World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/3
9 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
On behalf of the Presidency of the European Union, I would like to congratulate you on your election as Chairman of the Conference. Through you, I would like to thank the Singapore Government for its excellent organization of this Conference and for its warm hospitality.
Our thanks also go to the Director-General, Mr. Ruggiero, and his staff for their very effective work in making the new Organization an operating reality and in preparing for this Conference.
Sir Leon Brittan, Vice-President of the European Commission, is addressing you on the priorities for the WTO as viewed by the European Union. For the European Union, the WTO is the bedrock of the multilateral trading system. It provides the essential framework of rules within which to trade. The European Union, from the experience of its own internal market, knows how important an agreed framework of rules is to the flow of goods and services. It also recognizes that trade liberalization is an essential feature of our efforts to promote sustainable growth, increase living standards and provide employment for all our people. Our host, Singapore, provides an excellent example of success in this area.
This first Ministerial Conference of the WTO offers an opportunity to assess how the commitments we have entered into during the Uruguay Round have been implemented. It also allows us to consider the launch of new initiatives designed to consolidate our Organization and ensure that it reflects the new realities of a globalized world economy.
The European Union has contributed actively to the preparation of this Conference. The main thrust of the proposals we have made has been to ensure that the commitments we all entered into in the Marrakesh Agreement are fully implemented, in accordance with the agreed timetables, and that the Organization is well placed to come to terms with the challenges that face it as the new millennium approaches.
The European Union fully agrees with the Director-General's insistence on the need for the WTO to pursue its work in the general framework of a political vision. For the European Union, this vision must encompass certain key elements.
The WTO must remain committed to further liberalization on the basis of generally accepted and strengthened rules. This is already given concrete expression in the commitments to further reviews and negotiations contained in different parts of the Marrakesh Agreement. The European Union looks forward to further practical expression of this commitment in the negotiations which are currently taking place aimed at further liberalization in the key sectors of information technology and telecommunications.
The WTO must ensure that trade liberalization benefits all its Members, in particular the least developed. The European Union attaches particular importance to the plan of action for the least-developed countries which the Conference is asked to endorse. In this respect, the Council of Ministers of the European Union has very recently adopted a further elaboration which will be circulated to you.
The WTO must continue to aim for universal membership of the Organization. The Conference should therefore indicate the priority that should be attached to the accession process for new members, who must demonstrate their willingness to comply fully with the WTO's rules and to provide appropriate and effective market access commitments.
The WTO must give concrete expression in its rules to the commitment to sustainable development contained in the preamble to the Marrakesh Agreement. The European Union is strongly of the opinion that the WTO must make further efforts to ensure that trade and environmental policies are mutually supportive.
The WTO must ensure that its rules are strictly applied so that regional integration is supportive of the multilateral system embodied in the WTO.
The WTO must also position itself to remain relevant to the new challenges presented by the process of globalization. In the view of the European Union, it is therefore essential that the WTO be willing to address, in an open spirit, the new issues which are relevant to the broader mandate given to it by the Marrakesh Agreement.
To be successful, the WTO must demonstrate its relevance to political leaders, to business and to consumers. As Ministers, we have a particular responsibility to get across to the public in each of our countries the contribution that trade liberalization has made, and should continue to make, to increasing living standards worldwide.
The message from Singapore must be one of confidence in this new Organization we have created. The progress that has been made in the past two years has been impressive, not least in the effective way that the Organization has contributed to resolving disputes.
As we look forward to the new millennium, we must ensure that the spirit of the Marrakesh Declaration is kept alive with its aspiration towards a progressively more open trading environment leading to increased trade, investment, employment and income growth throughout the world. The WTO can contribute to a better world for all, based on the pursuit through trade of the objective of sustainable development. It is my hope, and that of my European Union colleagues, that we will keep this vision before us as we discuss and negotiate over the coming week.
Finally might I end by recommending to all that we approach this meeting in the spirit of the shared values of the Singaporean people, who seek "Consensus, not Conflict".