becoming a regional logistics hub, had helped drive improved coordination across government. Tekreth Kamrang, Cambodia's Secretary of State for Commerce, talked about how Cambodia's trade reform efforts, supported by the WBG, had helped improve the country's Logistics Performance Index and Doing Business rankings.
IMF/WBG/WTO Research Conference
The fourth workshop organized jointly by the WTO, the WBG and the IMF took place at WTO headquarters in Geneva on 29 June. The event brought together trade experts from the three institutions to present cutting-edge research on trade and trade policy and to discuss current policy issues. The research part of the conference was organized in three sessions - "Global Value Chains, Growth, and Price Movements", "Trade, Productivity and Growth,” and "Trading Firms, Uncertainties and Policies." The policy part of the conference featured a panel discussion on the "Value of the multilateral trading system at 20" including the WTO's Chief Economist, Robert Koopman; the World Bank Group Senior Director for Trade & Competitiveness, Anabel Gonzalez; the IMF's unit chief for trade and external policies, Martin Kaufman; and Professor Thomas Cottier from the University of Bern. The discussion touched on the value of the multilateral trading system and how to properly measure it; how the rise of cross-border production is contributing not only to change the nature of trade but also the nature of trade agreements, with the increasing role of preferential arrangements; and, finally, what can be done to make sure that the WTO and preferential trade agreements coexists and to preserve the unity of the multilateral trading system.
Supporting Implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA)
On 30 June, Anabel González, the Senior Director for WBG T&C Global Practice, moderated a high-level plenary session on implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. Speakers included the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization; Executive Secretary of UNESCAP; UK Secretary of State for International Development; and Minister of Trade of Senegal. The session affirmed the importance of the Trade Facilitation Agreement as part of a wider agenda to lower trade costs faced by developing countries. In the Asia-Pacific, for example, UNESCAP estimates that the TFA is already around 50% implemented, on average, and full implementation of the TFA would bring about average reductions by 16-17% in trade costs.
Effective Implementation of SPS Measures to Facilitate
Anabel González was also a panelist at a session on facilitating safe trade through the effective implementation of sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards. Other panelists included the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); the incoming Director-General of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE); and speakers from Chile, COMESA, Thailand, and Cargill. Ms. González set out the Bank Group's experience in facilitating safe trade, showing that in our view there was no question of a choice between trade facilitation on the one hand, and addressing health and safety concerns on the other – the two needed to be done together. This was the approach taken through WBG projects, including those to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement.