Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend my warm welcome to all of you to this Subregional workshop on non-tariff measures in Azerbaijan, North and Central Asia and former Eastern Block economies, co-organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the International Organization for Standards.
During the past two decades, thanks to multilateral and regional trade agreements as well as unilateral efforts, applied tariffs in the Asia-Pacific region have been halved.
At the same time, the number of non-tariff measures (NTMs), including sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade, has risen significantly.
While NTMs often serve legitimate and important public policy objectives, their trade costs are estimated to be higher than ordinary customs tariffs.
The economic cost of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade is estimated to be up to 1.6% of global GDP amounting to US$1.4 trillion.
As such, they have become a key concern for traders as well as for trade policymakers aiming to ensure that trade can continue to support sustainable development.
NTMs as policy instruments are not inherently good or bad.
They often serve important purposes, such as protection of human, animal and plant health or, protection of the environment, and can therefore help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Technical NTMs, such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures, can also boost demand and trade under certain conditions.
At the same time, a key feature of NTMs is that they usually generate costs for producers and traders, potentially inhibiting international trade.
But some of these cost positively address Sustainable Development Goals, for example, those on health, safety and the environment.
To address trade costs while maintaining the benefits of NTMs, countries need to further enhance cooperation at all levels.
I am happy to report that Azerbaijan was the first country in the region to ratify this newest international agreement on trade facilitation.
As I conclude, I would like to thank ESCAP for organizing the event in Azerbaijan. I would also like to thank experts and speakers from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Trade Centre (ITC), Institute for Standardization of Serbia, BestSolutions (which is based here in Azerbaijan) as well as an expert from the National University of Malaysia (who has been involved in NTM data collection in Azerbaijan), for taking the time to participate in this event.
I hope that this workshop will help policymakers in their on-going quest for trade and investment policies supporting the implementation of sustainable development, as well as encourage the donor community to provide more capacity building and technical assistance in member States.