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GENEVA WTO MINISTERIAL 1998: STATEMENT

Notes for statement by Chairman  of the Genera Council Monday, May 18, 1998 -  Ministerial Conference, Geneva

“Mr Chairman, Ministers, Delegates; 

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...”

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Mr Chairman, Ministers, Delegates; 

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. 

The 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. 

Thank you.