Statement by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

China International Fair for Trade in Services

[Virtual Meeting]
04 September 2020

I’m pleased to participate in the Global Trade in Services Summit of the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services, CIFTIS. My thanks to the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and to the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality for the invitation to participate and to continue collaboration between China and UNCTAD in using trade in services for development.

This year’s theme “Global Services, Shared Prosperity” mirrors UNCTAD’s own goal of prosperity for all. At UNCTAD we believe trade in services must backstop most national and regional development strategies. Services represent 2/3 of the global economy, more than 1/2 total employment and 1/4 of world trade. We estimate services are also responsible for 2/3 total productivity growth in developing countries.

Meaningful service-ification needs to be a key element in countries’ strategies for modern industrialization. A services-led structural transformation is today a viable development strategy for many developing countries, and efforts at addressing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are can be a catalyst at setting this transformation in motion. Services, like ICT services, digital financial services, e-commerce platforms enable telework and offer alternatives to restricted mobility. This services-enabled digitization can be instrumental to improve supply and export capacity throughout the economy and therefore to enhance economic resilience and promoting post-pandemic recovery. China knows better than most countries the critical role that the new generation of information technologies can play in epidemic control and prevention, and continuation of industrial production.

UNCTAD has been serving countries and regions on how to harvest this potential. We have provided policy options and analyses, promoted consensus and provided technical assistance and capacity building on the several dimensions that were identified to be key by Services Policy Reviews, which are customized analyses that UNCTAD provides to countries. These dimensions include ICT services regulatory and institutional frameworks, policy coherence and institutional coordination, infrastructure development, business and productive environment development, strengthening of human capabilities, and reinforcement of data on services and ICT services in particular.

UNCTAD has emphasized that the COVID-19 crises highlighted the importance of a two-way relationship where services enable digitization that, in turn, is also critical to strengthen services. Some services have been severely affected by the pandemic, for instance tourism services which are of paramount importance for so many developing economies. The world’s tourism sector could lose at least $1.2 trillion, 1.5 per cent of the global GDP. UNCTAD estimates that, with a 12-month break in international tourism, global losses could amount to $3.3 trillion or 4.2 per cent of global GDP. These numbers, more than statistics, translate how the lives of many are so affected. In tourism, this often means impacts for the most vulnerable, including low-age, low-skilled and part-time workers. But these services would benefit from stronger ICT services and the digitization they enable.

UNCTAD continues to be proud to have the honour of being a permanent supporting institution of CIFTIS. As the developing world calls for additional tools to strengthen its services trad and economy for development, international cooperation on trade in services should be a key element of the policy agenda. We hope we can work together, building on the common lessons both China and UNCTAD can share on how services can leverage achieving the SDGs.

I also hope you can join us in the next edition of the Global Services Forum, which will be held on the sidelines of the UNCTAD’s 15th quadrennial ministerial conference in Barbados, from 25 to 30 April 2021. The Global Services Forum in will debate the policies needed to promote high-skilled services in developing economies, which allow for economic digitization, diversification and upgrading of all sectors, including industry, natural resources and other services sectors. This includes drawing from South-South cooperation, where your cooperation would also be most welcomed.

I wish you another most successful edition of CIFTIS and look forward to our continuing collaboration in strengthening the development role of trade in services.