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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

28 October 2020

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,  

Welcome to the webinar series: Towards model provisions for trade in times of crisis and pandemic in regional and other trade agreements.

This webinar series is part of an inclusive initiative involving a wide range of organizations and experts from around the world. All those involved in the initiative have one common goal: to ensure that goods and services can continue to safely move across borders during an unforeseen international crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic, so that they can reach the one who need them the most and facilitate recovery.

In 2015, all member States have identified international trade as one of the key Means of Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Trade has provided the means for many developing countries to lift millions of people out of poverty, providing new employment opportunities and access to technologies previously out of reach.

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted international trade, in particular in the early stages of the crisis, as countries put in place ad-hoc regulations with little or no consultation with their trade partners.

Simply put, multilateral, regional and bilateral trade rules provided little to no guidance on how countries were to deal with this unprecedented crisis. The crisis has further highlighted an important weakness in our trading system, and it is important to address now.

Over the past decade, many countries have turned to regional trade agreements (RTAs) to deepen trade and broader economic partnerships. These RTAs build on the solid foundation of WTO agreements in most cases and addressed an ever wider set of issues. Still, these RTAs proved rather ineffective in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and we need to do much better.

The pandemic has a devastating effect on developed and developing economies alike, threatening to bring possibly millions of people back to poverty and unemployment. These people will not only need more aid, but also more trade.

In that context, I urge all participants to work for developing a better set of trade rules that are resilient in times of crisis and stimulate sustainable economic recovery for an inclusive and greener economies.

I take this opportunity to thank all our partners, including UNCTAD, WTO, FAO and our Regional Commissions. Let me also express our sincere appreciation to civil society, the private sector and academia such as CUTS and Singapore Management University and other ARTNeT members. I am also pleased to convey our gratitude to the hundreds of participants to the Policy Hackathon organized earlier this year.  Your participation has generously contributed in coming up with better trade rules that support sustainable development.

I wish you successful deliberations and look forward to further work under this timely Initiative. Thank you

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