The Multilateral Trading System: Time to Re-Energize?

11 December 2017
04:30 - 06:00 hrs. Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel & Convention Center
Buenos Aires
, Argentina


When trade ministers from 164 WTO Members gather in Buenos Aires at MC11, they will find an important task ahead, and a unique opportunity at hand, to better service the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. People around the globe will be watching and waiting for signs of a revitalized multilateralism that emerges from the negotiations.

The 2030 Agenda underscores the role of trade as an enabler of sustainable development. It also provides the shared values and goals that can guide our action in shaping globalization in a way that is more inclusive and mindful of the environment. Revitalizing a global partnership for sustainable development is critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and international trade rests a cornerstone of such a revitalized global partnership.

UNCTAD at MC11  

Important challenges confront policymakers in their endeavour to harvest trade's potential for sustainable development. The world has witnessed some notable cases of successful trade integration, particularly in East Asia and South-East Asia, where trade-led economic growth has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Many vulnerable economies however, particularly least developed countries (LDCs), continue to stand at the margin of global trade flows and global value chains, witnessing a widening gap with advanced economies and emerging markets. Poverty and inequality within and across nations remain a pervasive challenge, questioning the assumption that opening trade would automatically generate prosperity for all.

Recently the outlook for multilateral trade cooperation has come under pressure with the rise of anti-globalization and anti-multilateralism discourse. Inward-looking and beggar-thy-neighbour policy stances in major trading nations have resurged. The extent of discontent has led to significant course-correction, set-backs or renegotiations of existing and proposed trading arrangements, including, for example, the Brexit, the NAFTA renegotiations and the stalemate of TPP, not to mention the protracted WTO negotiations and the proliferation of bilateral and regional initiatives.

In such heightened uncertainty, the WTO MC11 offers a crucial moment to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead and to explore viable options for countries to adapt to the changing patterns of globalization.

Main objectives:

The high-level session will discuss viable options for transforming global trade with positive welfare benefits for societies. More specifically, participants will look at how to better connect trade to policies that ensure alignment to the 2030 Agenda within and among countries, and how to re-energize international trade and its development dimension.


Key Issues:

  • What can we do to reverse the tide of anti-globalization to uphold multilateral trade cooperation?
  • How can we make trade sustainable socially, economically and environmentally, particularly in developing countries?
  • Can the sustainable development dimension be integrated into trade negotiations and agreements?
  • What mega trends do you see affecting the future of trade in globalization and how do they potentially help or hinder the achievement of the 2030 Agenda?


Bryce Baschuk 
Mr. Bryce Baschuk

Mr. Bryce Baschuk is a mulitmedia journalist based in Geneva, Switzerland. Over the past 10 years Bryce has produced business and technology stories for media outlets based in and out of Washington, D.C. Bryce's stories have been published by Bloomberg, the Washington Times, United Press International and National Public Radio.



Mukhisa Kituyi 
Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Dr. Mukisa Kituyi is UNCTAD's seventh Secretary-General. In July 2017, the UN General Assembly confirmed Dr. Kituyi for a further four years, beginning on 1 September 2017. Before joining UNCTAD in 2013, Mr. Kituyi was Chief Executive of the Kenya Institute of Governance and Fellow of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on their African Growth Initiative. Mr. Kituyi was a member of a team of experts advising the East African Community Presidents on regional integration and a consultant to the Africa Union Commission, where he helped develop the architecture and road map for a Pan-African Free Trade Area. Mr. Kituyi was an elected member of Kenya's Parliament for fifteen years, serving as Minister for Trade and Industry during the 2002-2007 period.

Tofail Ahmed 
H.E. Tofail Ahmed Minister of Commerce, Bangladesh

H.E. Mr. Tofail Ahmed, Minister of Commerce, had earlier served as Minister in the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industries, Housing and Public Works. During his tenure as Commerce and Industries Minister from 1996–2001, he led the LDC Group as coordinator in the first, second and third WTO Ministerial Meetings and played a defining role in achieving the commitment of Duty Free Quota Free Market access for LDCs. He has a Bachelor Degree in science and Master's Degree from the University of Dhaka in 1966.

Alexander Mora 
H.E. Alexander Mora Minister of Foreign Trade, Costa Rica

H.E. Mr. Alexander Mora was appointed Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica on May 8 2014. Mr. Mora has extensive experience in trade, banking and digital technologies as entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience and as representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development as member of, inter alia, the Foreign Trade Advisory Council and the National Commission on Competitiveness. He has a degree in Economics and holds an MBA in Finance and Banking.

Suresh Prabhu 
H.E. Suresh Prabhu Minister of Commerce and Industry, India

H.E. Mr. Suresh PRABHU, Minister of Commerce and Industry, is MP, currently representing Andhra Pradesh in The Rajya Sabha. Previously, he was the Minister for Railways, Minister of Power, Minister for Environment and Forests, Minister for Chemical and Fertilizers and Minister for Industries. In 2014-2015 he was also appointed as the Prime Minister’s Sherpa in the G20 forum. He has been actively involved with a large number of social, cultural and Co-operative organizations. He is Chartered Accountant armed with a Law degree.

Sigrid Kaag 
H.E. Sigrid Kaag Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, The Netherlands

H.E. Mrs. Sigrid Kaag was appointed Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation on 26 October 2016. From 2013 to 2015 she was UN Under-Secretary-General, led the mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria, and then UN Under-Secretary-General in Lebanon. She held various positions between 2005 and 2010 in UNICEF and then served as Assistant Secretary-General for the UNDP. She has an honorary doctorate from the University of Exeter. She was awarded the Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize in 2016 in recognition of her efforts and the results of her work in the Middle East.

Rob Davies 
H.E. Rob Davies Minister of trade and industry, South Africa

H.E. Dr. Rob Davies was appointed the Minister of Trade and Industry in May 2014. He oversees South Africa's participation in important trade relations, including the WTO. Between 2005 and 2008 he was Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry. Before entering parliament in 1994, he was professor and co-Director of the Centre of Southern African Studies at the University of the Western Cape. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the University of Southampton in the UK and a Doctorate in Political Studies from the University of Sussex.

Alicia Bárcena 
Ms. Alicia Bárcena Executive Secretary, Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

H.E. Ms. Bárcena assumed office as the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on 1 July 2008. Previously she had positions of Under-Secretary-General for Management at United Nations, Chef de Cabinet and Deputy Chef de Cabinet to the former Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. Ms. Bárcena has published numerous articles on sustainable development, public policy, environmental issues, and public participation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Yonov Frederick Agah 
Mr Yonov Frederick Agah Deputy Directors-General, WTO

H.E. Mr. Yonov Frederick Agah began his term as Deputy Director-General of the WTO on 1 October 2013. He was appointed as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the WTO in 2005. Mr Agah served as Chair of the WTO's General Council in 2011. He was responsible for organizing the Eighth WTO Ministerial Conference. He has also served as Chair of various WTO bodies, including Dispute Settlement Body, the Council for Trade in Services and the Trade Policy Review Body. Mr Agah holds a Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Philosophy in Economics (International Trade) from the University of Jos, Nigeria

Deborah James 
Ms. Deborah James Director of International Programs, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Deborah James is the Director of International Programs at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, where she facilitates the global civil society network on the WTO, Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS). She also coordinates the global campaign on the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) with global union federations. Before working at CEPR, for ten years she held various positions at Global Exchange where she worked on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). She holds a Masters in International Policy and Planning from the George Washington University.


Format: Davos style, in English and Spanish, followed by coffee.


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Taisuke Ito and Bruno Antunes