Members of the Commonwealth must do all they can to ensure the continued strength of the World Trade Organization (WTO), even if reforms and restructuring are required.
This was the message in a speech given by director-general Roberto Azevedo at a meeting yesterday (September 11th 2018), where he explained that the support given to the multilateral trading system by members all over the world is extremely important.
In return, he pointed out that the trade allowed by legislation imposed by the WTO is hugely significant to Commonwealth countries, with these nations exporting over three trillion dollars' worth of goods and services each year.
However, Mr Azevedo acknowledged that there are challenges facing the trading system today that are "of grave concern" and that call "for our attention, and more importantly, our action".
He specifically highlighted rising trade tensions in nations including the US and China, where trade-restrictive measures have increased over the past six months, and warned that any continued escalation risks a major economic impact for the wider world.
"I want to stress that, faced with these headwinds, the WTO continues to do its job. WTO rules, as well as our processes of monitoring and review, are helping to avoid the situation becoming even worse," Mr Azevedo said.
He urged Commonwealth member nations to work hard on all fronts that need development and reform, but ultimately to keep in mind that the WTO system should be strengthened.
"I am calling on everyone who believes in trade as a force for good to speak up. And I hope that the Commonwealth will play its full part. Bringing together countries of all sizes, from all continents, this group has a powerful voice," the director-general concluded.
The WTO is the only global international organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. It was established in January 1995.