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Geneva, 19 April 1999

32nd Annual Meeting of the Joint Advisory Group of the International Trade Centre

Address by Renato Ruggiero Director-General of the WTO
[Published and distributed version]

It is a great pleasure for me to address this 32nd annual meeting of the Joint Advisory Group of the ITC, especially since I am sharing the honour with my good friend Rubens Ricupero. The WTO and UNCTAD take a particular satisfaction in the successes of the ITC – in a sense, we are like two proud parents at the graduation of a child prodigy.

As you know I am stepping down as head of the WTO in less than two week's time. Let me take this opportunity to make three points about the relevance and importance of our collaboration over the past four years.

First and foremost, I want to sincerely commend Denis B´┐Żlisle and his staff at the International Trade Centre for really very exceptional quality of their efforts and their vision. Denis, I am well aware that you head a small secretariat with a limited budget - that you face many of the same constraints that we do in the WTO. And yet by building linkages with other international organizations, with national governments, with the private sector, you have leveraged your small resources behind a difficult but centrally important challenge – the challenge of helping the marginalized and least-developed countries enter the mainstream of a fast-globalizing economy. You are a model for the way other international organizations should be working together – must work together in the future – and we can all learn from you.

Second, the importance of the integrated framework strategy. A year and a half ago, the WTO – along with the ITC, UNCTAD, the World Bank, the IMF, UNDP and national governments – held the first High-Level Meeting on Least-developed Countries. The aim was to devise an integrated approach for assisting these countries in enhancing their trade opportunities, and the main outcome was the Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance.

What is the fundamental idea behind the Integrated Framework? The fundamental idea is that an effective development strategy must begin with the least-developed countries themselves. Capacity building, macro-economic stability, institution building, better education and skills training – only the governments concerned can make a difference in these critical areas. Our objective as international organization should not be to impose our solutions or our ideas on developing countries. Our objective is to work together to give these countries the best possible opportunity – and the resources they need - to help themselves. Through the integrated framework, all of the international players work directly with the countries themselves to design results oriented programmes, tailored to their needs.

We have already taken a number of steps to translate the Integrated Framework into action – including the establishment of its Administrative Unit here in the ITC. Some 40 different national government have now completed their needs assessments, and we have prepared 40 integrated responses. One roundtable meeting has been organized in Kampala, and 21 more are planned for the immediate future. We in WTO are working closely with the other agencies involved to ensure that we see positive results from the Integrated Framework – and one important marker will clearly be the report that we will make to the Seattle Ministerial Conference.

On the subject of results, let me offer a cautionary note: It is obviously much more difficult to achieve "bottom-up" solutions to the problems of least-developed countries than to impose "top-down" answers from Geneva or Washington or New York. It takes longer. It is messier and more complex. It involves real countries with their real-life problems, fears, aspirations. But it is also the only way we are going to make durable progress. I urge you not to be discouraged because you have faced difficulties in these early stages. The reality that the least-developed countries present immense challenges cannot be an alibi for abandoning this strategy before it has had a chance to work. This is the future – we can't afford to give up on it.

Which brings me to my third point – the need to see development as part of a larger global challenge. Trade provides us with a powerful tool for development. It cannot provide all the answers. I believe that the high degree of interdependence we have reached lends a powerful weight to the kind of approach we have together pioneered with the Integrated Framework.

We need a new strategy for development which involves all the international and national stakeholders at the highest level – a truly integrated strategy which embraces not only trade and investment, but also sustainable development, debt relief, capacity building, health care, education, social safety nets, poverty eradication, human rights, cultural diversity, gender equality – in short what we call "human security" - all as subjects which must be embraced in an improved concept of global economic management. Without a coherent plan for tackling the unacceptable marginalization we see in the world today we risk building this new global economy on foundations of sand.

Last week at the Institut pour les Hautes Etudes Internationales, in my last public speech, I offered some conclusions I have drawn from my four years as Director-General. I am increasingly convinced that the international system has to adapt to realities of globalization in three main ways: We need to move towards more collective leadership for the international system – one which reflects the reality of a multi-polar world, and especially the emergence of new developing country powers. We need to look at the policy challenges we face as pieces of a larger interconnected puzzle. And we need a new forum for the management of these complex issues – one that is truly representative of the new global realities, and which can bring world leaders together to tackle an expanded policy agenda. The Millennium Summit, recently decided upon by the General Assembly of the United Nations, could be the appropriate occasion to move towards a global architecture that can meet the challenges of globalization.

Our task today is to improve the governance of interdependence - and to increase its human and development dimension, not to refuse it. The WTO is, in a certain sense, a product and a symbol of the globalization process. There is a growing recognition that the international rule of law must become a main pillar of our globalizing world – and that the WTO can offer a useful model for international cooperation in other areas. There is also a growing awareness of the inter-linkages among all these issues. It is clear that the WTO cannot drift away from its trade vocation. But it is becoming equally clear that the WTO cannot operate in isolation from the concerns of the world in which it exists.

Together with the ITC and UNCTAD, we have already taken an important step towards a more coherent and inclusive approach to development. Let us continue to blaze a trail forward. Thank you.