24 January 2003

The World Trade Organization: To Cancún and Beyond


I am very pleased to be here in Washington to speak to members of these two important organizations.

The Canadian American Business Council is widely recognized as the leading voice of the Canadian-American business community. Your support for freer trade is highly appreciated on both sides of the border. The Council for Services Industries’ work to open opportunities for services exports has benefited companies and employees in the US and around the world since the Council was formed back in 1982 - in the dark days before your work helped ensure services trade was liberalized and governed by global rules.

I have been asked to offer my perspective on the current round of global trade negotiations, which resemble a complex, multi-dimensional chess game, played by trade ministers and negotiators from across the globe.

As Chair of the WTO’s General Council, a committee of 144 Ambassadors, I know some pundits believe the old adage that “A committee is a cul-de-sac into which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.”

But I remain convinced that our effort to build on the past eight trade rounds — by further liberalizing multilateral trade, by opening up markets, by breaking down protectionist barriers around the world, and by legislating new global trade rules to keep up to economic and technological changes — will, in the end, succeed.

That is why I am confident WTO Members will prove the great Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan was right, when he once said “there are no more great men; there are only great committees”.

Seriously, I believe our aspirations can be achieved -- the stakes are high, but the potential benefits for all are simply too great to pass up.

The US, Canada and the WTO

As a Canadian, I know how indispensable trade is to my nation’s economic life. More than 45% of everything Canadians produce is exported, and exports support one in three jobs nationally. Thanks particularly to NAFTA, Canada’s trading relationship with the US is the largest in the world. More than 1.2 billion US dollars in trade crosses the Canada/US border every single day. Trade outside North America — including with the EU, Japan and emerging markets in the developing world — is also crucial to Canada’s economic health.

Of course, like Canada, the US has much to gain from trade and the global economy. After all, the US is already the world’s largest trader, with significant and diversified economic interests across all regions of the world.

For both Canada and the United States, our best guarantee for access and fair play in the global marketplace is through clear and predictable international rules. It is precisely the WTO that brings the family of nations together to negotiate and implement those rules, as well as to arbitrate independently when trade disputes between nations arise.

But the WTO does more than that. Canada’s destiny, and that of the US, is inextricably linked to the destiny of the rest of the world, for better or for worse. No one in our two countries will enjoy prosperity for long if the rest of the world is not stable and peaceful.

In this regard, I strongly believe that liberalizing trade liberalizes opportunities. Freer trade effectively liberalizes people, allowing them to harness their creative energies, which in turn strengthens the liberty, stability and prosperity of our international community.

In this spirit, let me offer some thoughts on what the prospects are for the WTO trade negotiations, and why it is so crucial that the US, Canada and other leading trading nations work to make these global trade talks a success.

Doha and the US

The WTO Ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar just over a year ago was a pivotal turning point. Trade ministers from 142 countries pushed aside the legacy of Seattle, overcame the horrific shock of September 11, and launched an ambitious new round of global trade negotiations.

Ambassador Zoellick played a crucial role and helped reclaim for the US the mantle of global trade leadership that was tarnished in Seattle. If the Doha Ministerial had been a movie, Zoellick would have been the leading man! He also capitalized on his close relationship with European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, and together with Canadian Trade Ministers Pierre Pettigrew and colleagues from around the world, helped forge an international consensus.

Doha will be remembered for at least three major accomplishments.

The Negotiating Agenda

First, it approved a broad negotiating agenda including:

  • the liberalization of goods and services trade;
  • significant agricultural reform;
  • clearer rules on anti-dumping, subsidies & countervailing measures;
  • some intellectual property and trade and environment issues; and,
  • reform of the dispute settlement system.

Doha also paved the way for possible future negotiations on global rules for such areas as investment and competition policy.

The breadth and depth of our negotiating mandate means the Doha round holds the prospect of substantial economic benefits for all WTO Members.

Take agriculture, for example. Trade ministers made history when they agreed to the eventual phasing out of agricultural export subsidies.

The total support provided to agriculture in wealthy OECD countries is close to 1 billion US dollars every day. That figure is about two-thirds of Africa’s total GDP, and more than four times the annual development assistance that goes to all the world’s poor nations!

However we measure the numbers, global agricultural subsidies have reached absurd and unsustainable proportions. It is high time for trade distorting subsidies to go.

The Doha mandate, therefore, represents tremendous prospects for helping farmers around the world. It should allow them to compete on a level playing field with other farmers, rather than competing with certain national treasuries. After all, farmers should farm the land — and not the mailbox!


The second notable accomplishment at Doha was the decision – after 15 years of negotiations – to accept China as a member of the WTO family.

This was a momentous event. China’s accession means that more than 97% of world trade is now governed by the WTO system, making the WTO a more universal organization, with unrivalled potential for stimulating global economic growth.

Moreover, China is now bound by WTO rules. This, together with market openings and falling tariffs, opens up huge potential for exports to this vast market.

Doha Development Agenda

Thirdly, the WTO chose to bridge the development divide, the significant global gap between rich and poor.

The Doha Development Agenda, as we've called this round, will contribute to real economic growth and the reduction of poverty. That is what any round must do. It should appeal to struggling peoples who desperately crave a better life. Indeed, trade is not an end in itself, but a means to raising the living standards of people around the globe.

Accordingly, the Doha mandate addresses developing country concerns about access for their main exports to markets of the North, including agriculture, and textiles and clothing.

The WTO membership also made the commitment to provide significantly more and better technical assistance for developing and least developed countries. The purpose is to ensure these countries can effectively negotiate, implement and subsequently benefit, from WTO agreements.

Start of the journey

It is clear that Doha was just the beginning of the journey. We are now a year down the road, and we have much work to do and very little time to do it. Our deadline is Jan. 1, 2005. In WTO real-time, that is very ambitious. The last round of global trade negotiations took almost 8 years to complete. The issues this time are just as contentious, and many more players are determined to have a say in the outcome.

So far, we have made some good progress:

  • Members have established a lean and efficient negotiating structure and work plan, and all the negotiating groups are working hard and moving forward;
  • Donors raised 30 million Swiss Francs, double the target, for contributions to the “Global Trust Fund” set up to finance technical assistance. Using those funds, and working with other international institutions and donor countries, the WTO has delivered an ambitious program of technical assistance for developing countries in all regions of the world.
  • For the very first time, WTO Ambassadors met at an informal retreat and discussed systemic challenges that Members and the WTO itself are facing;
  • Ministers have remained engaged, including at an informal ministerial meeting in Sydney, Australia late last year. Another informal ministerial will take place next month in Tokyo.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that although we have started better and faster than the GATT did in the Uruguay Round, our tight timeline means we will need to pick up the pace of negotiations.

The Challenges Ahead

As we work our way toward Cancun and beyond, we will need to confront and overcome a number of challenges:

1) The first challenge, and greatest enemy, is time.

  • Members will need unwavering determination to meet the deadlines Ministers have set for us. And as I just mentioned, we will need to intensify our work.
  • The next formal Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, is less than 8 months away. And its success will be key in providing the momentum we will need to meet our final deadline in 2005.

2) Secondly, we must maintain the trust and enthusiasm of the developing world.

  • Developing countries constitute more than three quarters of the WTO Membership, and for them the Doha Declaration represented a groundbreaking achievement.
  • We must address their need for improved market access — especially for agriculture, which is a powerful development issue — as well as deliver on the promises for greater technical and capacity-building assistance.
  • Many of you know also that, after more than a year of progress, the WTO ended 2002 on a low note.
  • We missed two key deadlines: one on providing special and differential treatment for developing countries, and the other on improving access to medicines by providing new flexibility in the international patent rules under the TRIPS Agreement.
  • Our shortcomings on TRIPS and health projected a particularly poor image globally. The call for world action to combat the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics in Africa is one of the great humanitarian challenges of our time.
  • The WTO has only a modest role to play, but we need a solution that provides nations like those in Africa with the flexibility they need to address their public health crises, while maintaining the intellectual property rights required to foster the development of new medicines.
  • Forging a multilateral agreement on this is an absolute priority -- and the outcome will have real ramifications for the institution and the rest of our negotiations.

3) Third, we cannot backload issues into Cancun

  • We need to find the will and the way to resolve the balance of issues along the way, and honour the deadlines between now and the Cancun Ministerial Meeting.
  • If we fail to do so, the culmination and weight of unfulfilled aspirations and failed timelines will pose a troublesome task for Ministers.
  • Returning to the “Seattle model”, of trying to solve our problems by throwing them all into the Ministerial pot, runs a serious risk of repeating the bad old days.

4) Fourth, the WTO needs continued leadership from, and cooperation between, the US and EU.

  • If the US-EU partnership was instrumental in launching Doha, then this duet will be central to successfully closing the show. These two delegations have tremendous muscle at the WTO. While they can’t dictate the outcome, without them, there is no outcome.
  • The US Administration will have to use all of its clout — including Trade Promotion Authority and the Republican majority in Congress — to deliver on sensitive issues of major interest to other participants, like reform of anti-dumping rules.
  • Equally, the EU will have to make progress on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy – for without substantive progress on agriculture, the Doha Round will fail.
  • Finally, it is vital that the US and EU continue to work together and prevent any of their difficult disagreements from spilling over to the negotiations.

5) Fifth, we need to ensure that regional and bilateral trade agreements complement the WTO.

  • There are already some 250 regional trade agreements in force around the world. Since Doha, we’ve seen a proliferation of new bilateral and regional trade negotiations launched in every region of the world. Twenty different sets of talks have been set in motion since last summer alone.
  • Granted, regional trade agreements deepen, strengthen, and promote the values of trade liberalization. But WTO Members must be careful not to stretch their negotiating resources and political energies too thinly. We cannot let regional prospects, as positive as they may be, distract us from much greater global gains.

6) The final challenge is to build greater public support for the WTO.

  • Political leaders around the world cannot make the tough choices required if they and the public only hear from the WTO’s critics. Additional voices are needed — from the private sector and elsewhere.
  • At the same time, the WTO must do more to engage citizens, so that they better understand the role and value of a strong multilateral trading organization.

Why the WTO?

Our economic prosperity depends on a rules-based global system:

  • a system that seeks to eliminate barriers to trade;
  • a system that is transparent and fair to all;
  • a system that can arbitrate disputes according to who is right and not who has the might;
  • and a system that can adapt in an era of unprecedented global change.

I ask our harshest critics to try and imagine a world without an institution like the WTO to pursue these goals. In an increasingly interdependent global economy, think of the uncertainty that would reign if we lacked the rule of law in global trade. Think of the imbalance and injustice if the weak had no recourse against the unilateral decisions of the strong. It certainly would not be the kinder, gentler world we seek.


In closing, we should view these negotiations from a broad, humane perspective.

The World Bank has estimated that abolishing all trade barriers could boost global income by almost three trillion US dollars, and lift some 320 million people out of poverty.

Now that’s just an estimate. I won’t stand here and tell you that the Doha round will abolish all trade barriers. But such a striking figure serves as a powerful reminder of the economic and human potential that awaits us, and it should inspire the political will and leadership required to prevail.

Completing the negotiations will not be a simple task. The issues will demand hard work, commitment and compromise. They will also demand hope. Hope, for a better world and a more just society.

In that context, let us be encouraged by the words of Martin Luther King who said many years ago: “Everything that is done in the world, is done by hope.”

Thank you.