WTO Chairs Programme launches activities at Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

WTO Chairs Programme launches activities at Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
WTO Chairs Programme launches activities at Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The WTO Chairs Programme saw the launch of trade capacity-building activities at the Universidad de los Andes (UDLA) in Bogotá, Colombia, at an event held on 22 September. Under the Programme, academic experts provide trade-related advice to government officials and policymakers, teach students and future trade experts and undertake new research in international trade law and economic policy. UDLA is part of a global network of 36 institutions participating in the Programme.

In his opening remarks, WTO Deputy Director-General Xiangchen Zhang said: “I am proud to witness the expansion of this network both regionally and globally. I am certain that Colombia will join fellow Chairs in Latin America in bringing renewed vigour and perspectives on trade topics that are key to the Latin American region and that will continue to support the multilateral trading system.”

“The UDLA Chair will be instrumental in supporting the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in its efforts to strengthen the multilateral trading system,” said Mr Felipe Quintero Suárez, Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade at Colombia's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. He welcomed the results achieved at the 12th Ministerial Conference on fisheries subsidies, public health, e-commerce and other areas and underscored the importance of articulating a multilateral agenda which takes into account the challenges of recent years. This will be crucial for the future of the organization both in the long term and ahead of the next Ministerial Conference, for which the additional applied research and new ideas articulated by the UDLA Chair will be critical, he said.

Mr Quintero Suárez underscored how UDLA offers an opportunity to advance economic and academic collaboration with countries in Latin America as well as in Africa, Asia and other regions. “The various teams of experts will bring together ideas and proposals that will have much more impact by being put forward jointly, establishing new bonds with developing countries to bring a unified voice to the multilateral trading system and its reform process,” he added.

Mr Duván Ocampo, Coordinator of Economic Affairs at Colombia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that UDLA is one of the most important academic institutions in Colombia and emphasized the country's long-standing participation in the multilateral trading system. “Colombia has been part of the GATT since 1981 and part of the WTO since 1995,” he said. “Its tariff structure and global system of free trade agreements demonstrate our country's willingness to trade. We are a trade-friendly country but we favour a fair and just trading system. For this reason, we support discussions aimed at achieving sustainable development and trade.”

Professor René Urueña and his team at UDLA presented a report with recommendations on how to achieve economic transformation in Colombia through trade and sustainable development. Welcoming the report, Colombia's Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Santiago Wills, said: “I would like to share my deep sense of pride and my willingness to collaborate with the University. The Chairs Programme should be seen, without a doubt, as a recognition of the university's work and as an opportunity for Colombia to continue its historic role of supporting and bringing impetus to the multilateral system.”

Stéphanie Bertrand-Trouillard, Sustainable Trade Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of France to the WTO, and Ambassador Jung Sung Park, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the WTO, also spoke at the event. France is a leading donor to the Chairs Programme and Korea is the most recent donor to the Programme, which is also funded by Austria and Australia. Korea is also the first Asian country to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia.

Ms Bertrand-Trouillard said: “France believes that the interactions between academics, political decision-makers and business arising from research programmes are essential and can lead to balanced and sustainable growth. It is important that civil society gets involved in trade policy and this programme allows it. Today's event is proof of the value of these interactions.”

Ambassador Park said: “I welcome the University's readiness to help enrich the regional network of Chairs in the region. Latin America is now home to eight current and former WTO Chairs. This strong presence will help underpin Latin America’s ability to serve as a thriving intellectual hub that makes a significant contribution to strengthening the multilateral rules-based trading system.”

Professor Marcelo Olarreaga, member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Chairs Programme, said: “I am convinced that to counter the current polemic against multilateralism and international cooperation, what is needed is better research and understanding of problems that are highly complex. Also needed is dissemination of this research that is not politically charged. We are counting on you and the Programme to make your contribution to these discussions.”