Speech Article from  Global Affairs Canada

Address by Minister Freeland to World Trade Organization's 10th Ministerial Conference

December 17, 2015 - Nairobi, Kenya

Check Against Delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.

Madame President, ministers, excellencies, delegates, and ladies and gentlemen.

Canada is a trading nation.

As are all the countries present today.

Trade can be an agent of change. Trade and the opening up of markets can have a significant impact—by helping to raise standards of living, empower women and protect the environment.

I am here for the first time as a minister representing the newly elected Canadian government.

And let me say what a pleasure and honour it is to be here among you.

Let me take a moment to tell you a little about the priorities of our new Canadian government.

We were elected on three pillars:

  • First is our strong belief that, in Canada, our diversity is our strength. And that is manifest in our welcoming of 25,000 Syrian refugees right now, and in the fact that I am a member of a 50-50 gender-balanced Cabinet. I urge all the countries here to try that approach.
  • We were also elected on a platform of inclusive prosperity, which is a phrase I am hearing here from a lot of people. And let me say to our developing-country colleagues: that is not just a concern of developing countries, it is a concern in the developed world too. We know that unless economic growth delivers for everyone in our country, it’s not delivering for our country.
  • Finally, we were elected on a platform of multilateralism. When I was knocking on doors this fall, talking about Canada as part of a multilateral community was popular. So Canada is really back, and we’re thrilled to be here.

The WTO is one of the world’s premiere multilateral institutions. It is so important. As Amina [Ambassador Amina C. Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Government of Kenya] said to us yesterday, if the WTO didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. And as we are struggling right now through some difficult issues, we should reflect on how amazing it is that the WTO exists as an institution.

That’s why Canada this week is going to be very energetic in seeking some concrete deliverables.

We’re here in Africa. That’s why a focus for us is going to be delivering some results for the developing world, with a particular focus on the least developed countries.

And we are going to work toward an ambitious agricultural outcome. But we strongly believe that for that outcome to be real, contributions from everyone, including the big subsidizers, are absolutely essential.

So we want to get some work done this week, but let’s be honest: we are not going to get through our whole agenda.

I don’t want us to get hung up on nomenclature.

There is a lot of talk about “Do we save Doha or is Doha over?”

I don’t think that’s the point.

I think the point that we need to focus on is we all need the WTO to continue to function and exist and be effective as a trade negotiating forum.

One reason it is so important that we find ways to go forward when we all leave Nairobi is how effective the WTO is in its work. I don’t want us to lose sight of how essential the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO is.

And probably the most frightening words I have heard from this podium today are the comments by Australia that if we can’t make progress with the WTO negotiations, we risk discrediting the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.

That is something we cannot allow to happen.

Canada needs WTO dispute settlement; we are in the middle of getting a WTO settlement this week, and I know every country here needs it too.

At the opening statements yesterday, we heard a lot of people very rightly cheering and praising COP21 in Paris, and the amazing outcome there. And we’ve just heard from Jamaica another shout-out to the great achievement in Paris.

I’d like to conclude by urging us all to reflect on why COP21 was able to achieve such a vast outcome, and why we all here are struggling with this feeling of being stalled, of being mired and at an impasse.

As one of the newest ministers here and someone who has just gone through an election, I’m going to offer one suggestion and something that we can reflect on when we go home and work for ways forward for the WTO negotiations.

That is what ministers and leaders came to COP21 representing and advocating for a strongly supported national consensus around what they needed to achieve, and a strongly supported global consensus about what they needed to achieve together.

What I would humbly submit to all of us here is that we need to build that kind of strong grassroots and political consensus at home for an international, global trade agenda.

Without that we’re going to be always stuck here, as Minister Gao [Hucheng, Minister of Commerce] of China said, feeling as if we’re fighting between different domestic vested interests, and not working together for a big overall global goal.

I love my WTO ambassador in Geneva [Jonathan T. Fried, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization], and it’s a great pleasure for me to be here with fellow ministers.

But our global trade agenda, and the global economy and globalization, is too important to be left to WTO ambassadors in Geneva. And it is too important for us to just try to resolve together in rooms like this.

I sincerely believe that we can reach an ambitious agreement, not this week but next time.

But to get there we’re all going to have to not only work on how we negotiate with each other but also building a domestic political consensus and a global political consensus around the absolute importance for further international trade liberalization.

Thank you.


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