The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has today welcomed the conclusion of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) first ever dialogue with the business community as an important step towards strengthening the global trade agenda.
The dialogue was initiated off the back of the successful outcome of the WTO’s ministerial conference in Nairobi last December, and in response to growing concern within the global business community about faltering global trade growth.
Addressing WTO members, ICC’s First Vice-Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said:”To be clear: business wants predictable, modern and up-to-date multilateral trade rules, negotiated and agreed at the WTO…Trade is expected to grow by less than 3 percent for the fifth consecutive year in 2016. We should not accept this as the new normal and we are ready to work constructively with WTO members to restore trade as a central driver of global growth.”
The first-of-its-kind event identified a broad range of possible WTO initiatives to help boost trade-led inclusive growth. These included:
Business leaders encouraged the WTO to explore possible initiatives to make trade easier for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), going beyond trade facilitation reforms to identify where harmonized rules and end-to-end standards can help small businesses access global markets. Access to financing was also highlighted as a priority to support SME trade growth.
Many participants in the dialogue expressed an interest in a new WTO dialogue to explore the scope for global standards in the field of investment promotion, protection and facilitation.
The dialogue highlighted an interest from a range of sectors in pursuing sector-specific talks as a complement to the ongoing Doha Round.
There was a strong call from business leaders for the WTO to play a central role in underpinning an open, reliable and secure global digital economy. Participants expressed particular interest in possible “e-commerce negotiations” which could encompass a broad range of issues such as customs duties, electronic signatures, data protection and localization requirements.
Speaking on the systemic importance of an e-commerce initiative, Mittal said:”The global nature of e-commerce means that the WTO has a vital role to play in the further development of rules and standards for this area. E-commerce has the potential to revolutionize global trade flows. Today, even the smallest of businesses can go global if they can access the Internet.”
At the conclusion of the dialogue, ICC has called on WTO members to maintain contacts with the business community in taking forward possible new trade talks and initiatives.
ICC Secretary General John Danilovich said: “We have seen a positive discussion today about how we can work together to maximize the contribution of trade and investment to achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development. We hope that today’s initiative can be followed up with concrete steps including further meetings of this kind. ICC stands ready to support this dialogue in any way possible.”