WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO


21 February 2000

Moore calls for closer parliamentary involvement in WTO matters

WTO Director-General Mike Moore told the European Parliament today that he welcomed closer involvement and scrutiny by Parliaments in the activities, discussions and other work of the World Trade Organization.

Addressing the Committee on Development and Cooperation in Brussels, Mr. Moore said closer involvement by Parliaments and Congresses was necessary not only because these legislatures must ratify WTO agreements but also because they are the best representatives of civil society.

“Our agreements must be agreed by governments and ratified by Parliaments. We all need to be more accountable. Parliaments and Congresses sustain governments. Public opinion sustains governments. Elected representatives are the main expression of civil society. Their support is measured, they are accountable, they need to be more involved. This is a real way in which we can counter some of the anxieties about globalization and public alienation. Elected representatives have a responsibility to become more involved, hold hearings, scrutinise where the taxpayer's money is going and ensure that the great international institutions created to manage global affairs have the moral authority that comes from the ownership and participation of Member governments”, Mike Moore said. He addressed the Committee with EU Commissioner Pascal Lamy and Peter Gakunu, of the secretariat of the organization of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

At the Seattle Ministerial Conference in December, Mr. Moore welcomed the first informal inter-Parliamentary session on WTO matters. Together with U.S. Senator William Roth, Mr. Moore brought together Parliamentarians from around the world to discuss the problems associated with globalization and to focus on what the WTO can do to alleviate these problems.

Mr. Moore told the Members of the committee that he wanted to build on this first initiative and that he had already held consultations with officials from WTO Member Governments on this matter.

“We need to involve Parliamentarians in a more focused, orderly and organized way. In this we need the help of Governments, so I will be putting to Governments some practical ways in which this can be done”,  Mr. Moore said.

He said Parliamentarians have a special responsibility to inform their constituents of the benefits a rules-based trading system can offer. The Director-General argued strongly in favor of more open societies in which goods, services, information, ideas and capital can cross borders without hindrance.

Through open economic policies, he said, the nations of East Asia and the Pacific have raised living standards and reduced poverty on a level never before seen. He pointed out that 40 years ago, 40% of the population of the region was living on less than $1 a day. Today that figure has fallen to 10%. In 1975, only one rural Thai in six had access to clean drinking water, he pointed out, while today four out of five are drinking clean, safe water.

He attributed these gains to sound economic policies including liberal trading regimes.

While the WTO can do better to inform people of the benefits of the multilateral trading system, he said, the Parliaments and Congresses are more effective for such discussions because of their close links to the public.

“How to ensure that people feel ownership in a real sense is the challenge of those who cherish the democratic principle and have a vision of a world managed by rules not force, agreements not power. How the representatives of the people face this challenge will be a key factor in providing a more peaceful, stable world. To do this the international institutions must be more open and accountable. This is my personal policy goal”, Mr. Moore concluded.