I have the honour to
present to you today the report of the General Council on the work of the WTO since the
Ministerial Conference in Singapore. Much work has been undertaken and accomplished in the
36 standing bodies of the organisation and the 31 working parties created to negotiate the
accession of new members. Much remains to be done. I am proud to have had the opportunity
to work with so many outstanding representatives of all your countries in this important
activity. The work now required of delegates to the WTO is very demanding and important.
Nearly one quarter of all the goods and services produced in the world are sold in
international markets - within the framework of rules anchored in the WTO.
I would like
to pay tribute to our Director General, Renato Ruggiero. he is a tireless and outstanding
advocate of the WTO. He has carried far and wide the banner of trade liberalisation.
As governments confront the challenges of an increasingly interdependent international
economy, he has stressed the value of a trading system based on rules. Much of the
early success of the organisation is due to his leadership and energy. He has played a key
role in preparing for this ministerial conference, including in particular in the
consultations to prepare the draft declaration for consideration by ministers. Indeed, it
is a rare event in this organization to have been able to agree on a text of a draft
declaration to put forward for consideration by ministers. This should allow all members
to make full use of the working sessions of this Ministerial Conference to exchange views
on the important issues on the WTO agenda. Your deliberations will give us guidance as we
carry forward the work program which you will establish.
I would like
to emphasize the importance of maintaining the right balance in the WTO between the role
of permanent representatives and delegations on the one hand, and the role of the
director general and the secretariat on the other. The WTO is a member driven
organisation, housing a trade agreement setting out rights and obligations governing the
trade relationships of the members. Active members are essential for the WTO's success.
but the WTO members also look to the Director General and the Secretariat, to provide
leadership, assistance and advice. the power of decision must always rest with the
members, but the organisation needs a secretariat which offers ideas on how to
create possible solutions to the many challenges we face.
arrangements made to prepare for this conference, involving close cooperation between the
Director General and me, as the chair of the General Council - in a sense the
representative of the members for this year - have struck a good balance. I believe they
could serve as a useful model for the future.
I am also
very pleased to note that the general council has finally taken a decision intended to
establish, on January 1, 1999, an independent WTO secretariat which will replace the
interim arrangements which have been in effect for over 50 years. I urge all members
to cooperate expeditiously in the necessary supportive technical work, to ensure the
decision is fully effective.
I wish you
success in your important deliberations here this week.