Renato Ruggiero's speeches,
I wish to thank
the Italian Government for inviting me to attend this conference. I am only sorry that I
shall not be able to spend more time with you, but you know of the pressures and needs of
Geneva at the moment.
In a few short days we
shall be in Seattle, at the WTO's Third Ministerial Conference. What happens in Seattle
will shape our institution and determine the quality of trade relations among nations as
we enter the new millennium. The stakes are high, and we still have a lot of work to do if
we are to make Seattle the success that it should be. Failure is unthinkable. We seem to
live in a special world in Geneva, a world of insurmountable opportunities, however that
is true of the wider world too, isn't it?
I advised Ministers that the situation in Geneva was serious but not desperate. After long
hours I can report progress. The situation is desperate but not serious.
differences among governments over which we are struggling right now in Geneva are genuine
and honest differences. And the efforts to bridge them are every bit as genuine.
Priorities are bound to differ, but there is a common objective the objective of
maintaining and strengthening equitable and stable trade relations among nations. But this
is not about trade for trade's sake. It is about providing a solid basis for higher
incomes, new opportunities, better jobs and improved lifestyles for people everywhere.
Therefore a safer, more stable and predictable world.
atmosphere in Geneva is positive, and I think we should be optimistic. Not everything can
be agreed before we go to Seattle. Ministers will have to provide leadership. But we must
offer a solid basis from which to work, and that is what I hope we shall achieve in the
next few days. We are not there yet. Ambassadors can only go as far as their instructions
from capitals. Again I call for more flexibility, sensitivity and vision from capitals.
world will be watching us at Seattle. Imagine the cost of failure? It is still possible
that through stubborn neglect of mutual interests, and a refusal to accommodate divergent
needs, we could fail to agree in Seattle, or worse, agree to fail. Think of the gift we
would be handing our critics. What would that mean? We stopped the poor getting a fairer
deal? We stopped progress? Thats the equivalent of celebrating Europe NOT enlarging.
That's celebrating a new Berlin Wall going up. What would they want to stop next, and how
would we get started again? We represent the last 50 years, that has seen, in most
countries, living standards rise, people living longer, infant mortality down. Never in
the history of mankind has there been such steady progress, but not always even and never
enough. Never have so many people celebrated their political and economic freedom.
is not enough that governments accept their responsibilities to craft the deal waiting to
be made in Seattle. Governments also have a shared responsibility to explain why we have
the WTO, and why we must invest the time and effort that we do in nurturing and
strengthening our institution. Our critics are sometimes more vocal than our supporters,
and not all our critics are wrong. We must engage them and improve our game. It is
not difficult to find things wrong with our system. What system fashioned by humans is
perfect? We must be the only business in town without a marketing division, where our
customers and owners must be our sales people.
who oppose and protest are not all bad or mad. Many want to improve the WTO or capture it
to reflect their interests. Thats a form of flattery, I suppose. Many seek honest
engagement, and it is to these that we must respond. As Commissioner Lamy has pointed out
on other occasions, this is not only about succeeding at Seattle. Even more important is
the aftermath, the challenge of negotiating good results and then having those results
approved in national legislatures. In the end political leaders are accountable to
parliaments, to ballot boxes. Their owners; the people. When I lost an election in New
Zealand on election night, I said the people are always right. Even when they are wrong,
they are right.
make no apologies for what we seek to achieve with our multilateral trading system
all I want to do is do better. 100,000 people may be demonstrating against us at Seattle.
But remember too, that 1.5 billion people and more than 30 countries want to join the WTO.
They know what it offers and want to be part of it. What's wrong in wanting China and
Russia to be part of a rules-based world? It is one of those great contradictions, that
while the world celebrates political freedom as it has spread throughout Europe, Africa,
Asia and South America, the open minds that celebrate these freedoms frequently close
their minds to the economic freedoms that trade offers. There's a contradiction among
those who give generously at Church on Sunday when there is a flood or earthquake in the
third world, then on Monday sign a petition to lock out the products their workers create.
should we tell our critics that we are fighting for in Seattle? I offer three core
messages. First, the multilateral trading system is an essential component of the
architecture for international cooperation, peace and progress. The world would not be a
safer place without the UN, IMF, World Bank or WTO despite their imperfections. We know
from our turbulent history of six or seven decades ago that failures in international
cooperation lead to serious economic hardship and can contribute to strife and war. It was
this costly, devastating lesson that inspired leaders at that time to craft the
multilateral system which today we seek to keep healthy and make stronger. The GATT/WTO
system is a force for international peace and order. A fortification against disorder.
This is reason enough to insist on the rightness of what we are doing. If we did not have
the multilateral trading system, there would surely be a need to invent it. No one, I
hope, wants less trade, less investment, fewer jobs, less ideas and less research. No one,
I hope, wants the world to assume the foetal position and welcome a new dark age.
our system can be harnessed to address poverty, to create a more inclusive world. While
the GATT started out in 1947 with 23 members, today the WTO comprises 134 countries, with
more joining all the time. With the explosion of membership has come new challenges and
adjusted priorities. More than two-thirds of our members are engaged in a struggle against
poverty that is quite literally a matter of life and death. Trading opportunities and
adjustment to the conditions of international competition are key ingredients in helping
to lift countries and their peoples out of poverty, but not the only ingredient. Not only
is there a moral urgency about this, because poverty and despair degrades us all, but we
need to create customers of the future for the successful economies of today.
who want to stop the WTO from advancing, including in its efforts to create better market
opportunities for poorer countries, would do well to reflect on how defensible that
position is, not least on moral grounds. I have placed great emphasis since coming to the
WTO on the need to guarantee unrestricted market access for all the products of the
least-developed countries. This, surely, is not too much to ask. After all, the
least-developed countries account for less than 0.5 percent of world exports. And the
countries concerned would have the advantage of knowing that whatever they can produce
they can sell without having to surmount obstacles in the shape of trade measures.
third point, which is closely related to the second, is that our system nurtures
and helps to create new opportunities for millions of people. The information revolution,
whose benefits the multilateral trading system is instrumental in spreading, has shrunken
time and distance in ways that we could not have imagined just a few years ago. People who
try to stop the WTO's efforts to reduce protection and enlarge opportunity may not want to
arrest the spread of benefits from technological advancement, but that is likely to be a
by-product. When I was a boy it would have taken a year's wages of a worker to buy the
Encyclopaedia Britannica for their children. Today, it's free on the Internet. Who wants
to use yesterday's technologies and techniques today? What mother does not seek the very
best medical attention, regardless of its state of origin, when her child is sick? There
are endless ways that greater opportunities and better lifestyles flow from an environment
of openness that adjusts to change.
have always enjoyed the globalization of literature and music. On the most lonely pacific
atoll, in the most distant jungle valley, people listen to Italian opera, read Shakespeare
and essentially have the same hopes and ambitions, that their children have a better life
than they. We all want a fairer world, a world of opportunity accessible to all. The old
divides of North-South, of left and right, no longer apply. What divides us today is the
difference between those that welcome the future and those that fear it. The future is not
to be feared. It is to be faced. Let us face it together and strive to improve what we
have and share it more effectively. We have within us the opportunity to make the next
century so much better, having learnt from our horrible and lethal failures in the first
half of this century. Ladies and gentlemen, we have the rare chance to make the next
century one based on law, rules, engagement and persuasion. Or a world based on coercion,
force and power. I hope we can lift our vision, and look beyond ourselves and our short
term national interests and therefore honour our parents who created us and our