The meeting is at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center

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Other ministerial meetings

Statement by Mike Moore, WTO Director-General, at President Bill Clinton's Lunch

1 December 1999

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Mr. President, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen: Mr. President, thank you for honouring us with your presence and thank you for sharing your team in the USTR and Geneva with us. Mr. President, I read how you think the WTO ought to have a human face. I've worked hard on this, but when I looked in the mirror this morning I felt a sense of failure. We have assembled here in Seattle the largest, most prepared number of Trade Ministers in history. From the most mighty nations to the most modest and vulnerable.

I can report to you, they come as proud representatives of sovereign nations, eager to participate seeking simply the gift of opportunity, a fair seat at the table. This is an historic moment. We both represent a generation that still stands in awe of the vision and the splendour and global generosity of our parents' generation. From the ruin, rubble and despair of a great conflict, made inevitable by mean-spirited treaties, by the pain of a great depression made deeper, darker, more lethal by protectionist policies, our parents decided to build an international architecture based on common and universal values – of the law, of co-operation and generous opportunity. They decided on the Marshall Plan, they created the UN, IMF, the World Bank and the GATT now the WTO. The last decade has seen their struggle finally won. Brave men and women tore down the Iron Curtain. Brave men and women in every continent endorsed by their sacrifices the now universal values of freedom. Nelson Mandela's smile ignited and lifted the spirits of men and women everywhere.

But I need to say that many of these freedom fighters are at our conference, now Ministers and advisers. With the walls down, who of us are prepared to say we shouldn't allow their products into our markets. By refusing a fair deal to the small and vulnerable, those locked out, the poorest countries, are we saying they struggled in vain? That they were wrong to believe in the ideals of political and economic freedom? These universal truths. This is what they would want me to say to you. We know that trade in itself is not enough. Your personal leadership has seen progress in debt issues. The heavy hand of history has its thumb on the windpipe of many of our Members. One of our Members pays up to nine times more in debt repayment than on public health.

There is this contradiction between good people in wealthy countries that on Sunday at Church give money to help out those who have suffered famine and flood, BUT on Monday sign a petition stopping the opportunity of workers in those same sad lands to sell what they create. Half of the world's population lives on under $2 per day. President Truman's Marshall Plan would pale into insignificance in terms of lifting living standards, providing hope and opportunity as compared to what you and we can do over the next few days. If we dismantle barriers we would increase world economic output by 3 per cent. A $1.2 trillion boost to the world economy and the poorest nations would gain the most. Non OECD nations would get a lift of nearly 4 per cent growth over the next decade. Mr. President, we are still faced with a solid wall of insurmountable opportunities. We will overcome. We will deliver here in Seattle a result that's fair, balanced. We can do something here, with your leadership. A result that we can be proud of, a result that will keep us warm in our old age.

Everyone here knows what technology and science can do to improve the condition of the sick, those who yearn to learn. Everyone believes in globalization – getting the best medical care from anywhere when their child is sick. When I was a child brought up in the bush, the greatest gift a working class father and mother could give their children was a copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica – it cost a worker a year's wages. Now, it's on the internet for free. Ministers assembled here want for their countries the best, the best the world has to offer. This is the chance to help build the new world. There are so many in this conference who also marched, protested, went to prison, fought, suffered.

The idealists sit in this conference. They share ideals based in good measure on those ideals that created your great nation. These men and women were chosen by their people, they must ask their Parliaments and Congresses to ratify what they agree. Mr. President, this conference is doomed, doomed to succeed. Failure is unthinkable. The status quo is not good enough. Because that was just yesterday's compromise. Our people can't wait, science and change won't wait. Mr. President they look to you for leadership, and I know I can report back to them that as always America and you are providing that leadership.