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Use Power of Trade to Help Expand Opportunities while Protecting Fragile Planet, Secretary-General Urges in Message for Public Forum

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum, in Geneva today:

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, dear friends, I am pleased to greet the World Trade Organization Public Forum — a vital space to reflect on the rules of international trade, and how they shape the global economy and affect people’s lives today and in the future.  I salute your focus on a sustainable and inclusive recovery, and especially the imperative to move from “ambition to action”.

Finding the right balance between trade that is open, global and propels growth — and trade that is fair, sustainable and inclusive, is crucial if we are to keep the promise of the 2030 Agenda alive — and that is why your work is so important.

Fair trade is not compatible with subsidies and technical barriers that distort markets in favour of developed countries.  Free, open global markets are important.  But, unregulated trade can lead to unsustainable practices and harmful impacts on economies and people.  At the same time, tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and other measures that limit trade can cause more economic harm than benefit – particularly to small developing countries.  WTO — and this forum in particular — is where we come together to find this balance.

I commend the recent Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies which will make a vital contribution to ending illegal fishing, preserving our oceans and protecting the livelihood of millions and nutrition of billions of people worldwide.

We need similar successes to advance across the Sustainable Development Goals.  This includes trading arrangements and rules that facilitate the renewables revolution and open opportunities for developing countries to become major exporters of green energy while ensuring affordable access to energy for all.  It includes protecting human rights by aligning trade rules with multilateral commitments.  And it includes trade rules that help manage new technologies and the digital economy.

Dear friends, building a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive global economy has never been more critical.  And trade is an indispensable catalyst.

Let us use the power of trade to help expand opportunities while protecting our fragile planet.  And let us do business in a way that creates an enabling environment for trade and investment to deliver sustainable development for all.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.