World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/25
9 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
This first of the biennial meetings of the WTO is vitally important for us all. It is important that it is a success.
In preparing for this meeting Director-General Ruggiero has done great service in keeping our delegations focused on the fundamental importance of the WTO to the multilateral trading system as a whole, and on the importance of looking ahead as well as back.
Fundamental to looking ahead in any organization is the need to ensure its objectives are articulated clearly. We in the WTO need a clear goal. We must commit ourselves to achieving a world where trade flows freely: to the progressive liberalization and elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, to the rejection of all forms of protectionism, and to the elimination of discriminatory treatment in international trade relations.
In such a world the open non-discriminatory provisions of the multilateral trading system will apply in full measure to the products and services of all members of the global economy: a world of free and open trade at the multilateral level.
So the ground has been prepared. Success now depends on us. For our part, New Zealand is clear on what we have to do.
We have to bed down and lock in those commitments we agreed to during the Uruguay Round. Their effective implementation is essential to the process we are engaged in. New Zealand has fulfilled its commitments and we look to all our trading partners to fulfil theirs too.
We must look forward as well. That is why New Zealand has placed so much emphasis on the built-in agenda. The various agreements concluded during the Uruguay Round tell us when the next negotiations or reviews are scheduled to begin. Most are not due until the turn of the century. We respect those agreements fully, and do not propose any negotiations be brought forward.
But to ensure that the WTO's negotiating process is more efficient than the GATT's, and to show that we have learnt from the past, the analysis and information exchange that precedes any negotiation cannot be left until the year 2000. It must be got under way next year. That is what we Ministers here in Singapore must mandate.
We also have some unfinished business from the Uruguay Round that we must conclude; the sectoral negotiations in services, in particular basic telecommunications, financial services, and maritime services. New Zealand has put forward full and comprehensive MFN-based offers in all three areas but has been frustrated that negotiations have either been deferred or are incomplete. Let's resolve to finish them off.
And while we are about it, let's resolve to make some real progress on the issue of trade and environment too. We believe that trade rules and protection of the environment should not be in conflict with each other, that they should be mutually supportive. In 1997 we need to be able to convince the people of the world that this issue is still being dealt with seriously.
Some issues that we are discussing this week - like investment and competition policy - are referred to occasionally as "new". But they are not new. Both are encompassed in existing WTO agreements and are therefore part of the built-in agenda already. No one is suggesting negotiating disciplines at this stage. But open educative discussion would, we think, be of benefit to prepare ourselves for the negotiations and reviews to which we are all already committed. Let's make further progress here.
Finally, for New Zealand, as a country with global trading interests, the primacy of the multilateral trading system is fundamental. Open regionalism should inspire us to ensure that the dynamism of the WTO is maintained.
But it is important that regional trade arrangements be complementary to and consistent with the multilateral trading system. For our part, we in the WTO should seek to broaden and globalize the benefits of regional arrangements through further liberalization at the multilateral level.
For us in the Asia/Pacific region it is symbolic that we are meeting here in Singapore - symbolic of this region's commitment to the multilateral trading system.
Mr. Chairman, through you my thanks to the Government of Singapore for hosting this important meeting; and my thanks for the commitment you have made to making it a success.
You may have noticed that I have not used the word "agriculture" once. It has not been easy as I am a Minister of Agriculture. But I have not needed to: we have started to bring agriculture fully into the multilateral trading system. It is promoting the further development of that system that has brought all of us to Singapore. We have made a good start. Now let's get on with it.