> WTO news archives
> Supachai Panitchpakdi's speeches
It is my great pleasure to join you today. I welcome this opportunity
to provide an update on the WTO's most recent activities. I particularly
welcome this chance to extend the tradition of contacts, cooperation and
friendship between our two institutions that has been built up since
WTO's establishment in 1995.
I pay tribute to you, Parliamentarians of the Council of Europe, for
your interest in the work of the WTO. Parliamentarians in Europe and the
world over have a crucial role to play in bringing international
organizations and people closer together. I welcome your interest and
scrutiny. It helps make us more transparent. It helps make us stronger
and more responsive.
I pay tribute also to the Council of Europe as an institution dedicated
to democratic principles and the rule of law. These are values which are
paramount for collective peace, stability and security. They are also
values which are firmly embodied in the WTO and which serve as the basis
for work by our Members.
I should like to explain how WTO Members, who stood at a crossroads two
months ago, have now decided on a path to ensure momentum and continued
progress in the multilateral trade negotiations. We are back on track
and moving forward.
But let me begin by reminding you of some fundamentals. In so doing, I
shall pick up on a number of points mentioned in the useful report
prepared for this Assembly by Mr. Kimmo Sasi, Rapporteur of the
Committee on Economic Affairs and Development.
First, the multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO is about
more than just trade liberalization. It is about administering existing
trade agreements. It is about providing a means for peaceful resolution
of trade disputes — rule of law rather than rule of the jungle. It is
about ensuring governments implement their trade policies in line with
their agreed commitments. And it is about helping poorer countries to
reap the full benefits of their engagement in international trade.
The system is healthy and thriving. The trade rules, as well as the
consultation, surveillance and dispute settlement mechanisms of the WTO,
are operating to create stable, predictable and transparent conditions
for trade growth. Inevitably, there are points of tension, but it is
encouraging to see problems being worked out by governments within the
framework of WTO rules and Members' rights and obligations.
Second, and as Mr. Sasi points out, the multilateral trading system has
a record of solid achievement. Since 1948, tariffs in the industrialized
world have been cut by more than 80% in eight successive rounds of
negotiation and a vast range of quantitative restrictions and
bureaucratic controls have been removed. In the same period, trade has
grown faster than international output in all but eight years. The truth
is that the multilateral system works. The last 50 years have seen
unparalleled prosperity and growth and more has been done to address
poverty in these last 50 years than the previous 500. Trade has been
critical to this growth.
Thirdly, the system cannot be taken for granted — a point made by Mr.
Sasi. While world trade grew by an encouraging 4.5 % in 2003 and the
global economic outlook has certainly improved recently, when you look
around the world, trade growth is presently uneven and there remain many
barriers to trade globally. Greater expansion of trade will provide
support for sustained economic growth and job creation. If this
potential is to be realised, however, the many trade distortions that
presently exist must be addressed. This is why the Doha Development
Agenda is so important.
Fourth, the link between trade and development is now well-established.
In 2000, at the dawn of the new Millennium, when 189 Heads of State and
government assembled in New York to set a course to a more prosperous
and just world, they underscored the importance of trade. A year later,
in Doha, Ministers placed the needs and interests of developing
countries at the heart of the international trade agenda. In the
following two years, international conferences in Monterrey and
Johannesburg further reiterated the link between trade and development.
Of course, trade is not the answer to all the world's problems and trade
liberalization on its own is not enough to meet all the social
challenges facing our societies. Governments cannot hope to reap the
real benefits of open trade if they fail to secure macroeconomic
stability, supportive infrastructure, properly functioning domestic
markets and sound institutions. These elements are well established in
our latest World Trade Report 2004 which I encourage you to read. Many
international observers have said that the world will not be able to
achieve the Millennium goals of halving poverty and hunger by 2015
unless the developed world supports the domestic efforts of poor
countries with greater levels of aid and external debt relief. Trade is
an important part of the complex developmental mix. But it is just one
That said, trade's importance as an engine of economic growth and
development is clear. And studies done by the World Bank, IMF and OECD
all indicate that the gains from liberalization of trade under the Doha
Development Agenda could run into many billions of dollars, with
developing countries gaining a sizeable share which, no doubt, could
help facilitate their efforts to alleviate poverty and achieve economic
growth and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen, with regard to the Doha Development Agenda, WTO
Members arrived at the crossroads two months ago. And in what we now
refer to as the “July Decision”, they took decisions on key issues to
ensure continued progress in the negotiations. A path has been chosen.
We are back on track. We are moving forward.
The July Decision did not herald the end of the Round. But then, this
was never its aim. The purpose of the July Decision was a specific and
focused one; to take necessary decisions to regain momentum. At the end
of July, after two weeks of intense but transparent and inclusive
negotiations in Geneva, the 147 WTO Members fulfilled this purpose.
Before elaborating on the July Decision, let me say a brief word about
the road that led us to this result. We were up against twin pressures.
On the one hand, we had suffered too many previous setbacks to not be
seriously damaged by another. On the other hand, there was real urgency
in injecting political and substantial momentum into the negotiations
Thankfully, leadership and a common sense of commitment to the WTO
prevailed — from Ministers in the lead-up period, from important new
alliances such as the FIPs, G10, G20 and G90 that are now part of the
multilateral landscape, and from Ambassadors in Geneva. At the July
General Council meeting Members agreed on a substantial package. In a
way, if the launch of the Round in 2001 gave us the promise of economic
and development gains for all countries, the July Decision has shown the
scale of the potential gains and has provided a roadmap towards their
On development, the July Decision rededicates and recommits Members to
fulfilling the development dimension of the Doha Development Agenda.
Special consideration will be given in the negotiations to trade and
development-related concerns of developing countries, including capacity
constraints. Prominence is also given to our mandate of making existing
special and differential treatment more precise, effective and
In agriculture, Members have taken a truly historic decision to
eliminate export subsidies by a date to be determined through
negotiations. They have also taken on serious commitments to reduce or
otherwise discipline trade-distorting domestic support. In the area of
market access, tariff reductions are to be made through a tiered formula
with deeper cuts to be made to higher tariffs. We also reached agreement
that cotton will be dealt with ambitiously, expeditiously and
specifically within the agriculture negotiations.
With regard to non-agricultural market access (industrial, fish and
forestry products), Members have agreed on guidelines on the scope and
approach to be taken in the negotiations. Additional work is required on
the specifics but we have an important template for the reduction and
elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
On the so-called ‘Singapore Issues’ — trade facilitation, trade and
investment, trade and competition policy and transparency in government
procurement — agreement has finally been reached on how they should be
handled. You may recall treatment of these subjects have vexed WTO
Members for some time. Matters are now settled. Negotiations are to be
launched on trade facilitation, while the other three issues will not be
negotiated during this Round.
I would be remiss if I did not also speak about services trade. While
not a controversial issue during our negotiations in July, I cannot
emphasise enough the importance and potential of liberalization in this
area. Through our July Decision, WTO Members will work to ensure high
quality of offers; those Members who have not yet submitted initial
offers have undertaken to do so as soon as possible; and a deadline of
May 2005 has been set for the submission of revised offers.
While there are many other elements in the July Decision which merit
highlighting, these were the substantive decisions that needed to be
taken in order to get the negotiations firmly back on track. Coming from
Geneva, I can tell you delegations fully appreciate the historic
opportunity that has now been created. They know the hard work
continues. They know there are further difficult negotiations ahead.
They know more compromises and more hard decisions will be needed before
the final deal is done. But they now have their collective eye on the
prize and our work is distinguished by a new sense of commitment and
Your involvement and contribution is needed. Indeed, the WTO's current
drive to engage with Parliamentarians — through opportunities such as
this gathering, through our technical assistance activities, workshops
and seminars, and through participation in various parliamentary
dialogues on trade — recognises both the constitutional role you play in
terms of considering and ratifying WTO agreements. It also recognises
the wider role you can play in terms of helping to explain the workings,
challenges and benefits of the multilateral trading system. I thank you
for the support you have given to the WTO and I encourage your continued
interest in our work.