Speeches

ITC Executive Director opening remarks at the G20 trade and investment ministerial meeting

15 November 2021
ITC News

Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Luigi Di Maio
Honourable Ministers of the G20, Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to thank the Italian government for the invitation to participate in today’s Ministerial meeting and for your leadership during a challenging year when most of the world is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

International trade and investment remain vital for economic recovery. To emerge from this crisis will require a global commitment to balance national interests with multilateral cooperation and the promotion of economic growth driven by sustainable and inclusive trade.

I am hopeful that global trade will continue to recover but I am also cognisant of the need to ramp up efforts especially for the services sector which continues to lag behind. Last year, global tourism reported its worst year in history and countries like mine in the Caribbean and other Small Island Developing States, continue to see the resulting negative impact on MSMEs and on the economy as a whole.

MSMEs in other regions and sectors are also in a dire situation. A recent ITC survey with 2,500 firms in francophone Africa, showed that their revenue had fallen by half and staff cut by a third, due to the pandemic. To date, they have not yet reached their pre-pandemic levels.

This is why I am particularly pleased that MSMEs’ participation in world trade was a priority area during this presidency, as it is essential for global prosperity and the achievement of the SDGs. An important priority in the recovery phase must be to strengthen their capacity to compete and integrate into the global economy. Specific focus should be placed on assisting MSMEs to contribute to and benefit from green trade and also on women’s economic empowerment.

ITC works on the ground to enhance the capacity of MSMEs in developing and the least developed countries to engage in international trade. Our work helps to develop confidence among businesses in these countries in the rules based multilateral trading system. We are confident that these actions will encourage constructive engagement of developing countries in deliberations leading to successful outcome of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference.

It is clear from our experience of working with MSMEs that they are keen to receive assistance in new and emerging trends such as, transitioning to the green and digital economy. For example, 68% of firms interviewed by ITC in sub-Saharan Africa said that environmental risks were significant for their businesses, and yet, just 38% invested in at least one measure to reduce exposure to environmental risks. They simply lack the resources and information to go green.

ITC’s GreentoCompete Initiative is intended to support the development of green policies, while helping companies to access green finance and build sustainable value chains. Similarly, our e-connect initiative seeks to help MSMEs benefit from rapidly growing e-commerce opportunities. It was our pleasure to be one of the contributors to the Italian Presidency’s initiative to develop non-binding Policy Toolkit to support MSMEs in the green and digital transition.

ITC is also committed to promoting sustainable trade for women owned businesses
through our SheTrades Initiative. Last year we launched the SheTrades Outlook to provide governments with evidence-based policy advice to guide interventions that strengthen women in trade.

The support from G20 members to implement such initiatives demonstrates your strong commitment to MSMEs’ role in the global economy. Therefore, in closing, I also reiterate ITC’s commitment to supporting the G20’s trade and investment efforts leading up to MC12 and beyond.

Thank you.

A recent ITC survey with 2,500 firms in francophone Africa showed that their revenue had fallen by half and staff cut by a third, due to the pandemic. To date, they have not yet reached their pre-pandemic levels.
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