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WTO NEWS: 1999 PRESS RELEASES

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1 November 1999

Mike Moore opens "Geneva Week"

Please find below the full text of the statement made by Mike Moore, Director-General of the WTO, on 1 November 1999, on the opening day of "Geneva Week". The purpose of "Geneva Week" is to help WTO Members and Observers who do not have a permanent delegation in Geneva prepare for the third Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

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Excellencies,
Distinguished representatives,

Friends,

On behalf of the WTO, I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to all participants at this "Geneva Week" for Non-Geneva based WTO Member and Observer delegations. This is an Organization to which you belong, either as a Member or to which you are an observer. Most observers are in the process of acceding to the WTO, and we look forward to welcoming you as full Members.

For me, this is a week of great significance. Virtually all of the WTO Members and observer delegations, without permanent physical representation here in Geneva, are present here today, at the WTO, as We prepare for the Third Ministerial Conference, scheduled to take place in Seattle from 30 November to 3 December 1999 – exactly one month from today. Your presence here is a positive step in the complex and on-going process of assisting the integration of the smaller and vulnerable countries - the least-developed countries and other small economies, into the Multilateral Trading System.

I want to express my profound gratitude to the WTO Member governments that made this "Geneva Week" possible through their generous contribution and funding, in particular the Governments of the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, who will be present here this afternoon, as well as those of Dr. Khamil Idris, Director-General, WIPO, and Mr. Denis BÚlisle, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC). I also extend my appreciation to the representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and to the representatives of the other Organizations who will participate in this week's events.

It is important to recognize the valuable contributions made in the design of the Programme for this Week by Ambassador Anthony Hill. I continue to rely on his advice, experience and his intellectual insights as to how the process of the integration of developing countries into the multilateral trading system can be assisted and accelerated. As you will note in the Programme before you, Tony will moderate several of the Sessions.

The WTO has often been said to be a Member-driven Organization. It is your Organization, and we are your Secretariat. Our objective is to make sure that the needs of your Governments are met and that even if you are physically thousands of miles away, you can feel that you are in close communication with us here in Geneva and that we can interact.

This is why the focus of the week is on "assisting integration into the trading system", and why we are devoting an important part of the time to listening, and responding to what you feel you need from us. We hope to learn from you and, therefore, better serve you because of this programme.

We have also invited many of our sister agencies which are based, or have offices in Geneva to explain their roles, in policy analysis and capacity-building. I am grateful to these Organizations for having sent senior staff Members to deliver presentations.

We shall be asking you during the week to let us know your priorities and needs in terms of technical assistance; whether the Reference Centres that the WTO has installed in many of your Ministries meet your needs; and whether the quality of assistance you receive from us is adequate; and what more can be done to improve what we do.

On my first day as Director-General, I stated my priorities as follows:

  • - to facilitate and assist all participants to get the most balanced outcome from the new negotiations, and an outcome which benefits the most vulnerable economies;

  • - to be an advocate for the benefits to both great and modest nations of a more open trading system, and one that can increase living standards and build a more prosperous, safer world; and,

  • - to strengthen the WTO and its rules, to build on and maintain its reputation for integrity and fairness, and to reshape the organization to reflect the reality of its membership and their needs.

My commitment will not waiver in promoting the just and rational trade interests of the smaller, the vulnerable and the marginalized countries.

I would like to underscore five points which provide an important background and setting for this "Geneva Week".

First, I believe that it is vital that we continue to remind ourselves of the value and contributions of the multilateral trading system over a fifty year period, to raising living standards and building a better more stable world. Of paramount importance has been the establishment of the rules-based system. Of equal importance have been those core values now universally accepted to be WTO values, namely the principle of non-discrimination, as expressed in Most Favoured Nation (mfn) and National Treatment, transparency, predictability and the rule of law. Much work remains to be done to realize more fully the benefits of the multilateral trading system; and there will always be scope for improvement in the system itself. The fact that there are 37 countries here today who are not represented in Geneva and many of whom are not yet Members, speaks clearly enough of one area where improvement is essential.

Second, we need to acknowledge that the multilateral trading system has delivered great benefits by creating a stable, rules-based framework, and driving forward trade liberalization. However, trade liberalization per se is not an end in itself. The ultimate goal of trade liberalization is the achievement of rapid economic growth and sustainable development, which should in turn lead to poverty alleviation. Over 3 billion people live in poverty, that is, on less than US$2 dollar a day. We need to exert ourselves and focus our efforts to offer all peoples, particularly the poor and the marginalized, the gift of opportunity. Nonetheless, even as we acknowledge that trade is an engine for growth and necessary for development, we also need to come to terms with the fact that it is not a sufficient condition. Many other factors intervene in the complex relationship between trade and development, including national policies in such areas as macro-economic management and regulation, governance and the rule of law.

Third, coherence in global economic management is indispensable in the task of assisting the integration of developing countries into the multilateral trading system, in poverty alleviation and the urgent task of accelerating development by increasing growth rates. To this end, the WTO is working actively with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), under the Mandate provided by our Ministers in Marrakesh. We hope that our efforts, combined with those of other organizations, will deliver concrete benefits to developing countries on debt relief, project and programme assistance, improving and enhancing technical assistance for trade-related capacity-building and institution-building.

Fourth, we all have an obligation to assist in improving public understanding of the benefits of trade liberalization, and the damaging cost to national economies of trade protection. Often, it is argued that protection is required to save jobs. However, what escapes public scrutiny and what is unmentioned are the short to long-term costs to a country's tax payer of trade protection. These costs arise from production inefficiencies, delayed adjustment, inefficiency in resource allocation potential, corruption, and so on. In the rich countries of the OECD, the cost of protection to consumers has been estimated at US$300 billion; and in one country the cost to consumers of protecting a single job was estimated at US$600,000. Open, liberalizing, market-oriented economies do better and grow faster than closed, trade restrictive economies. This is a historic fact.

Fifth, as noted a moment ago, the General Council of the WTO is now in the final month of its preparatory work for the Seattle Ministerial Conference. This process began in September last year, pursuant to paragraph 9 of the Geneva Ministerial Conference. The preparatory process is now in an advanced stage. Preparations include the drafting of a Ministerial Declaration for Ministers to adopt at Seattle. Much work still remains to be done. Active negotiations are underway, including in this period that you will be here. We shall be devoting a large part of this week to the discussion of "Seattle issues".

The Seattle Ministerial Conference will set the trade policy agenda for the new Millennium by adopting a Ministerial Declaration, and launching a new Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. For the Declaration and for the scope of a new Round of Trade Negotiations, all Members have emphasised the fundamental importance of implementation of past Agreements negotiated under the Uruguay Round. Under implementation, basic and fundamental issues of systemic importance have been raised. These are being negotiated.

Following from the Uruguay Round, Members are already committed to negotiations in agriculture and services. There are other issues. Members must decide how far to go on those issues that arose at the First WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore - the so called "new issues" - namely, investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation.

A Declaration was adopted by Ministers at the Second WTO Ministerial Conference, here in Geneva, last year, on electronic commerce. Members are negotiating how to proceed with what is one of the most rapidly growing areas of commercial transactions in the global trading system today – an area of huge potential and opportunity. Proposals have been made and negotiations are evolving on the environmental sustainability of WTO Agreements, including those that may be negotiated in a new Round.

The scope of a new Round must be balanced and reflect the interests of all Members. I have stated as my priority the necessity of working with Members to ensure that poor countries in particular obtain a balanced outcome from a new Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. This is my firm commitment.

One of the proposals for the new Round, which I believe that WTO Members will agree to, is that participants will include both WTO Members and countries in the process of acceding. At the end of the day, of course, it will be the Members alone that will decide outcomes. I appeal to all participants present here to give their strong support to the negotiations and for those who are in accession negotiations, to try to complete them as soon as possible. We stand ready to assist in any way we can. A new Round will maintain the momentum for trade liberalization, keep protectionism at bay, improve market access and enhance the prospects for rapid growth and development.

This brings me to the three central purposes of this "Geneva Week".

First, Seattle is a month away, and inputs by non-resident Members into the process is not only a right, but is also desirable. It makes us all stronger. The experience of participants gathered here today, their concerns, problems and needs, will be a valuable contribution to the preparatory process for the Ministerial Conference.

Second, this is an exercise in transparency. Some Members have expressed the view that in previous Rounds of Trade Negotiations, they were uninvolved in the preparatory process, and even when the negotiations began, they did not participate. Even worse, when they signed agreements, they were not aware of what they had signed. It would be helpful if views are clearly expressed here on how some of the problems arising from non-residency can be addressed, including in the course of negotiations in a new Round of Trade Negotiations. Not just this week but right through the Round.

Third, this is also an exercise in broadening WTO decision-making. Copies of the current draft Ministerial Declaration will be circulated. Members of the Secretariat will make presentations on issues of systemic importance as well as the current structure, issues in the draft text and the state of play. I urge participants to interact actively with the resource persons and those who will make presentations.

Lastly, I have asked Ambassador Hill and my Secretariat colleagues to advise me, in consultation with you on how the ideas, views and suggestions that will result from your discussions can be taken further after Seattle and, to that end, how the WTO can be of assistance.

Again, I extend a warm welcome to all participants; and will now hand-over to Ambassador Hill, who will moderate the First Session on: Participation in the WTO: opportunities for small developing countries, resources available, and how to use them.

Ambassador Hill you have the Chair.

Thank you.