23rd China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT)

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

23rd China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT)

08 September 2023

Your excellencies, 
Ladies and gentlemen, 
Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to address you at the 23rd China International Fair for Investment and Trade, held here in the dynamic city of Xiamen, home to one of the biggest ports in the world.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to the People's Republic of China for their continued commitment to this annual event and China’s ongoing support for promoting international trade and investment.

This year’s edition of CIFIT, with its focus on the Global Development Initiative, is extremely timely and welcome, and I am very happy to participate as the Secretary General of UNCTAD, the UN Conference and Trade and Development.

The world we live in today is interconnected in ways unimaginable a few decades ago.

Our economic systems, much like our societies and environments, are inextricably linked. The importance of these connections cannot be understated, especially in a time when our world is battling a range of significant challenges - from climate change to social inequality, from digital divides to public health crises.

We are, indeed, more connected than we often think we are. Through social media, we have never been closer to our so-called ‘close ones’, our families and friends who live abroad, or our colleagues who work overseas.

But behind these natural and even ‘obvious’ links, there lies a complex web of invisible ties, a massive underwater iceberg of connections, woven through the power of trade and investment all over the world.

Take, for example, the phone in each of our pockets.

Over 200 suppliers are needed to make a single smartphone.

These come from all corners of the globe. Cobalt from Central Africa. Lithium from South American. Batteries assembled in China made from Australian minerals.

Marketing designed in Sweden for Brazilian markets.

Screens from South Korea.

Software again from China.

Investment from pension funds in Canada and the Arab Gulf.

The phone in your pocket might have arrived at Xiamen Port through a Greek ship flying under a Liberian flag, underwritten by a British insurer.

All these trade and investment links bear the touch of the millions of humans involved in this complex supply chain, an invisible community that spreads the globe.

When we touch our phone, we also ‘touch’, however faintly, the human hands of this invisible community.

Today, it is more important than ever to recognize this.

As we speak, investment flows are declining.

According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report, Global FDI fell 12 per cent last year, as interest rates and rising prices decreased investors’ appetites.

And as always, the poorest countries felt the brunt of this decline.

FDI to Least Developed Countries fell by 16 per cent last year.

And while, even within this general decline, SDG-related investments increased in 2022, most of these investments were concentrated in the richest and biggest countries, and in renewable energies, a development we welcome but we are worried that we don’t see the same trend in other SDG sectors like health and education investment.

Global trade is also facing important headwinds.

While trade, according to our numbers, rose 2.7 per cent last year, this year we expect trade to slow down to under 2 per cent, which is below our forecast for global GDP growth.

This means that the growth engine of trade will be out of reach for many of the countries that need it the most, in their fight against poverty and climate change.

This is why it is important to remember what is at stake.

As global trade and investment become disrupted, the global invisible community of which I spoke earlier is under threat.

It is a common saying that we humans do not know the value of things until we lose them. If we do not work together to revert the tide, and reignite the engine of global trade, we will lose much more than economic growth; we will lose the glue that has brought humanity the closest it has ever been, we will lose the invisible, natural, everyday community of trade and investment, a community of which every single one of us is part.


Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen:

I therefore call upon the stakeholders present here, from every sector and every nation, to take this opportunity to engage, share, and collaborate.

Our task is not just to promote growth and investment but to ensure this growth is inclusive, sustainable, and shared in friendship and in peace.

China, with its dynamism, its development perspective, and its scale, has a crucial role in this journey.

Your commitment to the principles of multilateralism and open markets can help shape a better future, especially through the Global Development Initiative.

I look forward to working closely with you in this shared vision of sustainable economic growth.

And I wish you all a very engaging, productive, and fruitful China International Fair for Investment and Trade.

Thank you.