WTO Public Forum Opening Plenary Debate - Photo:Photo: UD/Gyrid Espeland
Photo: UD/Gyrid Espeland

WTO Public Forum

From 26 to 28 September 2017, the Public Forum “Trade: Behind the Headlines” took place at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.

The Public Forum is WTO’s largest annual outreach event, and gives policy makers, representatives from civil society, businesses and researchers, the opportunity to engage in discussions on a wide range of relevant topics for the future of multilateral trade in a time of growing anti-globalization efforts.

Together with a panel of prominent keynote speakers, Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the WTO, opened the Forum Tuesday morning. The speakers were Dr. Nashaud Forbes (Forbes Marshall), Paul Krugman (City University of New York and The New York Times), Christine Lagarde (IMF) Susana Malcorra (Government of Argentina), Strive Masiyiwa (Econet Group) and Bruce Stokes (Pew Research Center). All panelists expressed their support for the multilateral trading system, which Christine Lagarde described as a driver for growth, innovation and productivity”. However, the panelists agreed that trade must be combined with appropriate domestic policies in order to be beneficial for all. Mr. Azevêdo said that, “many, many feel disconnected from economic progress.  This is clearly the case in a number of developed countries.  And in developing countries, the persistent challenges of poverty and development remain as pressing as ever”.

In line with these observations, central topics for this year’s Public Forum are among other things the sustainable development goals, inclusive trade, trade and economic growth, and trade and gender. Fisheries and the ongoing fisheries subsidies negotiations are also a central topic for discussion at the Forum this year. Expectations for the upcoming Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires (MC11) have naturally been of importance for discussions. During the opening plenary debate, Susana Malcorra, Minister Advisor to the government of Argentina and chair of MC11, said: "there has to be a meeting of minds that recognizes that, as imperfect as the current system might be, we need the system, we need to find ways together to move forward and recommit to this collective effort”. The 2017 WTO Public Forum aims to provide discussions that can contribute to making MC11 such a meeting.

For more about the Public Forum visit: www.wto.org