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2 September 1999

Moore spells out priorities for Seattle ministerial conference

New World Trade Organization Director-General Mike Moore underscored his priorities for the upcoming Seattle Ministerial Conference during his first media briefing in Geneva since assuming his post on 1 September.

Mr. Moore, the first non-European to head the WTO, stressed the importance of achieving a balanced outcome in Seattle which addresses the needs of all WTO member governments.

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"Ordinary people greeted the launch of the Uruguay Round with apathy, the possibility of launching a new round in Seattle will be met with far greater emotions, some positive, some not so positive," he said.

"This time we will not be able to complain about apathy. In the absence of global conflict between 'isms' some people have chosen to focus their fury on globalism. Thus the WTO has become a target for abuse. This will necessitate new skills at governmental and at the international level to communicate and engage those citizens especially in the wealthy nations who will protest and march and call for barriers to be built to keep out products from poor countries which desperately need the opportunity to work and produce incomes for their families. Even in developed countries large numbers of people have problems with international trade. Yet tens of millions of jobs in OECD countries are directly related to exports and overseas investment.

"A third of new US jobs are export related. As the global economy evolves, a major duty for the WTO's Director-General is to make the case for keeping the markets of the rich nations open to products from poorer countries. Imagine the economic - then social and political - implications if the markets of the North were closed during the recent Asian crisis?

"It’s a moral issue as well. A world now exists polarised by poverty and opportunity as it was once polarised by the cold war. I will judge my term in office by how much we could improve the conditions and opportunities of the most vulnerable economies.

"Seattle is the priority, but the Seattle Ministerial will only be judged a success if there is a balanced outcome. We need to assist all member governments to engage in the process. Thus we need to increase the levels and focus of technical assistance from the WTO and other sources to make this happen.

"The WTO is not the GATT and the Seattle Ministerial Meeting will not be like the Punta del Este launch. This is the cynical 90s and not the optimistic 80s. During the long months of the selection process, many ambassadors told me in no uncertain terms what is expected of a Director-General and the rules-based institution he manages on behalf of its member governments.

"My duties and priorities are clear:

- To facilitate and assist countries to get the most balanced outcome from the negotiations, an outcome which truly benefits the more vulnerable economies.

- To advocate the advantages both for the great nations and the more modest nations of a more open trading system and how that can increase living standards and build a more prosperous, safer world.

- To strengthen the WTO and its system and rules, to build on and maintain its reputation for integrity and fairness, and to re-shape the organization to reflect the new reality of its Membership and their needs.

"All eyes are directed now at the Seattle Ministerial - hopes are high. Our goal is very clear, it's better living standards for all our people. Because it is through higher living standards that we achieve better health care, superior education systems, and a safer, better, environment. It's time now for me and colleagues in Geneva and capitals to roll up our sleeves and get to work."