WTO Public Forum 2022
This year’s Public Forum will look at how trade can contribute to post-pandemic economic recovery. The Forum will examine, in particular, how trade rules can be strengthened, and government policies improved to create a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive trading system. The Forum has three subthemes:
- Leveraging technology for an inclusive recovery
- Delivering a trade agenda for a sustainable future
- Framing the future of trade
Towards a sustainable and inclusive recovery: ambition to action
Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented shock to the global economy. The crisis pushed the world into its deepest economic decline since World War II, and nearly 100 million people were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020, according to the World Bank. The International Labour Organization estimates that global unemployment will rise to 205 million in 2022 from 187 million in 2019, disproportionately impacting women and young people.
Trade bounced back in the first half of 2021, with a sustained demand for exports and an uptick in services trade helping to boost global economic recovery. Global value chains also proved to be resilient, despite disruptions in production and transportation, mitigating the negative economic effects of domestic lockdowns. However, the overall positive outlook is marred by regional disparities. Inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and limited availability of trade finance, especially in developing economies, are leading to increased economic divergence across the world, with the least developed countries (LDCs) faring the worst.
Digital technologies and e-commerce have played a prominent role in supporting economic activity and trade during the crisis, with companies speeding up digitization efforts to maintain business activities and revenue flows. The rapid implementation of new technologies across industries is accelerating the digital transformation – including the way goods are produced, traded and consumed. But more needs to be done to reduce the digital divide, with LDCs and smaller businesses lagging behind.
The Forum will bring together governments, the private sector, civil society, academics and consumers to consider how the trading system can help to support and sustain an inclusive economic recovery. Participants will discuss how trade and the multilateral trading system can assist technological transformation and ensure that all countries, businesses and individuals – regardless of their level of development, size and income – can reap the benefits of the digital age.
But any effort to bring about a post-pandemic recovery, will encounter big challenges not least environmental degradation, climate change and man-made disasters, which threaten health, livelihoods and the economy. Trade can help to address the climate crisis by facilitating access to goods, services and knowledge needed for the global transition to a low-carbon future. Discussions at the Forum will consider how the trading system can better support climate action and biodiversity and address climate change adaptation and mitigation. Key issues are the need to ensure a fair, low-carbon transition, enhance transparency about trade measures, and promote dialogue and cooperation among WTO members on trade-related carbon measures, plastics pollution, fisheries and fossil fuel subsidies, among other topics.
Participants at the Forum will also consider how reform of the WTO can strengthen the organization, support rapid economic recovery and improve preparedness for future pandemics and other shocks. Sessions will examine how the multilateral trading system can better address the needs of developing countries and LDCs. They will also examine where updated trade rules can help to create a level playing field for women, young people and small businesses and to address the needs of the modern economy while supporting a resilient and inclusive recovery.