Attached is the full text of
Mr. Ruggiero's address to the APEC Trade Ministers delivered today in Christchurch, New
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
established a high level of ambition for regional trade liberalization. I hope that you
can also transmit a high level of ambition to the first Ministerial meeting of the WTO in
Singapore this December.
will not be an easy meeting. It is the first political rendez-vous of a new institution,
the first milestone on the ambitious path which was charted by the Marrakesh Agreement. In
Singapore we can expect at least 3,000 people, representing 120 member governments, 30
accession candidates, other international organizations, NGOs representing environment,
consumer, and development groups - 60 environmental groups alone - as well as trade
unions, business and of course the media from all over the world.
presence will testify to the political importance that is attached everywhere to the
implications, the hopes, the anxieties that go with trade, globalization and
interdependence. In all of our countries, people are concerned with their prospects for
growth and their prospects for jobs. Issues like structural adjustment in both developed
and developing countries, the marginalization of the least-developed countries, the
relationship between regional and multilateral liberalization, and the universality of the
trading system - these challenges are not ones for some far-off future which we can
contemplate in a detached or academic way. They are already with us - they will be on the
table at Singapore whether we put them there or not - and they call for a response.
Ministers, have to give answers to those hopes and those anxieties just as I hope you will
give clear instructions to your representatives in Geneva to move on to reach the maximum
possible level of consensus on all the most important issues that still divide us.
It is still
hard to say how far we are from reaching this consensus, but I have to call your attention
to the fact that time is limited, and that we are not seeing sufficient movement towards
agreement. The problem we face is not one of procedure, but one of substance.
There is no
justifiable reason not to agree before Singapore on a work programme, the more so since
much of it is already in the built-in agenda.
I know that I
am talking to Ministers from regions where the benefits of the open multilateral trading
system have been most significant. Your APEC agenda already covers almost everything that
has been proposed for Singapore. It would be difficult to explain that what is possible in
APEC is not possible in the WTO.
everyone sees implementation as a key element of the Singapore conference, and of course
it is, but we should remember that in the context of the Uruguay Round results
implementation has a very dynamic meaning. It certainly does not mean standing still and
looking back at where we came from. The world is moving ahead, with us or without us. Your
economies are doing the same. If we do not keep the trading system moving forward too, we
risk leaving the unstoppable movement towards regional and global integration without
adequate rules and without a clear vision. The difference is a fundamental one.
In the light
of the discussions we have had so far in Geneva, I can envisage a draft Ministerial
Declaration for Singapore which would cover the following main elements:
of the Uruguay Round results;
- The WTO's work
- And the
broader political concerns that the WTO must take into account.
I would like
to briefly outline the situation concerning each of these points as I see it.
is a mixed picture, though I see it overall as more positive than not. The key aspect, and
the main success, is dispute settlement. I believe that the dispute settlement
mechanism is playing the central role that was intended. It is being used by both
developing and industrial countries, large and small. There have so far been 50 requests
to start consultations. Six cases are currently before panels, and two panels have been
completed. We have recently seen the first ruling of the Appellate Body. But just as
importantly, a significant number of disputes - ten so far - are being resolved at the
consultation stage without resort to a panel. This testifies to the credibility of
the system and to its deterrent effect.
there is more room for improvement, especially concerning notifications. Other
delegations have expressed strong concerns about the outlook for implementation of the
textiles agreement. These concerns deserve serious attention.
- I would like
to recall also that we should report at Singapore on the implementation of the Marrakesh Declaration
on Least-Developed Countries - concrete progress in this regard is the minimum that we
should be able to do to aid integration of the poorest countries into the world economy
and its benefits. I will have more to say on this later.
also includes the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment. The Committee has
done useful work in bringing together environmental and trade interests and beginning to
define the basis for a mutually supportive relationship, and concrete results of solid
value are within reach; what is needed is the political will to take hold of them. I see
worrying signs that this will is not sufficiently present.
consultations in Geneva so far have shown that the scope of the WTO's work programme
is the most difficult question for Singapore. The current situation is that we have a
range of proposals on subjects which either have a foot-hold in the built-in agenda, seek
to add to it, or cut across categories. Twenty-four "non-papers" have been
tabled, on 14 subjects, of which the great majority are already within the scope of
existing WTO bodies to a greater or lesser extent; only a very few could really be called
new. The urgent challenge is to distil these disparate elements into a substantial but
balanced work programme.
- The built-in
agenda involves, among other commitments, the start of new negotiations in major
sectors, such as services and agriculture, at the turn of the century. The necessity of
preparing adequately for these negotiations has been emphasized. We sometimes hear the
complaint that multilateral negotiations move too slowly. However, one of the reasons the
Uruguay Round took so long was that, in many sectors, preparation did not begin until
after the negotiations were launched. Since governments have already agreed on the timing
of these new negotiations, it is surely logical to begin the necessary preparatory study
and analysis well in advance - this is important, not least, to ensure that all the
members of the WTO, whatever their level of development, are able to participate fully.
though the work programme must start from the built-in agenda, a number of delegations
have made the point that it cannot be confined to it. For one thing, they have noted that
the built-in agenda has some very obvious gaps, such as industrial tariffs. The hope has
also been expressed that the Singapore conference might give a further liberalizing
impulse in a number of sectors where the Uruguay Round negotiations fell short of success.
- The political
perspectives: At Singapore, Ministers will be expected to give a sense of the aims and
objectives of the trading system - the global challenges and opportunities within which
our work programme will operate, and to which it must ultimately respond.
- it should be made clear that this means maximizing opportunities for growth, jobs and
reducing marginalization. The unity of industrial and developing countries around the
benefits of the open trading system and global integration is the great achievement of the
Uruguay Round - it is one we must consolidate and build on. There is no rational
- We must also
extend the benefits of global integration to the least-developed countries -
implementation of the Marrakesh Declaration is the immediate priority, but the ultimate
goal must surely be elimination of all barriers to their market access possibilities. The
promotion of investment in the least-developed countries is another important aspect, one
which argues for the negotiation at the appropriate time of fully multilateral investment
rules in the WTO. There is also a clear need for building human and institutional capacity
through improved technical assistance in cooperation with other agencies (which also helps
implement the Uruguay Round Coherence mandate).
- The trading
system must be universal. We need to bring the 30 candidates in as soon as
possible, but in a way which strengthens the system.
relationship between regional and multilateral trade liberalization - APEC has a
key responsibility here. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a positive
interpretation of open liberalization - that is, respecting the MFN principle - as a basis
for convergence of regional and multilateral initiatives. Without such a
convergence, we risk fragmentation of the global economy into two, three or four
preferential regional blocs, each one with its own rules and procedures, confronting each
other at the border. This is not the way in which trade can best contribute to building a
more integrated, more balanced, and ultimately a more secure world.
- Lastly, let me
underline the importance of sending the world a message of reassurance and confidence
about the multilateral system, a rule-based system, rather than one based on power.
This is something a successful Singapore meeting can and must do. As part of doing so, I
hope it will establish the basis for using the 50th anniversary of the multilateral
trading system to reaffirm its importance and reassert its dynamism.
let me sum up by saying that you have a choice: you can go to Singapore with important
issues still open and spend a week haggling about texts under the pressure not only of
time but of the world's attention. To achieve consensus in such circumstances would be
much more difficult.
Or on the
other hand you can go to Singapore having already agreed on the outstanding issues and
thus be free to have a creative interchange on the key political and institutional
challenges in the trading system. This requires directing your representatives in Geneva
clearly to reach such an agreement and giving them the necessary flexibility to do so.
Doing so will
make it possible for you, the Ministers, to concentrate on the task that only you can
really do - renewing the sense of purpose and direction of the multilateral system and
making your commitment to it clear to the world.