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GENEVA WTO MINISTERIAL 1998: STATEMENT

JAPAN
Statement Circulated by His Excellency Mr. Ryutaro Hashimoto, Prime Minister

I would first like to proffer my congratulations on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the bedrock of the multilateral trading system.

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JAPAN
Statement Circulated by His Excellency Mr. Ryutaro Hashimoto, Prime Minister

I would first like to proffer my congratulations on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the bedrock of the multilateral trading system.

This system has enabled an unprecedented expansion and development of world trade, laying down a foundation for peace in the international community which is increasingly interdependent through trade and investment. GATT has been enhanced, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides not only a forum for multilateral liberalization and rule-making, but also a unique, advanced mechanism for a fair and objective resolution of trade issues. I am particularly appreciative of the value of such a system, having personally experienced, as Minister of International Trade and Industry, negotiations conducted under politically tense conditions, such as the Japan-United States auto negotiations.

There is, however, no room for complacency. The world economy today is faced with a challenge triggered by the economic crisis in Asia. Japan firmly believes in the recovery of those Asian economies which have been making earnest efforts to overcome their difficulties and is determined to extend maximum assistance to these countries. Trade and investment liberalization has played a crucial role in the development of Asian economies. Likewise, appropriate economic structural reforms and further liberalization under the multilateral trading system will be important in ensuring a return to steady economic growth. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to Members to declare their resolve to resist protectionist tendencies and to continue to keep their markets open.

The multilateral trading system should evolve dynamically so that it continues to provide a foundation for the world economy. It is our responsibility to pass on the WTO system, which is the fruit of the diligent efforts of our predecessors, to future generations in a stronger and more developed form. We must, therefore, give serious thought as to how we pursue the process of further liberalization under the WTO system from the year 2000. Japan supports the idea of comprehensive negotiations for trade liberalization, including industrial tariffs, rules on investment and other new areas, in addition to the "built-in agenda" as a result of the Uruguay Round. Japan sincerely hopes that broad dialogue among Members will lead to an appropriate decision at the Ministerial Conference in 1999.

We should actively engage ourselves in addressing new items, such as environment, which have emerged as a result of the globalization of the international economy. In addition, we must address the questions as to how developing nations can adequately benefit form the WTO system, as well as how we can ensure the primacy of the multilateral system vis-Ó-vis regional arrangements, which are currently on the increase.

Japan is pushing forward a number of reforms to transform its social and economic system towards being more open and market-oriented and thus more adapted to the 21st century. Moreover, the Government of Japan has recently compiled a large-scale economic package, which we believe will enable Japan to recover from the current economic difficulties and will contribute to the stable growth of the Asian economies, as well as to the further development of world economy.

It is much to my regret that I cannot attend the 50th Anniversary Meeting due to the Diet deliberations indispensable for an early implementation of this economic package. Indeed, I would like to reaffirm unequivocally Japan's strong commitment to the multilateral trading system and its determination to continue to make the utmost efforts in this respect.

To close, I would like to pay my respects to the Government of the Swiss Confederation and to the WTO Secretariat, led by the Director-General Ruggiero, for their dedicated efforts to make this auspicious occasion a great success. I am certain that this Meeting will mark an important step towards strengthening further the multilateral trading system.