11 November 2005

Welcoming address by the Director-General to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Today is both a historic day for the WTO and a historic day for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It gives me great pleasure indeed this morning to welcome Saudi Arabia to the WTO. Upon its signature of its Protocol of Accession in a few hours' time, Saudi Arabia will be on its way to becoming the 149th Member of this institution. In fact, we all hope to welcome Saudi Arabia as a Member at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference this December.

There is no doubt that the accession of Saudi Arabia strengthens the WTO. The WTO truly becomes a, quote-unquote, “World Trade Organization.” After all, Saudi Arabia's importance on the international stage cannot be underestimated. It is the world's 13th largest merchandise exporter and the 23rd largest importer. It is also an important services trader. Today it joins us at the multilateral table.

Saudi Arabia's accession process started over a decade ago. In that process, it undertook important economic reforms, which it is fair to say have touched virtually all sectors of its economy. I have no doubt that these reforms strengthen Saudi Arabia.

While Arabic is not an official language of this institution, I hope that Members will allow me on this occasion to use one Arabic word. MABROUK. In English, congratulations.