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.