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WTO Back on the Agenda at Davos

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As this is my first blog on the Huffington Post, it seems like an appropriate opportunity to talk about my first visit to World Economic Forum in Davos as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

I arrived in Davos, high in the Swiss Alps, ready to convince everyone of the relevance of the work of the WTO and of the importance of advancing multilateral negotiations. But my concern was unfounded. Instead, I found that there was a real buzz among delegates about our success in Bali. I found that the WTO is firmly back on the agenda of world leaders and that there was a lot of optimism about future agreements. The experience has reinforced my view that 2014 is a key year for the WTO - and that we must build on the momentum that we have created.

The Bali ministerial meeting which took place last month produced the first new multilaterally-agreed trade rules in the history of the WTO. Beyond securing the immediate economic gains of the Bali package, ministers told us to focus on setting a clear path to define the future of the Organization as an agent of the global economic governance. Negotiators in Geneva will now have to show they are up to the task. The next steps we take will be critical.

We have to prove that the WTO is in good shape, and that Bali is just the beginning. In Davos, I listened carefully to what was said about world trade, and also shared some ideas about how we might guide our ongoing work in Geneva.

Our first task is to implement everything that was agreed in Bali, in particular the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was welcomed with great enthusiasm in Davos. But, in parallel, as ministers instructed, we must define a work plan to conclude the Doha Round.

These are the main challenges that face us in 2014. We have to start in the right direction, with clarity about what we want to achieve and, more specially, what we can achieve. If we want to avoid a new sequence of stalemates, it's important to find a balance between ambition and realism. Our goals in delivering the Doha Round must not only be substantial, they must also be feasible.

In addition, we must keep up with the rapid changes that we are seeing in business and trade around the world. The advances in Geneva have to be speedier than they have been to date - and this means striking another balance; this time between urgency and caution. Starting off negotiations without proper planning would be the shortest and surest path to new deadlocks.

We have learnt a great deal from the failures of the last 18 years. However, we also learnt important lessons from the success in Bali. For example, negotiations have to be undertaken with the participation of all 160 WTO Members. The process may be a little slower this way, but reaching a consensus is easier and the final result is more likely to be accepted. Moreover, it's important that all Members benefit from the outcomes they negotiate, especially those countries which are least-developed.

The presidents, prime ministers, ministers, business leaders and civil society representatives that I spoke to in Davos were unanimous in stating that the world economy needs a WTO that produces more results and at a faster pace. This includes those countries that are involved in bilateral or regional trade initiatives. They are just as clear about their continuing commitment to - and engagement with - the WTO as the only place where multilateral results can be achieved and where bigger potential benefits can be obtained. The trade agenda can and should advance in all fronts, in a complementary manner.

I returned from Davos motivated by the expectations about the post-Bali process and encouraged by the support that I received from everyone to advance the negotiations. Davos has confirmed my view that the world economy needs, and is eager to have, a WTO which is operating at full steam.