China International Fair for Trade in Services

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

China International Fair for Trade in Services

02 September 2023

Your excellency, Wang Wentao, Minister of Commerce of China,
Your excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends,

I stand before you today as the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, but more importantly, as a representative of our diverse and interconnected global family.

We are gathered here today for the China International Fair for Trade in Services, an event which greatly illustrates the evolving face of the global economy, and the immense potential of service-based industries. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the organizers for hosting such a remarkable event, and for inviting me to share some thoughts with all of you.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of the 21st century, we find ourselves at a moment where the concept of trade itself is undergoing profound transformations.

Our economies, traditionally characterized by the exchange of industrial goods and commodities, are progressively moving towards a hybrid model where services play an ever larger role – not only in terms of what we trade and consume, but also especially in terms of how we produce, as our manufacturing goes digital, and as our citizens spend more time and more money online This shift not only reveals the evolving dynamics of global commerce, but it also brings to light new opportunities and challenges that we, as an international community, must address together.

According to UNCTAD, service exports reached 7 trillion dollars last year, up from 3 trillion in 2006. Remarkably, for most years in the last two decades, service exports from developing countries have grown faster than those from developed nations, demonstrating the dynamism and potential of this sector in the Global South.

Service trade has therefore the potential to reshape our economies and societies. It is a powerful engine for growth, job creation, and economic diversification. It can bridge gaps, create opportunities, and play a pivotal role in reducing inequality both within and among countries. But, to truly harness the power of the service sector, we must ensure that it is aligned with the principles of sustainable development, inclusivity, and fair trade.

One of the key lessons from the recent global events is the need for resilience in our systems. Services, particularly those linked to digital technologies, have demonstrated their resilience and adaptability, serving as lifelines for individuals, businesses, and economies during periods of turmoil such as the COVID-19 pandemic. As we advance, it is crucial that we build upon this resilience, using it as a springboard for a future that is secure, sustainable, and inclusive.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations recognizes the need for multilateral cooperation and the rule-based international trading system as the cornerstone of our shared economic prosperity and stability. However, we also acknowledge that the system must evolve in response to the changing landscape of global trade.

The transition to a service-based economy cannot be an exclusive privilege of a select few nations. It must be an inclusive process, where developing nations are given equal opportunities to harness the potential of the service industry. Access to technology, investment, capacity-building, and digital literacy are essential components of this vision. The growing digital and data divides must be addressed head-on, and we must work together to ensure that no one is left behind in this digital revolution.

China, as a leader in the Global South and a pioneer in digital technology, has a significant role to play in this global mission. Your innovations, your investments, and your vision can help shape the future of global service trade. Your commitment to international cooperation, and the trade system asserts your role as a leader in the global economy.

In closing, I would like to conclude by invoking a profound Chinese proverb, "A single thread cannot become a cord; a single tree cannot become a forest." This ancient wisdom emphasizes the power of unity and collaboration. It reminds us that progress can never be achieved in isolation. A single nation, much like the single thread or tree in the proverb, cannot bring about sustainable, inclusive growth alone. It is through our collective efforts, through the intertwining of our ambitions and destinies, that we will weave a resilient global economy and build a prosperous, equitable future. Trade in services, with its potential to link us all together no matter how far we are to each other, will be an integral part of this mission; and we, at UNCTAD, stand ready to work hand in hand with all nations towards this goal.

Thank you.