Countries / Territories

Summary - Opening remarks

  • Opening remarks

    10 September 2010, 8:30 – 8:45


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    Ms. Francis opened proceedings on the first full day of the WEDF. She told participants that the world had changed immeasurably since the last WEDF two years ago, when the focus was on consumer conscience as an essential driver of purchasing decisions and a signifier of shifting markets.

    Consumer conscience was no less vital today, even though the world and the trade arena had changed immeasurably. A seismic shift in the market place meant there was a need to rethink the fundamental aims and outputs of organizations and businesses.

    The financial and economic crisis had been a catastrophic event for all, even if some sectors and nations had fared better or worse than others. In times of crisis there was a tendency to bunker down and look after one’s own pressing issues, but this was no cure. Short-term thinking could lead to protectionism, loss of trust and confidence because of a focus on avoiding risk rather than on making things happen.

    To ensure long-term sustainability, thinking needed to be focused on the long term and the big picture, to ensure opportunities for the future. “We must look for synergies across our aims and harness strengths to engage the collective will,” Ms. Francis said.

    She said that this year’s WEDF would address the question of how to achieve long-term sustainable export for growth, focused on the triple bottom line of planet, people and prosperity. She stressed that development required mutually beneficial partnerships across regions, between private and public sectors and within supply chains, with the support of strong trade institutions and financing for enterprises.

    She concluded by emphasising ITC’s commitment to export impact for good, stressing the organization’s belief in the power of export-led development and the role of exports in sustainable development.

    Ms. Francis then introduced the keynote speaker for WEDF2010, the noted global strategist Professor Pankaj Ghemawat, who spoke on the theme: Trade and Globalization in Perspective.

    Professor Ghemawat started by proposing that in order to make progress it was necessary to address three key issues: the real extent of globalization, the extent of barriers constraining trade, and understanding the broad gains that trade can deliver.

    On the first issue, he demonstrated that there were widespread perceptions that globalization was far more advanced than was actually the case. Surveys of informed audiences had regularly overestimated the proportion of foreign direct investment in fixed capital formation. The proportions of international voice telephone calls, of first generation immigrants in populations, of equity investment in companies headquartered outside the country, and of the proportion of exports to GDP, which he cited, showed more realistic levels.

    He identified five features that facilitated trade, indicating that in the absence of any of these, trade tended to be reduced. The five were: a common language, membership of a regional trading block, a relationship between former colony and colonizer, a common currency and a land border.

    “Countries that share all five elements trade up to three times more than countries which do not share them,” he said.

    Barriers to trade went far beyond the administrative, Professor Ghemawat suggested. Cultural, economic and geographic factors need to be taken into account.

    The gains to be made from trade, and in particular overseas investment, needed to be examined in a broader context than the traditional focus on increasing volume and reducing costs. There were also elements of differentiation, intensifying competition, normalizing risk and generating knowledge which all bring value.

    The UNCTAD Secretary General Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi and the WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy were then asked to comment on the keynote address. Dr. Supachai emphasized the need for a long-term approach and also to underscore that globalization caused different outputs for different countries. There was a need for a focus on sustainability, and for globalization with a human face. Countries needed to be able to determine their own destinies, with autonomous input and sequencing.

    Mr. Lamy welcomed the shift in emphasis from volume to value in world trade. He said that export promotion was about finding the right slot in the global supply chain, whether for goods or services. He also expressed a need for a revised system for calculating world trade which recognized the complexities of global value chains. The existing system tended to obscure realities, he said.
    Comments from the floor included a call for a global discussion on trade, and emphasized the largely positive political implications of a shift from volume to value. The importance of former colonial links was questioned by one speaker, who predicted it would anyway decrease rapidly in importance with the decline of tariff preferences and emergence of new demand centres.

    Other questions concerned ways of integrating SMEs into global value chains, the particular challenges faced by small island developing states, and barriers to internal trade in Africa.