Lubna urges WTO members for strengthened economic and trade openness

ABU DHABI: Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi said the current global multilateral trade order is in a crisis and expressed cautious optimistim towards it.

The minister called for more contributions from World Trade Organization’s member states to this order and the current negotiations.

She made her remarks in a keynote speech yesterday at the opening session of the World Trade Organization’s Public Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The most negative impact that came about as a direct consequence of the global economic crisis was the rise of ultra-protectionist measures in the direction of reducing trade finance, which has in turn reduced the activities of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMSs) and threatened their prosperity in many world countries, adversely affecting the continuation of the global trade boom,” she added.

Sheikha Lubna also underlined the importance of strengthening the frameworks of economic and trade openness and its role in increasing the stability and ensuring the prosperity of countries.

Titled “Is Multilateralism in Crisis?”, WTO’s session also saw the participation of a number of other world dignitaries and was attended by around 1,300 participants from civil society organizations, universities and public and private sector enterprises from around the world.

It tackled whether or not multilateralism was in crisis with the aim of proposing new methodologies for the global trade order in light of many global concurrent developments. It also discussed matters that require new approach mechanisms and how to strengthen the multilateralism-supporting role of all parties involved.

The session discussed the issues that most affect the global multilateral trade order with an attempt at proposing suitable solutions.

WTO’s Director-General Pascal Lamy said around 90 percent of all global trade is affected by trade finance, and that SMEs and small countries have been negatively affected.

Lamy had stated in a press statement before the forum that multilateralism was indeed at a crossroad; it would either advance through shared values and close cooperation or it would suffer impediments, which were evident in the recent setbacks in the Doha Development Round and in increased protectionism.

The opening session’s discussions also underlined the fact that the growing difficulties that have confronted the WTO and a number of other multilateral entities over the past few years are testament that previous remedies weren’t working, and cannot be applied in confronting current challenges, with participants discussing new ways to move forward.

The opening session, which was opened by former Swiss Confederation President, Micheline Calmy-Rey and saw a mapping of global political and trade patterns, with Sheikha Lubna stating that the biggest setback of this crisis was the movement away from trade finance, which is curtailing the activities of SMEs.

Asked about whether or not the Multilateral Trading System was in crisis, Sheikha Lubna said that it indeed is in crisis, while voicing cautious optimism towards the system as it did prove its success during the global crisis, calling for the importance of adopting more of the contributions of members states.

Minister Al Qasimi and Calmey-Rey agreed on the importance of creating more common principles.