General Council Meeting
Geneva, December 8, 2000
Statement by H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus President of the Republic of Lithuania
On the occasion of Lithuania's accession to the World Trade Organization
Distinguished Representatives of Member States,
It is my great pleasure to welcome the results of the General Councils voting. Today is a historic day for Lithuania who, after a complex, intensive, and often difficult work completed membership negotiations with the World Trade Organization.
Lithuania was not a party to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. We had lost the pace due to the legacies imposed on us by the history of occupation. Therefore accession to the World Trade Organization is one of the crucial steps toward my countrys full reintegration into the world economy. Just like the European and Euro-Atlantic membership is vital to my countrys security and well being.
Today the WTO has become an instrument capable of effectively regulating international trade and streamlining its development. The fundamental principles of the WTO have encouraged further liberalization of the world markets and allowed the creation of a stable, effective, and transparent global trade system.
My country is strongly committed to participate in the international economy and multilateral trade. Lithuania is an open economy wherein trade accounts for 80 percent of the GDP. Being part of the World Trade Organization will secure and consolidate my countrys due place in the global network of economic interdependence.
WTO membership provides us with more reliable, transparent, and predictable rules and regulations, which in turn represent better guarantees for domestic and foreign investors. Membership should also facilitate access to international financial markets.
Lithuania is finalizing its accession in the post-Seattle period. We understand that this is far from easy period for the Organization. Worldwide integration of economies raises more and more concerns. We sometimes hear that globalization is to be blamed for contemporary evils, such as poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation. Such an approach has pooled the opposition against the efforts to further liberalize global trade and promote investments by launching another round of multilateral trade negotiations under WTO leadership.
It is true that globalization necessitates adjustments that might be difficult to accept for those on the margins of the global community. However, expanding international trade and increasing openness of national markets has consistently generated wealth and economic growth. As a result, open economies have enjoyed higher social standards. Open economy policies were instrumental in reducing poverty, raising employment, and improving conditions for public health and education.
Therefore we welcome the efforts of the member states, the Director General and Chairman of the General Council to rebuild confidence in the World Trade Organization.
Significant success has already been achieved. The best evidence of it is the launching of negotiations on agriculture and services, the establishment of a mechanism for a more efficient implementation of the Uruguay Round commitments, and the on-going efforts to ensure transparency and effective participation of all its members in the work of the Organization.
The success of these undertakings should encourage a new round of multilateral trade negotiations, which, I am convinced, will deliver benefits to all nations and the global economy. Lithuania joins the Organization, which has contributed greatly to the upturn of the global economy, and, I am convinced, will continue to do so in the future.
From the national perspective, I believe that WTO membership will further promote economic and legal reforms in Lithuania. The accession process has already played a significant part in shaping our trade regime and environment for foreign investments. Now the Government is encouraged to further eliminate the remaining barriers to trade and increase competition under bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Discussions in my country about the advantages of WTO membership have also inspired us to examine thoroughly the best practices of the world trade system and integrate them into our legal environment.
We value todays voting in the General Council as an acknowledgement of the progress achieved by Lithuania during its decade of independence. By its vote the General Council has endorsed the wide range of our legal and institutional reforms and has accepted Lithuania as a reliable and attractive trading partner.
Let me conclude by reassuring you that Lithuania is committed to further pursue the principles of liberal trade, as only they can bring the best output for all of us. I am convinced that membership in a transparent and rule-governed World Trade Organization will guarantee equal treatment of all nations in the complex system of international trade and, more importantly, it will provide us with the optimum outcome for our people.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.