ABU DHABI, 17th October, 2023 (WAM) Ralph Ossa, the chief economist at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said that the UAE is a strong supporter of the multilateral trading system. In remarks to the Emirates News Agency (WAM) on the sidelines of the eighth edition of the World Investment Forum , which is being held in Abu Dhabi, Ossa added that the UAE has placed trade at the forefront of its economic vision, in recognition of its role as a driver of growth and prosperity. He noted that the UAE will host the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference, where the organisation's Consultative Body will meet in Abu Dhabi in the first quarter of 2024, putting the UAE at the heart of the discussions that will shape the future of global trade. He stressed that this ministerial conference is considered one of the most important events in the WTO's recent history. Ossa said that the UAE is one of the largest economies in the Middle East region in general and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in particular, thanks to its economic diversification strategy, with increased focus on tourism, commercial services, and logistics as part of the country's plans to build a diversified economy away from oil. He added that "according to the International Monetary Fund, the UAE's GDP is expected to grow by 3.4% in 2023, accelerating to 4% in 2024. While the country's GDP growth is expected to remain stronger than the global average." The WTO's chief economist pointed out that during the first half of this year, UAE merchandise exports increased by 9.8% in terms of volume compared to the same period in 2022, while merchandise imports increased by 16.7% in terms of volume on an annual basis. In response to a question about his expectations for global trade growth, Ralph Ossa said that global trade growth this year will be lower than expected due to the effects of inflation, rising interest rates, and geopolitical tensions. These factors have led the organisation to reduce its forecast for the growth of global trade in goods to only 0.8% in 2023, which is "less than half of the increase expected in the April forecast of 1.7%." He explained that the WTO's estimates indicate that the volume of trade in goods will grow by 3.3% in 2024, adding "Our expectations remain more positive for next year, as we expect a resumption of positive growth in the volume of exports and imports."