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Discussion on orientation of turbulent world trade - JETRO 60th Anniversary International Symposium -

On November 8, JETRO held an international symposium in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of its establishment. Under the theme "the world economy and trade amidst turbulence, and Japan's role in the future," presentations were delivered by Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and other experts from Japan and abroad, with participation by approximately 800 people.

In his opening remarks, JETRO Chairman and CEO Hiroyuki Ishige raised a problem for later discussion by declaring that the world’s current free trade system is in danger with factors such as the US-China trade conflict, and that major developed countries around the world, as well as the countries of Asia, have to discuss how to respond to this crisis. Following him, Chairman Yoshimitsu Kobayashi of Japan Association of Corporate Executives highlighted three trends: globalization, digitization and socialization. For example, regarding digitization of the economy, he emphasized how the development of sharing services has been steadily progressing. With that, he also stressed that as such changes will at times bring negative as well as positive effects, it is up to governments, international organization like the WTO and companies to individually work to alleviate those which are subtractive.

In his keynote speech, Director-General Roberto Azevedo of the World Trade Organization stated that we are entering a turbulent period in the world trade framework, citing the following:

  1. Rising tensions between major trading partners,
  2. The impasse facing the WTO's dispute settlement system
  3. Revolutionary changes that technologies have brought about to trade

He stressed that the future of the WTO framework depends on the will of member countries. He also pointed out that, amidst growing momentum for the WTO’s reform, activities through various platforms for communication including informal WTO ministerial meetings as well as G20 are imperative, and expressed his hope for Japan's leadership and support in these endeavors.

Opening remarks by JETRO Chairman and CEO Ishige

Guest remarks by Chairman Kobayashi of Japan Association of Corporate Executives

Keynote speech by WTO Secretary-General Azevedo

The symposium included two panel sessions. In the first; moderated by Yasuhiko Ota, Senior Writer and Editorial Writer of Nikkei Inc.; a discussion took place between Akira Amari, former Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy; Charlene Barshefsky, former United States Trade Representative; and Danny Risberg, former Chairman of the European Business Council in Japan, regarding the role which Japan played in TPP negotiations after the withdrawal of the US, the trade policies of the Trump administration and the formation of common global rules related to the handling of data, as well as the importance of China's compliance to such rules. In the second panel session; moderated by Yuri Sato, Executive Vice President of JETRO; Krisda Piampongsant, Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to WTO; Zhang Yansheng, Chief Research Fellow of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges; and Kyoji Fukao, President of Institute of Developing Economies-JETRO; discussed what types of frameworks and rules under which the open economy should be managed in the midst of the WTO's deadlock.

First panel session

Second panel session

In the closing remarks, JETRO President Yasushi Akahoshi conveyed his appreciation to all the participants, speakers and relevant organizations, and finished by expressing his opinion that the symposium clearly illustrated the future prospects of world trade and the role of Japan, the US and Europe, as well as the role of Asia, toward promoting free trade.

The symposium was also preceded by a dialogue between Director-General Azevedo and Chairman Ishige on the importance of multilateral free trade and how to proceed with reform of the WTO.