As the WTO Public Forum wraps up in Geneva, the IOE&IT Daily Update looks back at the conference, and highlights five of the things that you may have missed over the last few days.
Director general Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala questioned whether lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic had been learned, in an interview with CNN journalist Richard Quest at the Forum.
At a recent session of the UN, a number of world leaders – including many from African nations – called for vaccine equality.
Okonjo-Iweala conceded that the export restrictions that delayed getting vaccines to the developing world “wasn’t global solidarity at its best.”
The WTO also announced a new partnership with football’s international governing body to examine growth and inclusion in the global economy.
Okonjo-Iweala and FIFA president Gianni Infantino signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation between the two organisations on areas of “shared interest”.
Some of the named activities include examining the role of cotton producing countries in football’s apparel supply chain and exploring the sport’s potential role as a tool for female empowerment.
“Maybe there have been controversies and we are not shying away from that,” Okonjo-Iweala told CNBC, acknowledging the negative headlines that had been plaguing FIFA’s 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Harness trade to protect climate
UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged attendees to harness the power of international trade to solve some of humanities’ biggest issues.
“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,” he said via video message.
He also stated that – while free trade was important – unregulated trade could lead to harmful practices that damaged people and economies.
This theme was echoed by executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Pamela Coke-Hamilton at a panel entitled “Delivering a Trade Agenda for a Sustainable Future.”
She pointed to ongoing WTO work on sustainable trade and plastics pollution as evidence of increased political will to tackle climate change.
“People have to realize that climate change is killing us, that literally we are dying,” she said.
The future of the international economy could be digitalisation and technology, according to one high-level panel at the forum.
Hosted by CNBC journalist Julianna Tatelbaum, the panel on “leveraging Technology for an inclusive recovery,” featured business executives from around the world.
Together, they discussed how micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) could harness the power of technological transformation to better integrate into the global economy.
CEO of Corporate Council on Africa, Florizelle Liser, said that there had been some positives from the pandemic.
“There were thousands of African companies that, through their digital platforms, were able to connect not only with their old consumers, but also to a broader base of consumers.”
“It’s not just companies that are re-imagining, but governments as well,” she added.
Gayle Smith, CEO at international non-profit ONE Campaign, said there were caveats to this trend.
“The challenge right now is that it could be a game changer for sixty per cent of the world’s population: forty percent don’t have access to internet, many of them because they don’t have access to electricity,” she told the panel.
As covered previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update, getting more women into trade was running theme of the conference.
The heads of the IOE&IT, WTO and ITC combined to deliver a shared message on female empowerment in a panel discussion on the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs.
Two members of this panel were also part of the SheTrades initiative, a programme launched by the ITC to address the barriers preventing women accessing economic opportunities.
Four SheTrades ambassadors were present at the conference, showcasing their products and companies after being brought to the Public Forum by the IOE&IT.