Major Speeches, Presentations and Press Releases

Speech by SCED at WTO Informal Ministerial Gathering in Switzerland (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the World Trade Organization (WTO) Informal Ministerial Gathering in Davos, Switzerland today (January 20, Davos time):

     Good morning. It is my great pleasure to meet with colleagues here in Davos for the Informal Ministerial Gathering.

     I wish to thank our host, Switzerland, for their invitation and hospitality. Minister Wang made reference to the year of Roosters. Like Roosters which rise early and call others into action, this meeting rallies to remind us that early guidance is needed to ensure that negotiations will not be left to the last minute at the MC11 (the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference) in Buenos Aires.

     At the moment, the outlook of the global economy is, to say the least, challenging. For many, economic, trade and investment growth remain sluggish. Political uncertainties and anti-globalisation sentiments around the world are not helping us.

     But it is precisely when the headwind is strong, that we need to work harder, to crow louder, to resist protectionism, and to make the case for trade and for the WTO. For decades, trade has proven to be a driver of sustainable and inclusive growth. The world needs more free and open trade.

     With the remarkable breakthroughs at the past two MCs, we are starting to reap the benefits of the expanded Information Technology Agreement, and almost ready to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

     These achievements are strong testimony against criticisms that trade negotiations conducted under the WTO no longer deliver. Let us not undermine ourselves. We are capable of producing important outcomes if we all have the political will to do so.

     With less than one year to go, we should take a multi-pronged approach to deliver concrete results in MC11. In terms of substance, while Hong Kong, China remains committed to advancing negotiations on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues, we are also ready to explore other ideas that could facilitate trade flows, liberalise trade and promote development.

     Today, many ministers have mentioned that e-commerce has transformed and energised part of the business world, including a large portion of our small and medium enterprises. It is of course not a new subject in WTO, but there has been a lack of direction on how the WTO can contribute to the progressive liberalisation of trade through e-commerce. I am encouraged to hear supporting views at the meeting this morning, including ideas which are being explored and proposed to achieve a credible way forward. I look forward to more engagement on this subject.

     In terms of negotiation approach, Hong Kong, China is willing to explore different negotiating approaches which can help reinvigorate the negotiations, while upholding the primacy and relevance of the multilateral trading system.

     Equally important is the process. I agree with others that we need strong political engagement and inclusive participation throughout, and that we should also be open-minded, pragmatic and flexible in order to strike a deal.

     It is in the interest of all Members to keep the multilateral trading system strong and growing. For more than 20 years, developed and developing Members alike have contributed to it and benefited from it. MC11 is yet another opportunity for everyone to pitch in and share another success. By working together, we can make a difference. Thank you.

Ends/Friday, January 20, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:53