Statement Circulated by H.E. Mr. Jean Chretien,
Last weekend, when the leaders of eight major
industrialized nations, together with the President of the European Commission (EC), met
to exchange views on a range of global issues, we took special note of the 50th
Anniversary commemoration this week of the establishment of the world trading system.
While I deeply regret that the heavy schedule of my
European trip does not permit me to include a stop in Geneva, I am with you in spirit as
you celebrate this momentous anniversary. I am convinced that it is important for the
world's leaders to be engaged with the work of the international trading system,
particularly on this milestone anniversary, and to lend their support in setting the
direction and purpose of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
And permit me to extend my compliments and
congratulations to the Director-General, Renato Ruggiero, for the leadership and
dedication which he has displayed in working on behalf of all of us at the helm of the
In reflecting on the significance of this
anniversary, I am reminded of the vision our forebears expressed in the Charter of the
United Nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith
in fundamental human rights, to establish conditions for justice and respect for the
obligations of international law, and to promote social progress and better standards of
In establishing the Bretton Woods institutions, past
leaders have given us the international machinery for the social and economic advancement
of all peoples.
I see it, therefore, as particularly fitting that
the trading system's roots are found in the Palais des Nations, an edifice dedicated to
the building of peace, respect for human rights, economic prosperity and the enhancement
of relations between nations. The reinforcement of these ideals remains the challenge for
The purpose of this week's meeting is twofold:
- To acknowledge the
contribution made over the years by the rules-based trading system to increasing the
standard of living of our citizens; and
- to express our commitment
to a stronger WTO as the centrepiece of this trading system.
We Canadians have benefited substantially from
Canada was an original signatory to the GATT in 1947
and to the WTO in 1994. We are partners in the most comprehensive free trade agreement
ever negotiated, together with the United States and Mexico. In the past few years,
we have concluded free trade agreements with Israel and Chile. The combined results of
these efforts have been impressive. Since 1950, Canada's exports and imports have
increased almost 80-fold.
- One Canadian job in three
is tied to trade;
- 40 per cent of our GDP is
derived from exports; and
- our annual exports of goods
and services continue to reach new record levels.
At the time when the GATT was negotiated, not more
than 7 per cent of global economic activity was based on trade. Today, it accounts for
more than 22 per cent of a much larger world economy, and much more for countries such as
This tripling of the role of trade tells us two
things: first, nations are becoming increasingly interdependent in their economic
relations. Second, our work here is not finished. There is still room for growth.
This interdependence of nations enhances our
prospects for sustainable development. But it also means we have collective ownership of
the trading system and responsibility for it. This has been brought home to us sharply
over the past year by the economic developments in Asia. While the burden of these events
will weigh most heavily on the citizens of our Asian partners, we are all affected by
That is why, in Birmingham, we called on all nations
of the world to resolve to keep their markets open. This requires a strong commitment to
the multilateral trading system.
Clearly, the WTO has not stood still. Since our
trade ministers signed the Agreement creating it in 1994, the WTO has achieved additional
impressive results in liberalizing trade in information technology products,
telecommunications services and financial services. And in the world of tomorrow, we will
need the kind of leadership that has brought us the accomplishments of today. I wish to
assure you that Canada intends to play its part.
My Government has also not stood still. In Canada,
we are continuing to pursue opportunities to liberalize trade and investment.
On a regional basis, we are active partners with 33
other countries in launching the negotiation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA);
we are engaged in voluntary efforts with the 17 other members of APEC (the Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation forum) to liberalize trade; last week in London, we agreed with our
European Union (EU) friends to prepare options and recommendations to improve broad
cross-Atlantic links; and next week we will meet with the countries of EFTA (the European
Free Trade Association) to explore the scope of a free trade agreement. We are also
negotiating economic cooperation agreements with countries in Africa.
Most important, we have been working in Geneva with
other trading partners, large and small, to ensure that past agreements are fully
implemented and that regional arrangements foster a strengthening of the WTO. Canada sees
a compatibility and complementarity of regional trade initiatives with the work of the
WTO. As we have seen, the one reinforces and defines the other.
I view our task for the future as harnessing these
efforts into a consolidated set of global rules under the WTO - rules that must have more
universal application. This will not be an easy task but it is worth the effort.
As we work to strengthen the WTO and look to trade
to provide more world growth, we will want to ensure that both the expectations and
concerns of our citizens are met.
Canadians, like others, recognize that the
international trading system is one of the pillars of global development, cooperation,
peace and international security - the legacies of the Palais des Nations.
But Canadians, like their fellow citizens in other
countries, also have legitimate anxieties about the effect on their lives of the
quick-paced globalization of the world economy and rapidly expanding technological change.
Concerns about sovereignty, the integrity of social policies, protecting the environment,
maintaining national identity and better sharing of the benefits of trade resonate as much
in Canada as elsewhere.
In my view, these concerns must be addressed. One of
the major challenges facing the global trading system will be to ensure wider public
participation in a consultative process to make our endeavours more understandable and
digestible. As we move forward with our agenda, the WTO has an important role to play in
developing increased confidence and support for its work among our different global
Despite the anxieties about the effects of
globalization, I am convinced that a more integrated and engaged world is far better than
the world of the 1940s, which led to the establishment of the UN Charter and the
Bretton Woods institutions. It is far better than the old Cold War world of isolation and
belligerence, where we were pointing missiles at each other. Now we are pointing trade
missions and reaping the benefits of economic cooperation.
My Government is committed to consulting with
Canadians to define our national priorities for the trading system. We look forward to
sharing our perspectives with Members of the WTO as we face the trade policy challenges of
the next century.
Trade and investment liberalization is increasingly
a necessity rather than an option in this interdependent world. But this is possible only
with the support of our people and with economic, social and cultural policies that garner
Canada's goal - like that of many of you attending
this celebration today - will be to continue to harness the energy of liberalization and
global economic integration for our collective benefit.
This means embracing change and openness while
preserving what makes us distinct. It means providing the right government policies and
exercising sovereignty in support of open markets. And it means ensuring that the benefits
of trade are more equally distributed - among nations and among our peoples - in keeping
with the visions of our forebears.
In 50 years, we have come a long way. But there is
more to be done.