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General Council, 12 September 2002

Statement by the Chairman to the General Council

Mr. Director-General let me welcome you and all of our good friends to this brief informal meeting of the General Council. This is one of the rare General Council meetings where I can confidently can announce a complete consensus before even hearing any of my colleagues.

And that is because it is a consensus to wish our new Director-General, Dr. Supachai, a warm and hearty welcome as he begins his term. I know that I speak for the entire membership, including our observers, in wishing him every success in his challenging and most important task ahead.

In this regard, I would also, at the same time, like to ask for colleagues understanding in using our very limited time this morning to the best advantage. I know that all delegations would like to intervene and warmly welcome Dr. Supachai. However, it would be my plan that, besides the Director-General, I would recognize brief statements from the delegation of Indonesia on behalf of ASEAN, and in a wider sense developing countries; the delegation of Zambia on behalf of least-developed countries, and finally the delegation of New Zealand on behalf of developed countries. In this way, if you agree, it will give our Director-General the opportunity to mingle with more of you after the meeting outside where coffee and tea has been generously arranged.

Mr. Director-General, while it is still early days, I do hope that you have the sense of just having joined a family. This is indeed a close-knit community, united by the fact that we spend more time with each other than we do with our real families, as well as by the fact that we often talk about things that are absolutely incomprehensible to anyone else.

Like any family, from time to time, we do have our differences. In fact these are what make the headlines, and no doubt they will require your attention and good care.

But also like a family, the things that unite us all are much more numerous and much more important than our differences. Ultimately, we are all united in our commitment to defending and promoting the WTO system, and the need to ensure that it works for the benefit of all its Members.

We have all been impressed by the deep thought and careful preparation that you have done before taking up your appointment. There is an old saying that time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted, and you have therefore invested your time wisely. All of us will face a rather challenging year ahead to the Canc˙n Ministerial, and beyond that to the deadline for completing the negotiations that together we launched in Doha. It adds greatly to our confidence to know that we have someone of your experience with us as Director-General but also as Chairman of the TNC. We will therefor be all relying on you, and you in turn, can count on our support and our assistance in your tasks. After all, we are all in this great adventure together.

Let me now give you the opportunity to take the floor and speak to the delegations for the first time in your capacity as our Director-General.