Budapest – The 17th World Export Development Forum (WEDF) was on October 25, 2017 opened by Hungarian President János Áder, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó and Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre. More than 600 delegates from 60 countries are attending the event in Budapest, Hungary.
Hosted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, participants will be exploring how trade can be a driver of inclusive growth and job creation under the theme ‘Trade – a Force for Good: Include, Innovate, Integrate’.
Pointing to the need to make trade more sustainable, President Áder said: ‘Instead of using only the interest on the natural capital available to us, we are running down the capital itself. We are accumulating debts against nature, debts that will have to be paid in the long run.
‘Let me quote Albert Einstein, who said, long before environmental sustainability concerns began to be raised, “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels”.’
ITC and the Government of Hungary attach significant importance to the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in contributing to trade-led growth and job creation. In Hungary, as in most other economies, SMEs form the backbone of the economy, representing over 90% of all businesses and contributing to over two-thirds of employment. Enabling more SMEs to connect to international markets would ensure that the gains from trade are more broadly distributed across the workforce.
Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, said: ‘Trade is a central part of a country’s growth and economic strategy. Open regional and global markets allow businesses to import ideas and capital, and export increasingly sophisticated goods and services. Hungary is a case in point: integration into European value chains has been a big part of this country’s economic transformation since 1989.’
Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said: ‘This is the first ever World Export Development Forum held in a Central European country. This is a clear proof that Central Europe is on its way to become the growth engine of Europe and the European Union. WEDF, ITC and Hungary have the same strategy when it comes to support for SMEs. Our goal is to radically increase the role and the weight of SMEs in our export activities.’
Ms. González added: ‘Trade is not an end in itself. Trade is simply a tool – though an important tool – for the productivity of businesses, the competitiveness of national economies, and for growth, value addition, and job creation. Giving up this tool, by closing markets, would diminish growth and opportunities for future generations.
‘The real question is not trade: yes or no? It is not about whether to trade. It is about how to make trade work for the 99%. It is about how to make trade work for environmental sustainability, for gender equality, and for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.’
WEDF 2017 will shine a spotlight on issues shaping global trade and business, from new regional trade routes such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative to the links between innovation and competitiveness. Participants will also explore how to best leverage the opportunities presented by more environment-friendly business models and focus on women’s economic empowerment through ITC’s Shetrades initiative.
In addition to the policy discussions, there will be a series of facilitated business-to-business (B2B) matchmaking meetings during which more than 120 national and international companies will be aiming to do real business.
During WEDF 2017 a series of ‘How-To’ sessions will explore how entrepreneurs and investors can make a startup go global; how to expand digital enterprises; how to scale up from agriculture to agribusiness; and how to turn waste into wealth by recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of their lifespans. In addition, it will feature a competition in which young entrepreneurs will pitch their sustainable trade business cases to impact investors.
ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
Hungary is an open economy and particular emphasis is placed on encouraging foreign investment and facilitating external trade. In order to ensure the most efficient coordination, all institutions dealing with specific areas of economic diplomacy – trade development, investment promotion, export financing and insurance, Joint Economic Committees and the net of economic diplomats – are supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which considerably increases the speed of the decision-making processes. The major objective of the Hungarian diplomacy thus has been widened and Hungary now considers economic diplomacy and country promotion as a priority.