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8 February 2000
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Priority: to preserve and consolidate the WTO system

Statement by Ambassador Kňre Bryn, Norway to the WTO General Council upon election as chairperson for 2000.
“ I would like to thank my colleagues most sincerely for the trust you have shown in me by electing me chairman of the G eneral Council for this year. I am fully aware that this is not an easy job, and to be quite frank I have had my moments of doubt whether I should take on this task after the “annus horribilis” for the WTO as one colleague described last year. When I still decided to be available for the job it was first and foremost because of the overwhelming expression of support and encouragement I received from so many. I feel I can rely on your co-operation and that we together can take up the many challenges in front of us....”

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You, Ambassador Mchumo, are one of the first persons I will seek advice from. You have had a difficult year in the chair. At times we have not made it easy for you either. It is no doubt, however, that you have passed the test with honours. You have managed to keep your calm when we have not. You have demonstrated leadership when we lost sight of our common long-term interests. Thank you for what you have done for us during the past year and for the standard you have set in the chair.

I am glad to have observed that this meeting as well as the preparations for it have demonstrated the willingness of all members to overcome the setback from Seattle. The mandated negotiations have started and we are deciding on the necessary modalities. We have agre e d to embark on consultation processes in a number of important areas of great importance to developing countries, including implementation issues, technical co-operation and market access for LDCs, as well as looking at our working methods and transparenc y issues.

Thus, it seems to me that we are now entering a phase where preservation and consolidation of the WTO system should have priority. The tasks are both of a housekeeping nature and the need to ensure that all members can benefit from the multilate ral trading system. Such prioritisation is a prerequisite not only for preventing backsliding and erosion of the system, but also for making it possible to renew our efforts to launch a new round of trade negotiations. The systemic consolidation and a new round are not necessarily sequential in character, but I believe our first priority have to be putting our house in order.

Needless to say it is only the members who can carry out our task through development of common understandings on where to go and ho w to get there. My job will be to do my utmost to facilitate the process through extensive and representative consultations with members in order to prepare for further discussions and decisions in the Council. For practical purposes I will ask the Director General to provide me with an office in the WTO building so that we easily can meet when any of you or I feel the need for it. It goes without saying that I will work closely with the Director General, trusting that he can assist us with analyses and concrete proposals.

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