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> Supachai Panitchpakdi's speeches
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honoured to join such a distinguished company here today.
Today's gathering gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of
the International Chamber of Commerce and its Members in Bangladesh and
around the world, in promoting international trade. It is also an
opportunity for me personally to thank the Bangladesh National Committee
of the ICC for its unwavering support for the multilateral trading
The support of the business community has been central to the huge
successes of the multilateral trading system over the past half century.
It is you who breathe life and purpose into what is agreed at the WTO.
It is you who benefit from the predictability and stability of the
rules-based multilateral trading system, backed up by a dispute
settlement system with teeth. Add to that the benefits of new markets,
sales of new products, intellectual property protection and lower costs
for user industries.
Average tariffs on manufactured goods in industrialised countries are
under one-tenth of their level half a century ago. Today, business is
conducted in trade in goods and services at the pace of one billion
dollars an hour, every hour of the day and every day of the week. The
rules of the trading system have been strengthened and expanded. The
multilateral trading system's membership has grown over six fold since
its creation and together WTO membership spans 92 per cent of the
world's population and 95 percent of world trade.
In spite of these great achievements there seems to be a worrying lack
of urgency about the need to drive the multilateral trading system
forward – to make it more relevant to today's market realities and to
extend its benefits more widely around the world. We have set in train a
major new trade negotiation — the Doha Development Agenda. This was
launched at a time when the international community, at a series of
conferences, pledged its commitment to address one of the foremost
challenges facing our world this new millennium – that of poverty
reduction. At each of these conferences, the role of trade was
identified as central in providing the resources needed to tackle
Yet in spite of our hopes, the Doha Development Agenda negotiations have
not progressed as far or fast as we had expected. Member governments
have, time and again, expressed their determination to advance the
negotiations. While progress has been made, and recent developments have
been encouraging, we have not seen this translated into enough
flexibility in negotiating positions. Meanwhile the poor of this world
are not being afforded an opportunity to trade their way out of poverty.
Developed countries, likewise, are not achieving more secure and liberal
access to a wider range of markets, nor are their consumers benefiting
from the lower prices that greater efficiency and competition bring.
To think that the issues before us are too difficult and politically
sensitive to tackle multilaterally or to think that other forums for
negotiation — whether bilateral or regional — would serve as an
alternative, would be a mistake of epic proportions. We must remember
that all multilateral negotiations have been tortuous, lengthy and
politically difficult. We must also recall that multilateral
negotiations — given political will and determination — have always
borne fruit. The Doha Development Agenda is the ninth round of
multilateral negotiations. None of the previous rounds have failed. Only
the multilateral trading system can provide the broad-trade offs that
make trade liberalisation possible. Only a multilateral negotiation can
ensure that poor and vulnerable countries are not left out in the cold.
We need a change of perspective in order to move forward. Developed
countries need to see further opening of their markets to exports of
developing countries not as altruism or charity but as being in their
own enlightened self-interest. And it is clear that many of the highest
barriers to trade maintained by developed countries are on those
products of export interest to developing countries — particularly
agriculture and labour-intensive manufactures.
Likewise, developing countries need to approach these negotiations with
a view to integrating themselves into the multilateral trading system —
rather than shielding themselves indefinitely from competition. And it
is in this light that we need to conduct the debate about the policy
space needed by developing countries and the time needed to liberalise
and implement commitments. Moreover, a lot of hard work needs to be done
domestically by governments to create the right kind of business
environment for trade and investment. Too often the multilateral trading
system is used as a scapegoat for bad policies and practices that are
The WTO, and the GATT before it, has the reputation of being a place
where governments come together to do business and not to talk shop. My
strong message to you, the business community, is that your governments
and the multilateral trading system need your active support. Lets get
back to business. We need a successful Doha Development Agenda for the
greater prosperity of mankind.