In its short two
year life, the WTO has already made substantial impact. In particular, the newly created
dispute settlement system has succeeded in curbing the dangerously ad hoc manner in which
conflicts were addressed. This is important because the WTO objective is not just to
create further liberalization but to do so inside rules and disciplines agreed to by all
member states and ratified by all their Parliaments.
Such a structure is the only
way to deal with ever more integrated nature of the global economy. This process of
globalization has created some understandable anxiety, but the opportunities stemming from
a more interconnected world are beyond doubt. Globalization is mainly the product of
technological changes, of great strides in the fields of transportation and
communications. The result is companies widening their markets and producing better
quality products at lower prices.
is no longer an option but a reality, a reality reflected in the daily lives of the great
majority of men and women around the world. The challenge now is to design the trading
system to respond to globalization.
This is why
Singapore is so important. Ministers from more than 100 nations must use the occasion to
deliver a political message of support for the global trading system.
reaffirmation of the system is of great relevance. Remember that the WTO is only two years
old. Remember too that the member nations of the organization have accomplished something
revolutionary in agreeing on the 27,000 pages of text that comprise the Uruguay Round
accord that created this institution. In those pages are agreements covering trade
liberalization in areas never before encompassed in the multilateral system; areas like
textiles, agriculture and services.
For the first
time, too, intellectual property is protected by rules that have teeth.
it's no wonder that on the eve of its 50th anniversary, the multilateral trading system is
more popular than ever. The WTO now has 125 member countries and 28 candidates are keen to
join. Among these nations are China, Russia, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia. Never before have
so many governments wished to join an international organization at the same time.
All of these countries are developing countries or economies in transition and their
determination to join the WTO is a referendum of unquestionable support for a system
instrumental to growth and development.
for Singapore is one of delicate balance, reflecting the political perceptions of our many
member states. Developing countries and economies in transition, rightly perceive that the
major challenge will come from the massive efforts to implement the commitments of the
Uruguay Round agreement.
the magnitude of this challenge, consider that by the year 2005 all developing country
members of the WTO will have the same degree of protection for intellectual property as
the United States. For this remarkable undertaking they warrant high praise.
our full attention to implementation, means we must also shape our collective approach to
the ambitious future program of work spelled out in the Uruguay Round accord.
This part of
the process is most attractive to the industrialized countries. But the issues under
discussion are of interest to all 125 member states and disagreement over issues centers
mostly on when negotiations should begin. This is a narrow difference and it should not be
allowed to weaken the essential links established between developed and developing
countries at the end of the Uruguay Round.
need to indicate how we should approach issues like trade and investment and trade and
competition and the difficult issue of trade and labour standards while considering future
work on trade and the environment and the need for more transparent rules in government
There is also
the matter of our unfinished Uruguay Round business, specifically the negotiations on
global rules for trade in telecommunications and financial services.
as those two sets of the talks, are the negotiations aimed at achieving the elimination of
barriers to trade in information technology products including semiconductors, software
and most hardware by the year 2000. The United States, European Union, Canada and Japan
have committed themselves to reaching a deal in Singapore and a number of other important
countries have expressed interest in being part of an Information Technology Agreement
an ITA would be a remarkable accomplishment. Trade in information technology products
amounts to more than $400 billion, roughly the same as global trade in agriculture. Just
as significant, an ITA and a agreement on telecommunications trade by the 15 February
deadline, would lay theTa foundation for trading into the future. These are the critical
technologies of the 21st century, vital to the future competitiveness of every nation.
disseminating information so widely we can educate our peoples on a scale unimaginable 20,
or even 10 years ago. This is the human dimension of globalization and it offers an
unprecedented opportunity not just for growth and development, but also for security and
differing views on how this process of globalization should be managed. Some feel it best
to liberalize trade on a regional basis before extending benefits and commitments on a
worldwide basis. So far regional agreements have been a generally positive force for
state and government from around the world must decide what kind of a world we want. Today
there is a large and growing number of regional agreements around the world including
NAFTA, APEC, the European Union and MERCOSUR. Do we want to pursue this regional approach?
Or do we want a global free trade area, including China and Russia, based on rules and
disciplines which are enforced?
is to ensure that our multilateral goals remain as ambitious as our regional efforts and
that we multilateralize regionalism and not vice versa.
The issues on
the table in Singapore are complex and there are different views on how our system should
precede into the next century. But these differences are far from irreconcilable. Should
ministers agree on the basic blueprint for our short and medium term future, should they
hammer out an ITA and nudge their positions on telecommunications more toward compromise,
this inaugural ministerial of the World Trade Organization will be a resounding success.