Statement by H.E. Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the Council of Ministers
One of the most important acts of the democratic
Italy that emerged from the catastrophe of the Second World War was the signature, in the
autumn of 1947, of the Havana Charter.
Participation in the new multilateral system that
was taking shape in those years was decisive for the reconstruction and the future
prosperity of Italy. This choice was based on the political conviction that the creation
of a multilateral trade system was fundamental, as its inventors conceived it, to an
international architecture of peace. We were certain also that trade liberalization would
favour Italian economic growth.
A few years later Italy gave a decisive contribution
to the process leading to the European integration. The process embarked upon in the
aftermath of war has led to the creation of a single market and now of a single currency,
with the ambition of accomplishing political integration in the future. In the World Trade
Organization, the European Community now speaks daily with a single voice.
I am grateful to President Santer and Prime Minister
Blair, President in exercise of the European Council, for their participation at today's
celebrations. Their presence here carries the message of a Europe profoundly convinced of
the fundamental importance of the world trade system.
From the Italian and European standpoint, these two
processes - the development of a multilateral system and that of regional integration -
have never been at conflict: their parallel advance represents an opportunity for global
growth. At the moment of the birth of the euro, which required a strenuous effort on the
part of our countries and as we embark upon a new enlargement of the European Union to
truly continental scale, I feel it especially important to underscore our hearty
endorsement of the view that regional integration can and must help to strengthen the
multilateral world trade system and to enhance world prosperity.
There is much talk these days of the
proliferation of regional agreements, no longer in Europe alone. Examining all
these pacts, we find that within not so many years nearly all the world's regions and
countries will be linked by agreements or will have already realized customs unions or
free-trade areas. By that time we will be nearing the "global single market",
provided these developments are channelled and harmonized within a multilateral system,
not set one against another in a revived and enlarged version of economic nationalism
carried to the macro-regional scale. A further step has to be taken shortly, with the
round of talks opening in 2000, and with admission to WTO of the countries which for
various reasons have so far remained outside.
The philosophy of the founders of the multilateral
system was the building of a world order of peace, prosperity and freedom. Today we must
carry on their legacy by taking full account of the political and human dimension
alongside the advance of technology, the spread of knowledge, the expansion of investment;
in a word, the great transformation that we call globalization.
We need to strengthen and renovate the foundations
of the current international system, leaving intact the fundamental, universal purposes we
have always sought to serve. In order to achieve this goal we must take in due
consideration the exigencies of social solidarity. The outcome of the present effort will
depend on our ability to renew the "founding pact" of half a century ago. The
challenge raises four main problems: first, the cultural, social and environmental
concerns of a substantial part of the population, especially the least protected strata;
second, the need to foster economic development in the disadvantaged areas of the world
and to respond to the plague of poverty; third, the changing of the concept of national
sovereignty in a time of increasing integration but also of resurgent nationalisms
(especially in regions in crisis) and processes of fragmentation; finally, the promotion
and governance of technological progress.
Italy, so close to many developing countries and
countries in transition, is particularly aware of the human dimension of globalization. We
must see how social, environmental and cultural concerns can be integrated into the
multilateral system, enhancing the consistency of international cooperation and promoting
the integration of the developing countries in the global economic system. Satisfactory
results require setting in motion mechanisms of endogenous, self-sustained growth.
Italy has already adopted national measures to
protect children against abuse and would welcome an enhanced cooperation between WTO and
As to the impact of globalization on the exercise of
national sovereignty, for a country like Italy which is part of a well advanced process of
continental integration, the answer appears simple: integration pays. For that matter, it
is universally agreed that global problems demand global responses and global rules. As we
advance further in the shaping of the multilateral rules that we need to govern
globalization, we cannot fail to take this aspect into account and therefore to stimulate
the participation of society and social institutions in the process.
Turning to the new technologies, I note that the WTO
is dealing just now with electronic trade. This is a perfect example of what needs to be
done, in other fora and on other questions biotechnologies, for instance - to foster the
development and spread of technology and prevent it from becoming an area of conflict
rather than a new source of correct competition. This constructive approach is the only
way to foster the spread of knowledge, so responding to the fears that are inevitably
provoked by change.
These questions have been dealt with for years now
in a variety of institutional settings; however much still remains to be done. The WTO is
a crucial forum for working out solutions though, given its limits of action, it should
not be overburdened. The organization is charged with the critical, difficult task of
ensuring the development and the functioning of the international trade system. And these
tasks are being accomplished in a fully satisfactory way.
I fully agree with those in the political and
academic communities who talk about a time-frame of 20 to 25 years for completing the
rules of the global market on the basis of the renewed founding pact.
Italy, within the European Union, is prepared to do
fully its part: the Italian contribution will not be limited to the institutional aspects
but involves also the businessmen, managers, technicians and workers who have produced
decades of economic growth and development.
Concluding, I would like to express my conviction
that WTO, under the impulse given by the Director-General Renato Ruggiero, to whom we
express our truly thanks for his remarkable activity, has played and will continue to play
a crucial role to spread multilateral trade as a precondition for a wealthier and freer