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21 September 1999

Conference on Developing Countries' Interests in a Millennium Round

Introductory remarks by Mike Moore, Director-General, WTO

Geneva, 20-21 September 1999

Your excellencies, distinguished representatives and guests,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you today to this conference on the Developing Countries' Interest in the Millennium Round. This comes at a particularly opportune moment as we are now preparing for the Third Ministerial Conference of the WTO, to be held in Seattle in a little over two months time. At that conference, Ministers will launch new negotiations and establish a WTO work programme which will help define the trade and development agenda for the new millennium.

In the Seattle meeting, we can expect to face many criticisms from developing countries - and not a few demonstrations. Many of these criticisms are valid. Certainly, in the wake of the Asian crisis, many in the developing world are in much worse shape than they were 10 years ago, and that was a pretty low base. Poverty has got worse. There is increasing social unrest. In short, we have a serious human crisis on our hands.

In Seattle we must respond to these needs if we are to be relevant. The WTO has helped to ensure that we did not backslide into the kind of crisis that the world faced in the 1930s. Imagine the implications for Asia if the markets of the North had been slammed closed! Our Members largely resisted protectionist calls and kept markets open. But that is not enough. We also have to deliver on better market access for the poorest countries. We have to deliver on more and better quality technical support for these countries. And we have to deliver now.

This is my priority as Director-General of the World Trade Organization. As I said on my first day in office, less than three weeks ago, the three main aims that I have as Director-General of the WTO are:

- to facilitate trade and to assist all participants to get the most balanced outcome from the new negotiations, and an outcome which benefits the most vulnerable economies;

- to be an advocate for the benefits to both great and modest nations of a more open trading system, and one that can increase living standards and build a more prosperous, safer world;

- to strengthen the WTO and its rules, to build on and maintain its reputation for integrity and fairness, and to reshape the organization to reflect the reality of its membership.

In practical terms, this means that at Seattle I want to be able to deliver up front open market access for all exports from the least developed countries. No exceptions. This represents just half of one per cent of world trade. And I shall be pushing very hard for this. I also shall be pressing governments for a firm commitment to increase the regular budget of the WTO to allow us to meet the demands for technical assistance to the developing countries. We are also making efforts to bring to Seattle the least developed countries, some not even represented in Geneva. They have to have a place at the table and for their voices to be heard.

I have already taken a number of steps to strengthen our support for the least-developed countries within existing resources, and, as many of you know, we are also working closely with the World Bank, UNDP, UNCTAD, ITC and the IMF to make the Integrated Framework for the Least Developed Countries a real one-stop shop for good advice and good projects. I am also trying to reach out to the smallest and poorest countries who cannot afford to have permanent delegations in Geneva. We must bring them in from the cold, as Joe Stiglitz will also be arguing in his keynote address tomorrow.

Today's conference can help enormously in clarifying many of the issues for Seattle, issues which will be picked up as negotiations get under way. Looking at the programme, I notice that there are also papers on implementation of the existing WTO Agreements, and that is also very much on the minds of many developing country delegations. There are also some papers on issues whose place in the negotiations or other part of the work programme is still being discussed, and these will be invaluable in throwing light on the issues and on developing countries' interests.

The conference stems largely from a World Bank research and capacity-building programme "Preparing for the WTO 2000 Negotiations: Enhancing Developing Country Participation". The Bank has to be congratulated on taking the initiative to develop this programme, and we are pleased to host this conference under the coherence mandate for cooperation between our two organizations. I understand that the programme received generous financial assistance from the governments of the U.K., the Netherlands, and Italy as well as SGS S.A. Thank you for putting your money where our mouth is.

I would particularly like to commend the World Bank for involving research institutions in the developing countries in the research programme and in the conference. I notice that scholars have come from as far afield as Manila, Nairobi and Buenos Aires, and I want to extend to them a particularly warm welcome. Their involvement in the research programme will contribute to capacity building in the developing countries. More importantly, it allows the developing countries to own a share in the WTO system.

Finally, I am convinced that this conference will also show that contributing to development is not just a question of goodwill by the developed countries, making concessions, according differential and more favourable treatment or digging into the coffers to fund technical assistance. Remember: developing country markets are also markets in the process of development, the markets of the future. Thus, the process of development is something in which all countries, rich and poor, have a stake. As John F. Kennedy said before the Kennedy Round was launched, a rising tide lifts all boats. He was right. Today, I would describe these boats as a part of a convoy, in which we are all dependent on each other and which must all advance together

Let me conclude by wishing you well in you deliberations over the next two days.

Thank you.