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WTO Fundamental to Economic Recovery and Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

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Asia-Pacific business leaders from the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), meeting virtually this week, called on the region’s Trade Ministers to take the lead in a credible, relevant and strengthened World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Globally, we face significant health and economic challenges. Fundamentally trade can and must be at the centre of tackling both the immediate crisis and of laying the groundwork for a return to growth. The WTO is core to that effort,” said ABAC Chair Dato’ Rohana Tan Sri Mahmood of Malaysia.

Dato Rohana explained that ABAC had issued a statement of support for a reformed WTO ahead of the meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) taking place on 25 July. She said that ABAC had been deeply concerned at the levels of human suffering and severe economic contraction caused by the pandemic.

“Our message to Ministers is that global problems demand global solutions – and the WTO’s multilateral rules-based system must be at the heart of those solutions,” said Dato Rohana. “We are calling on APEC economies to lead a process of reform in the WTO to ensure that trade rules remain fit-for-purpose.”

She said that we need to liberalise trade in essential medical supplies and facilitate the movement of essential workers, so that for this and any future pandemics, those critical products and services can get to where they are needed most. Likewise, APEC economies should reaffirm their commitment to well- functioning agriculture markets, so that we do not add a food security crisis to the disruption of the pandemic.

“We also need to ensure that the WTO’s rules remain relevant and credible. It is imperative that we get the WTO’s dispute settlement system fully functioning again by appointing new members to the Appellate Body. We need more transparency around what economies are doing on trade. We must complete the unfinished business of the Doha Round, including by eliminating fisheries subsidies, making meaningful cuts to trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture and helping services and investment to work better,” she added.

Dato Rohana said that just as importantly, the WTO needed to stay responsive to modern business and social concerns. There is a need to review the rules in other areas to ensure that they are doing the job. The rules must also be updated for the digital age and support aspirations for sustainable and inclusive growth. That means substantive outcomes on e-commerce and a permanent moratorium on Customs duties on electronic transmission, tools to transition to a low-carbon economy by eliminating inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, and better ways for women and small businesses to succeed in trade.


ABAC STATEMENT ON THE WORLD TRADE ORGANISATION JULY 2020

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) is deeply concerned about the fundamental challenge to global wellbeing represented by COVID-19. We face a “crisis like no other”. The multilateral rules-based trading system, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its core, has a key role to play in our response in both the short term to the pandemic and for longer-term economic rebuilding. ABAC urges APEC economies to lead work in the WTO both to enhance short-term responses, and for the longer-term strengthening of the multilateral rules-based trading system.

A strong commitment to a credible, relevant and strengthened WTO that reflects evolving business needs and models is crucial to help rebuild business and investor confidence and to improve the trade landscape in the age of COVID-19.

APEC economies should thus reaffirm their support for urgent reform of the WTO in the strongest terms. The process to appoint a new Director General must not be allowed to distract from the following critical tasks, but rather must contribute to achieving them:

1. Drawing on the lessons of COVID-19, reform WTO rules for better responses to crises

WTO rules for trade in goods and services can enable essential medical supplies, essential workers and food supplies to get to where they are needed most. APEC economies should lead an initiative in the WTO to enable economies to respond more effectively to crises, including by:

  • committing to the permanent elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on a sectoral basis, covering an agreed list of essential medical supplies such as medical equipment, medicines and basic hygiene products such as hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment;
  • committing to measures to ensure that supply chains are resilient, even in times of crisis;
  • committing to removing barriers to the movement of essential personnel in times of crisis;
  • committing to shoring up trade in food and agriculture, by removing unjustified export restrictions and non-tariff barriers and strengthening value chains; and
  • enhancing transparency to make the trade and investment environment more predictable.

2. Work to strengthen the multilateral rules-based trading system

The WTO provides a crucial foundation for sustained prosperity. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 have shown that declining trade, worsened by protectionism, exacerbates the depth and duration of economic contraction. On the other hand, trade based on WTO principles of openness, non-discrimination, predictability and transparency can help to revitalise growth for the longer term, including for the most vulnerable.

i. Resolve the unfinished business from the Doha Round

Meaningful improvements are needed to the existing framework of rules, commitments and obligations to revitalise trade and achieve more sustainable and inclusive growth. APEC economies should take the lead in pressing for concrete outcomes, including on the following items of ‘unfinished business’ from the Doha Round:

  • the elimination, as quickly as possible, of ‘fish subsidies’ that contribute to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and the destruction of global fish stocks;
  • a meaningful cut in trade-distorting domestic support in agriculture, to drive better outcomes for markets, for food security, for development and for the environment; and
  • improvements to rules for the domestic regulation of services, to enhance the ability of the sector to drive economy-wide productivity gains and create jobs.

ii. Fully functioning dispute settlement is fundamental to the multilateral trading system

The WTO dispute settlement system has resolved over 400 disputes, and forestalled many more. Every economy will be worse off if this system cannot operate to its fullest extent. APEC economies should:

  • support the urgent appointment of a full slate to the WTO Appellate Body; and
  • engage constructively to implement necessary reforms to the Appellate Body

recognising that some economies have joined the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement as a temporary option to settle appeals.

iii. Initiatives to reflect the evolution of trade will revitalise the multilateral trading system

WTO rules must better reflect modern business and societal concerns. APEC economies should:

  • commit to enhanced transparency, to demonstrate that the system remains fair and balanced for all and to promote predictability in international trade;
  • drive agreement on substantive outcomes in the WTO negotiations on the trade-related aspects of e-commerce, to enhance the key role of digital technologies as a dynamic enabler of trade, including in response to the pandemic;
  • seek agreement to a permanent moratorium on Customs duties on electronic transmissions, to avoid stifling innovation and growth in the digital economy;
  • advance work on investment facilitation with a view to facilitating flows of investment;
  • support the initiative to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, consistent with a commitment to transition to a low-carbon economy, in response to climate change;
  • support other initiatives that encourage more inclusive participation in trade, including by women, small businesses and young entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19; and
  • encourage greater involvement of the international business community in WTO processes, that would enhance transparency and improve predictability in the trade environment.

APEC economies should ensure that all of these outcomes are consistent with WTO principles and are designed with a view to serving as building blocks to multilateral outcomes in the future. Global challenges demand global solutions. The APEC Business Advisory Council and the wider Asia-Pacific business community fully supports APEC’s leadership in this most critical area. 

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EU Politics

EU Cohesion policy: Commission announces the winners of the REGIOSTARS Awards 2021

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Today, the European Commission has announced the winners of the 2021 edition of the REGIOSTARS Awards that reward the best Cohesion policy projects in the whole EU. This year’s REGIOSTARS competition received a record 214 applications and 14,156 people voted in the public choice’s category.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, commented: “My warm congratulations to the 10 winners of the EU Cohesion policy projects of 2021. They are role models for everyone who wishes to better the life of people with the use of EU funds. I hope they will inspire many others across the continent. For sure, with REGIOSTARS we have learnt that excellence and innovation are everywhere in Europe. You just need to look for them and highlight them as they deserve. We will keep looking for them and we will keep supporting them.”

The awards cover five categories and a public choice prize:

For ‘SMART Europe: Increasing the competitiveness of local businesses in a digital world’ (1st category) the award went to Integration 3D metal printing from Belgium. The project supports the implementation of the 3D metal printing technology in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) through a very innovative integrated approach to knowledge and technology. The idea is easily transferable to other contexts with industrial tradition.

For ‘GREEN Europe: Green and resilient communities in urban and rural setting’ (2nd category) the award was given to ICCARUS (Gent knapt op) for providing a unique housing renovation financial scheme for 100 vulnerable homeowners in Ghent, Belgium. This project has a strong social component and is easily transferable, both to other places, including to less developed regions, and other sectors.

The award for ‘FAIR Europe: Fostering inclusion and anti-discrimination’ (3rd category) went to TREE – Training for integrating Refugees in the Euregion, which facilitates the integration of refugees through the  development of a needs-based training programme for practitioners working with refugees and migrants, and a qualification programme for social interpreters. The winners are from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

Travelling Solidary Cannery received the award in the 4th category, ‘URBAN Europe: Promoting green, sustainable and circular food systems in functional urban areas’. The project provides the disadvantaged access to healthy and fair food at affordable prices all year round. At the same time, it develops a new range of professions centred on the production, valorisation, logistics and marketing of local products, but also of unsold products from supermarkets or surplus harvests. The winner is from Belgium.

Under the topic of the year: ‘Enhancing green mobility in the regions – European Year of Rail 2021’ (5th category) the winner is North-West Multimodal Transport Hub from the United Kingdom and Ireland. This project provides an increased rail capacity, a strong balance of services for cycling, public transport and active travel users in Londonderry and an encouraging modal shift from car to public transport.

Finally, the ‘Public Choice Award’ goes to BEGIN, a project that unites cities, citizens, and stakeholders through the co-creation of blue and green infrastructure projects in 10 EU cities in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Germany. The project aims at reducing flood risk by up to 30% and improving livability. Other public favorites were Balkan Road (under the 1st category), Baltazar (3rd category), Digital Farming Specialist (4th category) and Transporte A Pedido (5th category).

Background

The REGIOSTARS Awards are the yearly competition organised by the Commission since 2008: it has become Europe’s label of excellence for EU-funded projects under Cohesion policy that demonstrate innovative and inclusive approaches to regional development.

Each year, hundreds of projects compete in five categories: ‘Smart Europe’, ‘Green Europe’, ‘Fair Europe’, ‘Urban Europe’, and the topic of the year. The public can participate by voting for their favourite project among all finalists for the public choice award.

By bringing about solutions to common challenges and tapping into the biggest opportunities, the REGIOSTARS have inspired regions to deliver evermore-impactful EU Cohesion policy.

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This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: Ines Lee and Eileen Tipoe win the Bracken Bower Prize 2021

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Photo: Financial Times Live /flickr

The Financial Times and McKinsey & Company today announce that Nicole Perlroth is the winner of the 2021 Business Book of the Year Award for This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK), Bloomsbury (US), an analysis of the threat posed by the arms race between cyber criminals, spies and hackers fighting to infiltrate essential computer systems. 

The Award recognises a work which provides the ‘most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues’. It was awarded today to Nicole Perlroth at a ceremony at the National Gallery in London, co-hosted by Roula Khalaf, Editor of the Financial Times and chair of the panel of judges, and Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company. The keynote speaker at the event was Tony Danker, Director-General, CBI. 

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends saw off strong competition from a shortlist of titles with subjects including climate change, racism, cyberweapons, meritocracies and risks to a sustainable and inclusive future. They will receive a prize of £30,000, with £10,000 going to each of the five runners-up.

Roula Khalaf, Editor, Financial Times said, “Nicole Perlroth has done something that hasn’t been done before: going this deep into the mysterious world of hackers. Cyber security isn’t featuring highly enough on CEOs’ agenda. I hope this award will prompt them to read this book and pay attention.”

Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company, said: “Nicole Perlroth has written a book that is more than just a timely wake-up call to the fact that the world has largely ignored the realities and profound implications of the arms race between hackers, cybercriminals and businesses and national governments. It is an alarming book, one in which the author makes a compelling, granular and matter-of-fact case for how vulnerable global computer systems have become, and makes an urgent plea for specific and systematic action.”

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Development

World Bank Supports Croatia in Transforming Its Primary Education

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The World Bank Board of Directors today approved a loan to the Republic of Croatia in the amount of EUR25 million ($28.9 million equivalent) for a project to improve the learning environment in selected primary schools. 

The Croatia: Towards Sustainable, Equitable and Efficient Education Project (SEE Education) will support the Ministry of Science and Education’s (MSE) introduction of the Whole Day School (WDS) system in selected schools, which is designed to improve student learning outcomes, particularly among disadvantaged students, through increased instructional hours and improved teacher training and school infrastructure. Since school days will be better aligned with common working hours, young mothers and fathers, of children attending WDS will find it easier to participate in the labor market and thereby increase their earnings. The project will also strengthen the capacity of MSE to scale up the WDS system at the national level and to implement other needed sector reforms.

Croatia has committed to a set of sweeping reforms, outlined in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) 2021-2026, to modernize and improve the education system and respond to the learning challenges which have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the two large earthquakes that struck Croatia in 2020.

“We are so pleased to partner with Croatia in this vital effort that will ultimately bring benefits to the whole Croatian society through better learning outcomes, higher labor force participation and increased productivity,” said Jehan Arulpragasam, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia and Slovenia. “The SEE project comes at a critical stage of the transformation of Croatia’s education system and will substantially improve educational opportunities for current and future generations of children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds and vulnerable groups.”

The proposed project will support a systemic transformation of Croatia’s basic education sector. It will initially help to implement the WDS reform in 50 demonstration schools by providing both technical assistance and the needed infrastructure. The capacity built as a result of these efforts will help authorities to introduce the WDS model at the national level. The direct beneficiaries of the project will include approximately 32,500 students, their parents and teaching and administrative staff.

The project will also support the design of new infrastructure standards for Croatian schools, incorporating seismic resilience into building upgrades, and encompassing best practice OECD-EU climate, environment, and energy-efficiency standards, contributing to the European Green Deal agenda.

The World Bank has been a partner to Croatia for over 27 years. During this period, the Bank has supported more than 50 projects, worth almost US$5 billion, produced numerous studies, and provided technical assistance to help strengthen institutions and support the design of policies and strategies. The Bank’s current program focuses on mitigating the economic and social impact of COVID-19, post-earthquake reconstruction, transport, justice, innovation, business environment, land administration, science and technology, and economic development of the Pannonian region.

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