BUENOS AIRES – The 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization kicked off on Sunday in Buenos Aires with a special ceremony headed by the president of the event, former Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra.
“At this time, I declare the session open,” said Malcorra at the Convention Center in the Argentine capital’s Recoleta district, the first time the event has been held in a South American country.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who is hosting the conference, said in his opening remarks to the assembled representatives that the multilateral trade system is designed to “improve the lives” of people, but he urged all nations to make it more efficient because the benefits are not reaching “everyone.”
“I invite you to move forward (in achieving) the necessary consensus so that the rules of world trade may be in harmony with the social realities of the 21st century,” Macri told the hundreds of delegates from the 164 WTO member states.
He invited the delegates to “work together ... (to) expand the benefits of trade,” placing “human development, the care of the planet, gender equality and social equity” at the center of the discussion.
Meanwhile, 10 of the attending Latin American WTO members on Sunday signed the so-called “Presidential Declaration of Buenos Aires,” whereby they ratified the “importance of preserving and defending the multilateral system of trade.”
Signing the document were the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Guyana, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay.
The declaration was signed “with an eye toward promoting trade based on rules, openness, transparency, inclusivity, non-discrimination and equity embodied in the WTO, providing it with the tools that allow it to face the challenges of the 21st century,” as Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie read from the text during the official inauguration of the conference.
Faurie said that all the signatory states reaffirmed that multilateralism “is the best answer” for taking advantage of opportunities and facing the challenges of international trade.
The signatory nations also committed themselves to strengthening dialogue to articulate Latin American initiatives and orient them towards achieving results in regional integration and better participation in world trade.
The meeting – which will run through Wednesday – is divided into two parts: in the first a formal agenda will be adopted for the WTO’s plenary sessions, which will be held up through Wednesday, and the other portion of the conference will gather the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Attending the conference will be the leaders of Brazil (Michel Temer), Chile (Michelle Bachelet), Paraguay (Horacio Cartes) and Uruguay (Tabare Vazquez).
The Ministerial Conference is the WTO’s most important decision-making organ and it is attended by the trade ministers and other top officials from the organization’s 164 member states.
The WTO is concerned with establishing the rules and regulations governing trade among the world’s nations.
The conference’s plenary sessions will begin on Monday.