ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES– Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual called for a concerted action among members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) towards advancing global trade and inclusive development on the first day of its 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13).

“Through the WTO, we have facilitated cross-border trade by enhancing transparency, streamlining border procedures, and promoting rules-based trade while securing the rights and obligations of Members. However, while the WTO has served us well, we cannot rest on our past achievements,” he stated. In a recorded statement for the opening plenary session, Secretary Pascual acknowledged that “our approach to trade must change, and  development must be sustainable and go beyond economic growth.”

Moreover, the DTI secretary stressed the importance of empowering micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), women entrepreneurs, and marginalized communities for their involvement in global trade.

MC13 introduced a new format of “Ministerial Conversations” on Trade and Sustainable Development and Trade and Inclusion. While not part of the WTO’s negotiating areas, it gave Ministers an opportunity to share their views on these emerging global issues.

On the Trade and Sustainable Development Dialogue

DTI Secretary Fred Pascual and DTI Undersecretary Allan Gepty

In a bid to strengthen the WTO’s trade and sustainability agenda, the DTI secretary cited the urgency of addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. He underscored the organization’s unique position to address these pressing problems through a higher level of ambition in supporting a positive trade agenda guided by principles of sustainability and resilience.

Highlighting the importance of stakeholder engagement, Secretary Pascual emphasized that “sustainability and resilience cannot be achieved by governments alone.” He added that global trade policies should be informed by the best practices and latest knowledge from businesses, civil society, and the scientific community.

The Secretary concluded by expressing his desire for a WTO agenda that equally emphasizes economic growth, environmental protection, and social well-being.

On the Trade and Inclusion Dialogue

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual during the Ministerial Conversations on Trade and Sustainable Development

Secretary Pascual emphasized the need to further strengthen the WTO’s inclusiveness agenda to further integrate women and MSMEs into the global trading system. He recognized existing efforts of the WTO such as the informal working groups on MSMEs and Trade and Gender. He suggested the need to explore enhanced opportunities for dialogue and strategic integration of these themes into the WTO’s formal structure.

Moreover, the trade chief encouraged the WTO to adapt its policies to better integrate underserved groups into global value chains and address trade-related challenges in trade facilitation, trade technology, digital trade, financial inclusion, and sustainable agriculture.  Specifically, he urged Members to orient the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to assist MSMEs in better complying with its provisions and ensuring that its benefits reach smaller companies.

The Philippines also expressed appreciation for the WTO’s work in areas such as examining remittance costs, financial services trade, and promoting women’s economic empowerment. Secretary Pascual leads the Philippine delegation to the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13), which unites its 166 Members and presents a crucial opportunity to shape the future of global trade and secure outcomes beneficial to the Philippines. ♦

Date of release: 28 February 2024