> Pascal Lamy’s speeches
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to inaugurate the WTO Public Forum 2010 — our
annual rendez-vous with civil society and the public. The goal of the
Forum is to enable the Multilateral Trading System to respond to the
hopes and aspirations of all segments of society. Its goal is to promote
a frank and open exchange between all actors in the trade sphere on what
is working, and what is not, in the global trading system at large.
This year's forum is devoted to debating the Forces Shaping World
Trade. What are these forces? Are there new forces? Are there old
forces? What form do these forces take, and are they of equal weight?
It will explore the role of the emerging developing world in impacting
the Multilateral Trading System, of new technologies and innovation, and
of growing concerns to do with issues such as climate change, energy,
food security, and human rights — to mention but a few. What we have
before us is a rich menu of sessions that will take us all the way up to
Friday. A menu that has been set by civil society itself, making this
truly a Forum that belongs first and foremost to you.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Forum. And on behalf of all WTO
members and myself, let me say that we look forward to learning from
you, and interacting with you. We hope that the Forum will enable our
members to take the Multilateral Trading System forward based on the
ideas that it generates.
Allow me first to comment on the context in which this year's Forum
convenes. A context that hardly needs elaboration, since many of you may
be experiencing it first-hand. One of a global economic downturn, albeit
a crisis that is beginning to ease. The downturn has brought to light
the real value of the Multilateral Trading System, if I may say so.
The Trading System has acted as an insurance policy against
protectionism. In fact, a WTO “Radar Screen” was created shortly after
the crisis to flash all the new trade restrictions that government would
impose, with the aim of preventing them from spiralling — helping
prevent the beggar-thy-neighbour policies of the 1930s. And I am pleased
to say that we have, by and large, avoided a repeat of past mistakes.
WTO disciplines have acted as a “containing force” of governments' worst
instincts; which is to shut the foreigner out, or to blame the crisis on
the foreigner — often, an all too easy path to take. And the good news
is that trade volumes are picking up again nicely, after having fallen
dramatically during the crisis.
Let me now comment on the topic of this Forum — The “Shaping Forces.”
The Multilateral Trading System is clearly one of the most advanced
engines of global governance, serving as a precursor for international
legal regimes in many other domains. The richness of the programme that
you have created demonstrates the wealth of expectations that we have of
the WTO. Expectations that we can only afford because of the level of
sophistication that the system has reached.
In a number of other international institutions, we see battle-lines
still being drawn between the North and the South over their governance
structure. In other words, over their “democratization.” The G20 has
signalled that the institutional reform of some international
organizations, which it has listed by name, is required. The WTO was not
That governance battle has already been fought in the trade sphere, and
the outcome is a fairly democratic institution where the voice of the
small cannot be ignored. No board, no quotas. One member, one vote, is
the background rule against which the WTO forges its consensus.
The very fact that “agriculture” is now at the centre of the WTO's Doha
Round of trade negotiations also speaks to the enormous power that the
South has gained. In addition, the WTO has a dispute settlement
mechanism that has, and can, allow members to peacefully settle their
trade differences. In that mechanism what matters is not the size of a
country or of its GDP, but the strength of the legal and economic
arguments that it succeeds in putting forward.
But, if I have a message for you today, it is this. There are other
battles to fight in the WTO. They may not be of an institutional nature,
but they must nevertheless be fought. I refer here to the need to
rebalance the rules of the Multilateral Trading System in favour of the
poor, through the completion of the Doha Development Agenda; and of the
need to climb ever higher mountains, by tackling emerging issues such as
energy, climate change, and electronic commerce. We cannot afford to
rest on our laurels in the WTO until our rule-book becomes outdated. Nor
can we afford to misdiagnose the impasse in current negotiations as
As we collectively reflect on what will (quote unquote) “shape” the WTO
system in future, I also ask that we recognize the new context in which
countries trade. Most products today are not “made in country X, Y or
Z,” most products are (quote unquote) “made in the world”.
This means that the boundaries of the nation-state are no longer the
only relevant boundaries to take. Countries that impose tariffs on
imported products may be imposing tariffs on none other than themselves.
Countries that hand out subsidies domestically to certain sectors may be
subsidizing none other than their competitor if that competitor is based
on their home turf. The globalization of the manufacturing process is
such that it makes even less sense now, than it did before, to obstruct
This new reality requires that we go back and think about what it means
to actually “trade” in today's world. It also speaks to new methods of
“measuring” trade. We can no longer measure trade by counting goods
services crossing our borders. We need to look at where has the value
been added to these goods. And the same goes for job creation. Jobs lost
at home may simply mean jobs created for our very own citizens abroad.
In fact, the very calculation of job (quote unquote) “losses” would
itself need to take account of this new reality.
Updating the WTO rule-book, in my view, must bring with it new concepts
and new understandings of international trade. As country X sits
opposite country Y at the WTO negotiating table, it must realize that it
is no longer totally independent of it. Its products may be produced and
re-exported from abroad, and its citizens may be residing elsewhere.
Facilitating trade in this new world is what we must turn our minds to.
We must also turn our minds to the accompanying policies of world trade;
environmental and social policies alike, since we can ill-afford having
trade run in a vacuum.
Greater clarity on these issues, as well as on the rich menu of topics
that you have put on the table, will help take us forward. I look
forward to meeting as many of you in person as I can over the course of
the next few days.
Thank you for your attention. I now turn the Forum over to you.
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