Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the first
Director-General of the World Trade Organisation to make an official visit to Indonesia I
feel particularly privileged to be with you here today. I also feel that this occasion is
timely. In a sense, both Indonesia and the WTO share common experiences. Over the past
thirty years, Indonesia has embraced the opportunities offered by the new international
trading environment and has transformed itself into one of the worlds leading
manufacturing nations. Similarly, the WTO of today is quite different to the GATT of 1947.
Its original membership of 23 mostly industrialised countries has grown to 135, two-thirds
of whom are developing countries. Eight successive rounds of negotiations have
dramatically reduced tariffs and other restrictions to trade. The WTOs areas of
responsibility have been widened to include services and intellectual property rights.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, we have built a dispute settlement system with real
teeth to resolve trade tensions through the rule of law and not through economic or
our respective successes we also share the experience of a more recent period of
difficulty. The Asian financial crisis was short, sharp and painful. Many predicted that
this would escalate into an international economic disaster with a recourse into
protectionism either by Asian economies or by countries on the receiving end of cheaper
imports. Many predicted that economic collapse would lead Asian nations to retreat from
aspirations for more liberal social and political institutions. It is to your great credit
that you proved these doom-mongers wrong. You did not turn your back on the international
trading system. On the contrary you remained actively engaged in the financial services
negotiations that were ongoing at that time. The speed and courage with which Asia has
managed to engineer its recovery has astounded even its most optimistic analysts. There
has been no greater vindication of the merits of the multilateral trading system.
collective membership of the WTO also now faces some tough policy decisions and there is
no shortage of pessimists watching from the wings. I am confident however that our Members
will act with the same leadership and vision. I am confident they will not let long term
objectives be clouded by short term political gain. I am confident, because they all have
too much to lose from the failure of this process.
we have seen encouraging progress and there is strong support among Members to take
matters forward in a number of areas.
there is support to ensure an efficient start to the negotiations on agriculture and
services which began earlier this year.
is enormous potential for liberalisation and for increasing human welfare in both these
areas. When you consider that half the working population of the world makes its living in
agriculture, however, it is a tragedy that it should still be a political battleground. We
saw in Seattle, yet again, the power of agriculture to divide countries whose common needs
are vastly greater than their differences. Everybody recognises that subsidies have to be
controlled, if only in the interest of the poor taxpayer, that rural populations have to
be sustained and that the environment must be protected. Negotiations are simply an
opportunity to build bridges between interests which of course diverge, but which are
usually much more capable of reconciliation than the negotiators want to admit. The
negotiation which is now starting will give governments the opportunity to do what they
know they must do, in the cause of economic sense and social justice, but which they find
very hard to do unilaterally.
on services are of great value even for countries like Indonesia which are more geared to
the export of manufactures. More competitive transport and distribution services lower the
costs of production. A healthy financial system is crucial to the efficient functioning of
the economy as a whole. In the wake of the internet revolution, a modern telecoms network
is also absolutely indispensable. As consumers become more comfortable with the use of the
internet, more transactions will be carried out on-line and customer bases will become
global. Within the Asia-Pacific region alone, excluding Japan, the number of e-commerce
users is projected to grow from over 1.1 million in 1998 to 12.8 million in 2002. Revenue
gains from e-commerce over the same period are anticipated to rise from $643 million to a
staggering $34 billion. It is vital that developing countries create and modernise their
communications infrastructures so as to take maximum advantage of the vast opportunities
that the technological revolution offers.
development of a package of measures to assist developing countries is also a priority
issue. Our immediate efforts will be focused on trying to help integrate developing
countries into the international trading system. For least developing countries we are
looking to agree duty free market access for products of greatest export interest to them.
As these countries only represent one half of one per cent of world trade, this would not
be such a great concession for the rest of our Members to make. The value of this
initiative to least developed countries on the other hand would be huge.
Access is one thing. Knowing how to capitalise from it, however, is quite another. Making
the right policy decisions requires understanding of how the trading system works and
advice on how to use it. It is for this reason that we are also looking to agree an
additional financial package of 10 million Swiss Francs for capacity building and
technical assistance for developing countries.
issues have also been identified as needing urgent attention. The most pressing of these
is the transitional problems which a number of countries are experiencing in implementing
their commitments. A number of countries have also expressed their disappointment that
existing agreements are not balanced enough. They are reluctant to make new commitments
until these are addressed.
there is popular support for transparency issues to be given attention. What Seattle did
show was that the system has not succeeded in making all its members feel included. We
need to find ways of ensuring that countries of all sizes and levels of development feel
ownership of this organisation. We need to improve our working methods to reflect the
input and interests of each our Members at every stage of the decision-making process. We
must guarantee that access to information is available to one and all on the same terms.
Every Member has an equal seat at our table and an equal right to have its voice heard.
Just as non-discrimination forms the most fundamental cornerstone of our Agreements, so
too should it guide the way we conduct our everyday business.
WTO faces a tough road ahead, but as demonstrated by the comprehensive Membership of the
WTO and by the 31 countries queuing to join, the benefits of an open and predictable
trading system are not at issue. The debate is not about whether to liberalise, but over
how to achieve an acceptably balanced package.
WTO and its Member States do, however, have a responsibility to explain to the disgruntled
and anxious public what we are trying to achieve and why. We have clearly not succeeded at
this level. We must counter the popularly-held belief that the aim of the WTO is
recklessly to pursue free trade while riding roughshod over human rights and disregarding
the environment. We must explain that in developing rules to conduct trading relations we
are providing greater certainty in an uncertain and unpredictable world. That by nurturing
and promoting commerce though the lowering of barriers to trade, we are making a
fundamental and positive contribution to international economic growth and prosperity.
must emphasise that economic growth means more jobs and better jobs. With wealth and
economic freedom comes political freedom. Freedom provides the conditions in which
entrepreneurship and creativity are allowed to flourish. As one of the world's largest
democracies, Indonesia's future looks bright.
are going through a period of dramatic change and it is natural for this to cause
insecurity and fear. But we cannot turn back time. We should not isolate ourselves from
progress or shut our eyes and pretend that it has never happened. We must welcome the
tremendous opportunities that change brings and create structures to manage it to our best
advantage. I would invite the demonstrators at Seattle crying "kill the WTO" to
consider whether the poor and deprived of this world, or even themselves, would be any
better off without the WTO and other international organisations. It is true that there is
always room for better coordination and coherence in the services that we offer and we are
working to achieve this. But I have yet to hear of a serious alternative and I doubt that
Indonesia and the WTO hold, within our grasp a tremendous opportunity. The opportunity to
nurture and promote the core liberal values of justice and human progress. We are treading
an ambitious path and the eyes of the world are on us. In the interests of all that is
right and good we must succeed.