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WTO NEWS: 1995-99 SPEECHES - RENATO RUGGIERO, FORMER DG

Santiago,18 April 1998
Address to the Second Summit of the Americas, Santiago de Chile

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I am very grateful to President Frei for having invited me and the World Trade Organization to be here with you today.  I consider this invitation another sign of how regional and multilateral initiatives can support each other.  I appreciate very much the opportunity to share with you this historical moment for the Americas, a moment built on the decisions taken by you four years ago in Miami.

Your decision to launch negotiations to create the Free Trade area of the Americas will certainly have profound implications not only for your countries but also for the entire world economy.  There is no doubt that the FTAA project is a fundamental movement towards trade liberalization and increased prosperity for the American Hemisphere.

There is another important aspect that flows from your debates.  The starting point of this historical collaboration and interdependence is, as usual, trade liberalization;  the elimination of barriers dividing countries, economies and people.  But at the same time you have raised your sights beyond the trade horizon and you look to other human, social and political issues which our citizens consider more and more essential in international cooperation.
 
At present, regional initiatives (some times on a continental scale like the FTAA) are on the front pages of most newspapers.  History shows that, in many respects, regional trade initiatives have benefitted the world economy.  Experience
in regional agreements has positively contributed to the development of multilateral trade rules, and for developing countries in particular, regional initiatives have been important stepping stones to liberalizing and expanding trade.  The point
is simply to ensure at every level that regional efforts complement not compete with, the multilateral system that is so important for the global economy.

It is undeniable that the integration of the world economy and the new technologies are increasingly moving us toward a globalized and interdependent world.  Our countries and our industries need global rules to prosper in global markets.

It is also politically important because we have to know what kind of world we want to shape, taking into account the reality of global integration and technological advances.  Do we want a world divided into four or five different regional trading areas, each one with its own rules and benefitting from free trade inside, but still with barriers to trade from outside?  Or do we want one single global free trade area with multilateral rules approved by all participants and with an enforcement capacity?

I am sure that the Free Trade Area of the Americas will become a powerful force in favour of the global path when the time will be right.

We are celebrating in May in Geneva the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the multilateral system.  Over 50 years the system has proven its success in contributing to world economic growth.  It has done so by reducing trade barriers worldwide, increasing the participation of developing countries in the global economy, and creating a framework of consensus-based trade rules which is now almost universal.
 
I hope to see as many as possible of you in Geneva next month at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the multilateral trading system.  This will be an invaluable and unique occasion not only to reaffirm at the highest political
level the value of the system and the need to ensure its continued effectiveness, but also to send a powerful political message to the world about the opportunities of globalization and the fact that in the WTO system our citizens have an ally and a guide which can help in understanding, approaching and benefitting from the transformations they are living through.