At that time, to go from Naples to Dublin was an exotic adventure. Today, young people
travel around Europe with the assurance that they are at home. The fact that we see
nothing extraordinary in this brings to life what Europe has achieved in less than forty
years to break down barriers not only between economies but - most importantly - between
Opening up trade
was the key to bringing the peoples of Europe closer together in peace and helping them
prosper. It is more and more doing the same job in the wider world. The enormous potential
of open trade within agreed rules to contribute to human welfare is a basic conviction
that underlies everything I will say to you tonight, and I believe it should underlie all
of our efforts in the WTO as we look to Singapore and beyond.
As trade ministers of the European Union, you have in your charge the
wellspring of Europe's economic and political success. I hope you will all agree that if
it is to continue to run strong and clear it must be allowed to run freely. The European
trade experience gives you a unique chance and a unique responsibility; to take the lead
in ensuring that the principles that have worked so well within Europe are also allowed to
work well outside it. It must be allowed to flow strongly within the broad channels of the
WTO's rules to irrigate not only Europe's growth but that of the world as a whole.
Your meeting in Singapore in December will be an event of world political
significance. The days when trade could be dismissed as an affair of technicians are well
and truly gone. The reality of global economic integration touches lives around the world,
and brings with it an intense debate about its effects on jobs, on incomes, on social
standards and on the environment.
This is why the Ministerial Meeting must send a strong political message.
It must be a message which emphasizes the opportunities in the new global economy but does
not ignore the challenges; and it must be a message of ambition and confidence for the
multilateral system as it approaches its 50th anniversary. I hope that the message will
point the way towards using this anniversary to reaffirm the importance of the system and
reassert its dynamism.
It should be a message which recognizes the power of the multilateral
system as a formidable engine for growth in trade, investment and employment. It alone
cannot solve the problems of distribution, but it is essential in ensuring that there is
something to distribute.
The message should be one of unity among industrial and developing
countries, and one of determination to help the least-developed countries come in from the
margins through bold and specific measures.
It should be a message about universality - the WTO must become a World
Trade Organization in fact as well as name. The 30 accession candidates must be brought in
as soon as possible, in a way which strengthens the multilateral system.
It should also be a message about the vital relationship between the
multilateral system and regional trade liberalization. A great new wave of regional
initiatives, some spanning continents and oceans, impels us to look closely at the
systemic implications of regionalism in order to reinforce the m.f.n. principle and ensure
that regional and multilateral systems converge around it.
Finally, we have to send a message about our objective in the multilateral
trading system. It is not enough to move forward; we also have to see where we are going
if we are not to lose our way. Can this objective be anything other than to work towards a
universal, free and open trading system based on agreed and enforceable rules that will
embrace, not suppress, the network of regional and bilateral trade agreements?
I believe that a far-sighted and confident political message along the
lines I have outlined will go a long way towards keeping the WTO moving in the right
direction. Of course it must be balanced with responses to the immediate questions we
face, in implementing existing commitments and in setting out the WTO's work programme.
It is rightly seen as essential by WTO members that the Ministerial send a
clear message about the central importance of full and timely implementation of the
Uruguay Round commitments. I want to focus on several aspects which show that, while
implementation presents a generally encouraging picture overall, there are areas which
First the major success story - dispute settlement. Since its inception,
the WTO has received 53 formal complaints, and a significant number of cases have been
settled at the consultation stage. Two panels (the Gasoline case and the Japan Alcohol
case) have completed their work. Currently, we have six active panels on a variety of
issues. Both developed and developing countries are actively using the system to settle
their trade disputes; this is a marked change compared to the past, when the system was
mostly used by developed countries. Ministers in Singapore can be justly proud of what has
been created in this system, and with the way it is working.
On the other hand, an area where more needs to be done is notifications
under the Uruguay Round agreements. This is a particular problem for developing countries,
and one which calls for further attention to appropriate technical assistance measures.
But it is not only a developing-country problem, and I hope all governments will treat it
with the seriousness its fundamental importance deserves.
Then there is the situation in textiles. I suggest that it is not possible
to talk seriously about furthering a relationship of mutual confidence with developing
countries unless the industrial countries are ready to act courageously in this sector.
There is considerable anxiety among textile exporting developing countries - who also
include some of the least-developed - that the major importers are not always living up to
the spirit of the Uruguay Round agreement, whatever their observance of its letter. The
developing countries are not seeking to rewrite the rules, but they are concerned to have
a second integration phase that is more commercially meaningful, and they are anxious
about what the end-loading of the commitments will mean in terms of the pressures
importing countries face when they finally come to be implemented.
I think there is a case to answer here, and it is in the interests of
Europe - including its textile producers - to be more forthcoming.
Another significant point is unfinished business. This means the services
sector in particular. Two further agreements have been made since the end of the Uruguay
Round, even if the coverage of the major one, on financial services, is not yet complete.
Improving on this, and concluding the immensely important negotiation on telecoms, must be
a top priority for 1997. Achieving this will be a leap forward for the trading system
comparable in value to several sectors of the Uruguay Round put together.
Here again European commitment and activism will be indispensable. I
congratulate my good friend Leon Brittan on the key rôle he has played so far in
moving these negotiations forward, and I hope his continuing efforts will be well
supported. These are truly sectors where we are trading into the future, and the future
will not be kind to those who fail to keep up.
Lastly, implementation also includes the work of the Committee on Trade and
Environment. I believe that at Singapore Ministers will be in a position to judge that a
good start has been made on integrating environmental concerns into trade policy analysis
in the WTO, and that trade and the trading system have a significant contribution to make
to the promotion of sustainable development. The result in Singapore may not go as far as
some of you would have wanted, but I hope that the EU will play a leading and constructive
rôle in consolidating the progress we have made as the basis for further work after
Let me now turn to the third essential part of the Singapore message: the
message of dynamism and opportunity we will send through the WTO's Work Programme.
By far the greatest part of the Work Programme is already agreed, in the
Built-in Agenda of commitments already undertaken and negotiations already
scheduled. Our task for Singapore in respect of the Work Programme is in fact neither
ambitious nor difficult, since it consists largely of agreeing on the means of
implementing the Built-in Agenda commitments. If we cannot even do that, we risk seeing
the multilateral system left behind by the advance of the global economy and of those
bilateral and regional arrangements which are already responding to its challenges. It is
difficult to accept that what is possible in regional fora (such as consideration of
investment issues) should not be possible in the multilateral system.
I want to cover briefly the five issues where the proposals that have been
made do not currently come under one of the existing WTO bodies. These are the subjects on
which I am personally carrying out informal consultations. Before Singapore we have to
come as close as possible to a consensus, and this means building on every possible
element of common ground.
First, investment. There are some 1,160 bilateral agreements on investment,
31 regional instruments, and eight regional trade agreements that contain provisions on
investment; if the current Members of the WTO were to be linked together by bilateral
treaties, about 7,500 treaties would be needed.
In recent times foreign direct investment has been growing much more
rapidly than trade. Moreover, sales of foreign affiliates of multinational corporations
are estimated to exceed the value of world trade in goods and services (the latter was
$6,100 billion in 1995). Whatever their level of development, all countries have an
interest in promoting a stable and attractive investment climate. The multilateral system,
with its broad membership and its well-established rules and procedures, can make a
contribution to improving this climate, every bit as important as its stimulus to trade.
However, it is no secret that the proposal to begin work on investment in
the WTO is not universally accepted. Some countries oppose any suggestion of a
negotiation, while others object even to the creation of a WTO Working Group to study the
issue. These countries point to the mandate UNCTAD has received to examine trade and
investment questions. Their concerns clearly need to be taken into account. However, at
the same time, the OECD continues to work on its MAI negotiations, in which some more
advanced developing countries are taking an interest.
The danger I see is that, without some clear direction from Singapore, the
multilateral system could be stuck on the sidelines while some of the most important
future policy influences on the world economy are being worked out. The risk of a
confusion of competing rules and jurisdictions would be serious; and so would the
situation of those poorer countries who at the moment receive practically no foreign
direct investment and who look to the multilateral system to help level the playing field.
On competition, as on government procurement, I have the impression that
there are still many significant difficulties.
Concerning the proposal on WTO Rules, there is a need for clarification; it
is not yet clear whether it is a highly political debate that is sought or one which
focuses the discussion on a few specific rules.
Lastly I come to the most thorny subject, labour standards. I am going,
perhaps, to surprise you by saying that I see real progress towards understanding in this
area compared with where we were a few months ago. Specifically, I see the emergence of
four areas of common ground:
The respect of core labour standards has been agreed by all Members in the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
All delegations have recognized the primary rôle of the ILO in
international labour issues;
The competitive advantage of low-wage countries has not been called into
No-one has opposed statements by major proponents of the issue that trade
sanctions are not envisaged.
However, I would be shirking my responsibility if I pretended to you that
it will be easy to agree even a statement based on these four points. Some delegations
argue that a reference to these principles could be used by others as a justification for
unilateral measures. Others are asking why, if we are not envisaging trade sanctions and
not questioning competitive advantage, we should bring this issue to an organization which
deals with trade problems on a contractual basis. And I must tell you that a sizeable
number of delegations strongly oppose any follow-up in the WTO.
There remains, in short, a problem of clarity which those who want to see
this issue discussed in the WTO cannot afford to ignore. The strong suspicion remains
among many WTO Members that this is a concern not so much to limit labour abuses as to
limit competition from low-cost imports.
I have to call your attention to the great importance of acting in a way
that will prove beyond any doubt that in raising this issue there is no major objective
other than improving core labour standards and the situation of children and other
vulnerable sectors of the working population.
This would require a comprehensive, positive effort to improve the
situation of children and other vulnerable sectors of the working population, especially
opening up opportunities through education. Clearly such a programme must start by making
the fullest possible use of the institutions and programmes which already exist and are
already dedicated to these issues. The ILO is first among these, of course. Through
programmes such as its International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour it
offers ways of providing incentives and assistance to address specific problems. I am sure
that we have not reached the limit of these possibilities, nor of what can be done through
other organizations, like the World Bank and UNICEF, and through bilateral efforts.
There can only be one reason for raising this issue, and that is concern
for the human beings involved. Only an approach which is unequivocally grounded in this
concern and privileges positive ways of addressing it can therefore hope to attract
widespread support. Just pushing for discussion of the core labour standards issue in the
WTO is unlikely to bridge the gap, and unless this gap is bridged we risk opening up
The challenge that the proponents of a WTO approach face is to convince
their partners that fundamentally we are all on the same side: the side of children and
vulnerable people. If they fail to do so the result - whatever the specific outcome - will
be a tremendous failure.
Lastly, let me say a few words about the prospects for further
liberalization of trade. This subject includes at least four specific points.
The first, which is based on the Marrakesh Declaration, is to do more for
the market access possibilities of the least-developed countries. Since the G7 Summit in
Lyon I have been trying to promote the objective of complete, bound duty-free access for
LLDC products and the elimination of import quotas on them;
The second is the initiative on Information Technology and related areas;
The third point involves discussion of an early preparation of the
negotiations on agriculture and services to which we are already committed;
And last but not least there is the question of adding to these future
negotiations a further liberalizing effort for industrial goods.
Before moving on I would like to add that in addition to creating new
market access opportunities we have to help the least-developed countries enhance their
human and institutional capacity to take advantage of them. Improving the effectiveness
and the coordination of technical assistance is a priority I hope ministers will support
fully. I am doing all I can to increase the impact of our programmes, in cooperation with
other agencies and through exploring the use of new technology - but there are resource
limits, and it is difficult to accept that we have to rely only on the generosity of a
very few donors.
I hope I have contributed some points to stimulate your discussion. I
cannot emphasize enough the importance of Europe taking a clear position in favour of a
strong, balanced and forward-looking result from Singapore - and taking it soon. The
complexity and importance of the issues I have touched on leaves no room for doubt that we
must use the remaining weeks before 9 December to reach the most complete consensus
possible. You should not expect to be able to raise and resolve major political issues at
the conference, with all the pressures it will involve.
The fact that Singapore does not involve the sort of major commitments we
face at the end of a negotiation does not make our task easier. In the absence of such a
negotiating environment it is not easy to make out the concrete elements of give and take
on all sides which produce agreements. We are dealing more with political positions, and
questions of atmosphere and perception. In such a situation, where the way to eventual
consensus may be less clear, it becomes all the more important not to push particular
positions too far.