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B20 at WTO Public Forum: Lobby for open and inclusive trade

More than 1,500 trade experts from the private sector as well as officials met in Geneva from 26 – 28 September 2017 for this year’s WTO Public Forum. B20 Argentina Chairman Daniel Funes de Rioja, B20 Germany Sherpa Stormy-Annika Mildner, and ICC Secretary General John Danilovich used this opportunity to discuss with WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo the future of the trade and the multilateral trade regime. All agreed to continue the close cooperation between business and the WTO and the so called Business Focus Groups in order to feed in the business expertise into the WTO process. The WTO Director General confirmed that the recommendation of the Business Focus Groups and B20 Germany, e.g. on e-commerce, SME’s as well as trade in services and investment facilitation, contributed positively to the debate among members in the run-up to the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in December 2017 in Buenos Aires. At the side-lines of MC11, on 12 December in Buenos Aires, a Business Forum will be organized.

At a working session of the WTO Public Forum titled “Open and Inclusive Trade – a Progressive Trade Agenda for the benefit of all” jointly organized by B20 Germany and Argentina, the G20 and its impact on global trade stood at the heart of the discussions. Ambassador Walter Hugo Werner, Head, WTO Unit, Permanent Mission of Germany in Geneva, emphasised that the G20 leaders were able to agree on a joint outcome on trade and investment at the G20 Summit in Hamburg –a great success, having in mind the opposing views of participants in the preparation phase. Shunko Rojas, Undersecretary of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Production, Argentine Republic, presented his ideas regarding the Argentinian presidency, among them a new focus on agriculture and food and education and labour. The business representatives on the panel, Daniel Funes de Rioja, John Danilovich, and Stormy-Annika Mildner, underlined their commitment to the G20 process. They also recalled the business recommendations to maintain and develop the multilateral trading system according to the needs of modern business.

Also at the WTO Public Forum, Stormy-Annika Mildner, in her role as Chair of the WTO Working Group of BusinessEurope, moderated the working session of this European umbrella organization on “Can the WTO promote sustainability and trade? – looking beyond the Doha Development Agenda.” All participants in the very lively debate agreed that trade as well as the WTO can and should play a positive role in promoting sustainability goals, e.g. on decent work standards and environmental protection. The answers to the question regarding the necessary next steps were more diverse, ranging from more capacity building in least developed countries to facilitate the participation in trade to more assertive action via bilateral agreements to enforce international labour and environmental commitments. In a working session organized by the World Economic Forum on the legitimacy of global trade and the question “What works, and what needs work”, Stormy-Annika Mildner acted as one of the “discussion leaders.” The discussion leaders managed the debate among groups of the audience and later on presented the key findings for the discussion in the plenary. The unique structure of the working session activated the whole audience and lead to a very productive debate. Most participants agreed that more international trade and, especially, more international trade rules are needed despite increasing critic regarding free trade initiatives and globalization by politicians and civil forces in many WTO member countries. However, the greatest task would be on national level in order to make trade work for everyone and help people to adjust to the changes caused by the globalization.

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