Thank you, Chair, for your opening remarks.
I want to thank you, on behalf of the United Kingdom, for calling this meeting of the Committee on Trade and Development. Let me also take the chance to congratulate you on your recent election as Chair of the Committee.
COVID-19 is the most serious global challenge in a generation. The United Kingdom is concerned that many low and lower middle income countries are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the exposure to international shocks, lack of financial stability and macroeconomic imbalances.
Measures to control the spread of COVID-19 are having a profound impact on global trade and supply chains. These measures will continue to have a significant negative impact on businesses in developing countries.
This potentially jeopardises decades of hard-fought, trade-led prosperity.
That is why the United Kingdom is helping to keep supply chains open and is working to mitigate the immediate impacts of restrictive trade measures in response to the pandemic.
We are pivoting our existing Aid For Trade programmes to work with affected businesses and support developing country Members to make proportionate, evidence-based trade-offs between virus containment and open trade. We are also supporting the protection of key supply chains and trade routes so that essential goods and services, including critical medical and food supplies, can reach the most vulnerable.
Through the UK’s Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund and our funding to the World Bank, we are providing support to eligible developing country Members to better understand the trade-related impacts of COVID-19 on their economies, notify COVID-related measures to the WTO’s monitoring exercise, and tackle the COVID crisis through better trade facilitation.
We must act together to respond to this global pandemic. Developing countries are simultaneously facing a health crisis, a humanitarian crisis and the risk of a protracted economic crisis. This is why the UK is ensuring that the international trade response to COVID-19 through multilateral fora responds to the needs of the most vulnerable countries. The UK therefore welcomes the outcomes agreed at the virtual extraordinary G20 Trade Ministers’ meeting on May 14, including commitments on development and humanitarian aid and we support the ‘Joint Statement on ‘Open Markets, Flow of Essential Goods and Supply Chain Connectivity’ organised through the UN General Assembly.
The WTO also has a major role to play. While we understand the challenges for the organisation in meeting formally, it is still the world’s leading platform for discussing global trade. It is the place where the impact on COVID-19 on the global trading system should be discussed, where ideas and solutions should be shared, and where initiatives to mitigate the global economic crisis to come, launched.
As this crisis evolves, we will continue to work with the WTO and Members on appropriate initiatives supporting free, fair, rules-based trade that is inclusive of developing countries and to ensure crucial supply chains and transport routes remain open for food and medicine.
Developing countries themselves must be leaders in this discussion and the UK welcomes this meeting as a way from which we can work together.
Thank you, Chair.