Statement by H.E. Mr. William J. Clinton, President
Near the end of World War II, as leaders and
ordinary citizens began to dream of a system that would prevent a return to war, President
Franklin Roosevelt asked the people of the United States, and the world, to look ahead to
peace. He said that a basic essential to permanent peace is a decent standard
of living for all individual men and women and children in all nations.
Freedom from fear is eternally linked with freedom from
And so, at mid-century, a farsighted generation of
leaders acted on the bitter lessons of protectionism, devastating depression and
war. They embraced the revolutionary idea that freedom -free democracies, free
markets, the free flow of ideas, the free movement of people -- would be the surest route
to the greatest prosperity for all. They were confident that growing economic
interdependence would lead to greater peace among nations. And the economic
alliances and institutions they created - the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT - built a
platform for prosperity that has lasted to this day.
In the fullness of time, they have been proven
spectacularly right. World trade has increased fifteenfold. A trading
community that began with 23 member nations now embraces 132 economies, and 31 more are
working to join. Russia and China, where the shackles of state socialism once choked
off enterprise, are moving to join the thriving community of free economies. Trade
is creating prosperity among the nations of the Americas and offers hope to emerging
economies in Africa.
Now, on the edge of a new millennium, we are
creating a new economy: driven by technology, powered by ingenuity, drawing us
closer. On any given day, over three million people take to the air on commercial
flights. Three decades ago, phone lines could only accommodate 80 calls at one time
between Europe and the United States; today they can handle 1 million. In the
United States, economic output has tripled, while the physical weight of the goods
produced has barely changed. The world's new wealth largely comes from the power of
This dynamic, idea-based new global economy offers
the possibility of lifting billions of people into a worldwide middle class. Yet it also
contains within it the seeds of new disruptions, new instabilities, new inequalities, new
threats to the global economy. The challenge of the millennial generation therefore
is to create a world trading system attuned to the pace and scope of the new global
economy, one that offers opportunity for all our people, and one that meets the profound
environmental challenges we share.
We took the first, vital step when we created the
World Trade Organization in 1995 -- a goal that had eluded our predecessors for nearly
half a century. The Uruguay Round that founded the WTO amounted to the biggest tax
cut in world history -- $76 billion a year when fully implemented. And in just four
years, world trade is up 25 per cent.
Since 1995, we have begun to build the
infrastructure for the new economy, with historic Agreements on Information Technology,
Telecommunications, and Financial Services affecting trillions in global commerce each
At the G-8 Summit just concluded in Birmingham, the
leaders worked on ideas to strengthen the international financial architecture so that
private capital markets can spur rapid growth while minimizing the risk of worldwide
Now, we must build on these achievements with a new
vision of trade, to build a modern WTO ready for the 21st Century.
First, we must pursue an ever-more-open global
Today, let me state unequivocally that America is
committed to open trade among all nations. Economic freedom and open trade have
brought unprecedented prosperity in the 20th Century -- they will widen the circle of
opportunity in the 21st Century. In my own country, one third of the strong economic
growth we have enjoyed these past five years was generated by exports. For every
country engaged in trade, open markets dramatically widen the base of possible customers
for our goods and services. We must press forward. Redoubling our efforts to
tear down barriers to trade will spur growth in all our countries. It will create
good jobs and boost incomes. It will bring new opportunities for our people.
And it will advance the free flow of ideas, information and people that are the lifeblood
of democracy and prosperity.
Globalization is not a policy choice - it is a
fact. But all of us face a choice. We can work to shape these powerful forces
of change to the benefit of our people. Or we can retreat behind walls of protection
-- and get left behind in the global economy. At a moment when, for the first time
in human history, a majority of the world's people live under governments of their own
choosing ... when the argument over which is better - free enterprise or state socialism -
has been won ... when people on every continent seek to join the free market system, those
of us who have benefited from that system and led it cannot turn our backs. For my
part, I am determined to pursue an aggressive market opening strategy in every region of
the world. And I will continue to work with members of both parties in the Congress
of the United States to secure fast-track negotiating authority.
Second, we must recognize that in the new economy,
the way we conduct trade affects the lives and livelihoods, the health and the safety of
families around the world.
We must build a trading system for the 21st Century
that honours our values as it expands opportunity. We must do more to make sure that
this new economy lifts living standards around the world, and that spirited economic
competition among nations never becomes a race to the bottom in environmental protections,
consumer protections and labour standards. We should level up, not level down.
Without such a strategy, we cannot build the necessary public support for the global
economy. Working people will only assume the risks of a free international market if
they have the confidence that this system will work for them.
The WTO was created to lift the lives of ordinary
citizens; it should listen to them. I propose the WTO, for the first time,
provide a forum where business, labour, environmental and consumer groups can speak out
and help guide the further evolution of the WTO. When this body convenes
again, I believe that the world's trade ministers should sit down with representatives of
the broad public to begin this discussion.
Third, we must do more to harmonize our goal of
increasing trade with our goal of improving the environment and working conditions.
Enhanced trade can and should enhance -- not
undercut -- the protection of the environment. Indeed, the WTO Agreement in its
preamble explicitly adopts sustainable development as an objective of open trade,
including a commitment to preserve the environment and to increase the capacity of doing
so. Therefore, international trade rules must permit sovereign nations to exercise
their right to set protective standards for health, safety and the environment and
biodiversity. Nations have a right to pursue those protections -- even when they are
stronger than international norms. I am asking that a high-level meeting be
convened, to bring together trade and environmental ministers, to provide strong direction
and new energy to the WTO's environmental efforts in the years to come, as has been
suggested by the European Commission.
Likewise, the WTO and the International Labour
Organization should commit to work together, to make certain that open trade lifts living
conditions, and respects the core labour standards that are essential not only to workers
rights, but to human rights everywhere. I ask the two organizations' Secretariats to
convene at a high level to discuss these issues. This weekend, G-8 leaders voiced
support for the ILO's adoption of a new declaration and a meaningful follow-up mechanism
on core labour standards when the ILO Ministers meet next month in Geneva. I hope
you will add your support. We must work hard to ensure the ILO is a vibrant
institution. Today, I transmitted to the Senate for ratification the ILO Convention
aimed at eliminating discrimination in the workplace.
Each of us, in our own nations, must do everything
we can to give all our people the education and training to make the most of their
lives. Because the new economy is based on ideas, information and technology, the
return to education has never been higher and the lost opportunity from being without
skills has never been greater. These trends cannot be reversed. Our goal must
be to help more people benefit from the possibilities of the new economy even as we ensure
that the forces of technology and new trade patterns do not aggravate inequality or
reinforce poor labour conditions.
Fourth, we must modernize the WTO by opening its
doors to the scrutiny and participation of the public.
We have learned, through long trial and error, that
governments work best when their operations are open to those who are affected by their
actions - that, as American Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said,
sunshine is the best of disinfectants.
The WTO should take every feasible step to bring
openness and accountability to its operations.
Today, when one nation challenges the trade
practices of another, the proceeding takes place behind closed doors. I propose that
all hearings by the WTO be open to the public, and all briefs by the parties be made
publicly available. To achieve this end, we must change the rules of this
organization. But each of us can do our part - now. The United States today
formally offers to open up every panel that we are a party to - and I challenge every
other nation to join us in making this happen.
Today, there is no mechanism for private citizens to
provide input in these trade disputes. I propose that the WTO provide the
opportunity for stakeholders to convey their views, such as the ability to file
amicus briefs, to help inform the panels in their deliberations.
Today, the public must wait weeks to read the
reports of these panels. I propose that the decisions of these trade panels be made
available to the public as soon as they are issued.
Fifth, we must have a trading system that taps the
full potential of the Information Age.
The information technology revolution is the
greatest force for prosperity in our lifetimes. The Internet is the fastest growing
social and economic community in history - a phenomenon with unimagined, revolutionary
potential to empower billions of people around the world. It has been called the
death of distance, making it possible for people to work together across
oceans as if they were working down the hall. Four years ago, there were less than
three million people with access to the Internet. Today, there are over 100 million
people, and the number is doubling every year.
Today, there are no customs duties on telephone
calls, fax messages, e-mail, or computer data links when they cross the border. We
have spent 50 years tearing down barriers to trade in goods and services. Now, let's
agree that when it comes to electronic commerce, we will never erect these barriers in the
I ask the nations of the world to join the United
States in a standstill on any tariffs to electronic transmissions sent across
borders. We cannot allow discriminatory barriers to stunt the development of the
most promising new economic opportunity in decades. Earlier today, at the Summit
with the EU, we agreed to deepen our collaboration in this area. And last week, Prime
Minister Hashimoto and I agreed to move forward together, with a market-oriented private-
sector-led approach to enhance privacy, protect intellectual property, and encourage the
free flow of information and commerce on the Internet. I hope we can build a
consensus that this is the best way to harness the remarkable potential of this new means
Sixth, a trading system for the 21st Century must be
comprised of governments that are open, honest, and fair in their practices.
In an era of global financial markets, prosperity
depends upon government practices that are based on the rule of law instead of
bureaucratic caprice, cronyism, or corruption. Investors demand it and their loss of
confidence can have sudden, swift and severe effects, with ripples throughout regional
With its insistence on rules that are fair and open,
the WTO plays a powerful role toward open and accountable government -- but the WTO has
not done enough. By next year, all Members of the WTO should agree that government
purchases should be made through open and fair bidding. This single reform could
open up $3 trillion of business to competition around the world. And I ask every
nation in the world to adopt the anti-bribery convention developed by the OECD. Both
these steps would promote investor confidence and stability.
Finally, we must develop an open global trading
system that moves as fast as the marketplace.
In an era in which product life-cycles are measured
in months, and information and money move around the globe in seconds, we can no longer
afford to take seven years to finish a trade round, as happened during the Uruguay Round,
or let decades pass between identifying and acting on a trade barrier. In the
meantime, new industries arise, new trading blocs take shape, and governments invent new
trade barriers every day.
We should explore what new type of trade negotiating
round is best suited to the new economy. We should explore whether there is a way to
tear down barriers without waiting for every issue in every sector to be resolved before
any issue in any sector is resolved. We should do this in a way that is fair and
balanced, that takes into account the needs of nations large and small, rich and
poor. But I am confident we can go about the task of negotiating trade agreements in
a way that is faster and better than today.
Agriculture, for example, is at the heart of
America's economy and many of yours -- and tearing down barriers to global trade is
critical to meet the food needs of a growing world population. Starting next year,
we should aggressively begin negotiations to reduce tariffs, subsidies, and other
distortions that restrict productivity in agriculture. We must develop rules, rooted
in science that will encourage the full fruits of biotechnology. And I propose that
even before negotiations near conclusion, WTO Members should pledge to continue making
annual tariff and subsidy reductions -- ensuring that there is no pause in reform.
We must recognize that the fastest growing industry
in the world is services -- and the one least disciplined by WTO rules. So when
services negotiations are launched, I believe it is essential that we engage in
wide-ranging discussions to ensure openness for dynamic service sectors, such as express
delivery, environmental, energy, audio-visual, and professional services.
We must continue our strong momentum to further
dismantle industrial tariffs. A good place to start would be an agreement on the
sectors - from chemicals to environmental technology - -proposed by APEC. And we
must move forward on strengthening intellectual property protection.
A trading system that honours our values. A
WTO that is open and accountable. A trading system in sync with the Information
Age. A commitment to combating corruption. A new approach to trade
talks. To move forward with this agenda - I am inviting the Trade Ministers of the
world to hold their next meeting in the United States in 1999.
Think about the opportunity that has been presented
to us; the chance to create a new international economy ... in which open markets
and open economies spark undreamed of innovation and prosperity ... in which the skills of
ordinary citizens power the prosperity of nations ... in which the global economy honours
those same values that guide families in raising children and nations in developing good
citizens ... in which poor people find opportunity, dignity and a decent life and
contribute to prosperity ... in which increasing interdependence among nations enhances
peace and security for all. This will be the world of the 21st Century - if we have
the wisdom and determination, the courage and clarity, of our forbears a half century ago.