CEOs to World Leaders: Now is the Time for Trade Reforms

CEOs to World Leaders: Now is the Time for Trade Reforms

Geneva, Switzerland, October 2, 2021 / TRAVELINDEX / Nearly 30 CEOs and Chairpersons from some of the world’s biggest companies called on governments to work through geopolitical tensions, re-engage on trade reform and refrain from protectionism.

This call to action comes at a time of significant geopolitical tensions and challenging economic dynamics. Uniquely, it brings together a diverse group of companies representing 17 countries across all five continents.

The signatories are from the following 12 sectors: retail, e-commerce, food and beverage, payments, financial sector, investors, telecommunications, chemicals, logistics, supply chain and transport, professional services, energy and commodities.

Convened by the World Economic Forum’s Trade and Investment community, business leaders called for higher global ambition for trade cooperation, including at the upcoming WTO Ministerial Meeting.

“Business leaders are sending clear signals to policy makers that change is both necessary and achievable,” said Borge Brende, President, World Economic Forum. “In this Trade for Tomorrow statement, leaders highlight the potential of trade and investment for recovery and development. They call for quick progress on health, digital, investment and environmental matters, and note that business can help with implementing reforms.”

According to a recent Ipsos-World Economic Forum survey, 75% of the global public supports expanding trade, but only half said they thought globalization was good for their country, a drop of 10 percentage points since 2019. This ambiguity reveals belief in the potential of trade for improving lives but deep unease over its current directions.

The call to action also highlights a need for deeper dialogue on trade system governance and building a level playing field, as societies reflect on what they seek from trade.

The Forum’s Future of Trade and Investment Platform brings together leaders from business, government and civil society to shape the future of trade and global economic interdependence. As a neutral space, it creates the opportunity for frank dialogue around some of the most challenging issues facing the system.

Ahead of the call to action, the community also released reports on Trade and Climate Action and Trade and Social Justice to guide leaders on crucial next steps to shape a more inclusive and sustainable future.

A call to action to make trade work for all

We believe trade and investment support human development and that a global recovery can be built upon a trade recovery. Governments must creatively re-engage on trade reform and refrain from protectionism.

Trade and investment empower people to exchange goods and services, find rewarding employment, enjoy consumer benefits and grow successful businesses. Trade and investment must support development and inclusion.

Through jointly upholding environmental and social standards, trade cooperation should prevent a race to the bottom and avoid harmful distortions to markets for goods and services.

Trade cooperation can improve outcomes for underrepresented members of society, including women and minorities.

It should be complemented by broader policies that support equitable outcomes, domestically and internationally, recognizing that trade and investment shocks have significant effects on livelihoods.

This includes cooperation on tax and competition regulation as well as migration and labour conditions.

International public-private cooperation should foster a resilient, efficient and inclusive trading system, building stable and coherent processes, supported by robust aid-for-trade technical assistance and capacity-building.

We call upon leaders to, by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in December 2021:

1 – Strengthen healthcare access by lowering tariff and administrative barriers to trade in inputs and final products, facilitating global manufacturing investment, improving supply chain transparency, removing export restraints, and discussing the relationship between intellectual property rights and access to lifesaving technologies;

2 – Conclude a meaningful electronic commerce agreement that improves access and interoperability, enables safe and efficient digital trade and data flows, promotes openness and trust, and addresses market access issues. Also, abstain from customs duties on electronic transmissions;

3 – Conclude a meaningful investment facilitation for development agreement that improves transparency and predictability, streamlines administrative procedures, reduces disputes and enhances sustainable investment;

4 – Advance meaningful environmental agreements, delivering a robust agreement on fisheries subsidies by July 2021 and reducing siloes between trade, environment and development policymaking by aligning trade action with COP26 outcomes;

5 – Effectively implement and monitor commitments, employing public-private cooperation. In so doing, pay special attention to the needs of women, MSMEs and developing countries and, where current commitments are insufficient, advance new agreements to broaden access to the benefits of trade.

6 – Trade system reforms, particularly with regards to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, the role of the WTO in a diverse trade architecture and the functions of the secretariat;

7 – Resolving level-playing-field concernswith respect to subsidies, state-owned enterprises, trade remedies, government procurement and domestic regulation across industrial, agriculture and service sectors.


Krishan N. Balendra, Chairman, John Keells Holdings Plc

Ajay S. Banga, Executive Chairman, Mastercard

Ankiti Bose, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Zilingo Pte Ltd

Dolf van den Brink, Chief Executive Officer, HEINEKEN NV

Hussain Dawood, Group Chairman, Dawood Hercules Corporation

Börje Ekholm, President and Chief Executive Officer, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson

Øyvind Eriksen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Aker ASA

André Esteves, Senior Partner, Banco BTG Pactual SA

Jim Fitterling, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dow

Fernando Galletti de Queiroz, Chief Executive Officer, Minerva Foods

Abdulrahman Al Hatmi, Group Chief Executive, Oman Global Logistics Group SAOC

Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer, Yara International ASA

Al Kelly Jr, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Visa Inc.

Kutoane Obed Kutoane, Chief Executive Officer, Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa SOC Ltd

Fred Lam, Chief Executive Officer, Airport Authority (Hong Kong)

Christian Lanng, Chief Executive Officer, Chairman and Co-Founder, Tradeshift

Matthew Layton, Global Managing Partner, Clifford Chance LLP

Geoff Martha, Chairman & CEO, Medtronic

John M. Neill, Chairman and Group Chief Executive, Unipart Group of Companies

John Pearson, Chief Executive Officer, DHL Express

Noel Quinn, Group Chief Executive, HSBC Holdings Plc

Marwan J. Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Shurooq

Aba Schubert, Chief Executive Officer, Dorae

Murat Seitnepesov, Managing Director, Integral Petroleum SA

Tarek Sultan Al Essa, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Board, Agility, Kuwait

Michael Süss, Chairman, OC Oerlikon Management AG

Jean-Pascal Tricroire, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Electric

José Viñals, Group Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank

Jeremy Weir, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Trafigura Group Pte Ltd

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