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GENEVA WTO MINISTERIAL 1998: STATEMENT

CANADA
Statement Circulated by H.E. Mr. Jean Chretien, Prime Minister

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.

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CANADA
Statement Circulated by H.E. Mr. Jean Chretien,
Prime Minister

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 WTO.

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 life.

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 today's leaders.

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 trade.

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.

Today,

-    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 Canada.

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 their occurrence.

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 constituencies.

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 this support.

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.