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Thursday 20 September 2001
Informal General Council meeting on the preparatory process for the fourth session of the Ministerial Conference

Director-General's remarks

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> Chairman's speaking points



Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

Can I associate myself and our staff with your comments in regard to the horrific and grotesque events last week.

Last night I saw a report where rescuers discovered a group of victims' bodies; they were all holding hands. In the end all they had was each other.

In the end all we have is each other. It has affected everyone and everything. For myself, I am less patient with trivia; it reminds us all of what's important, what isn't.

One of the reasons I've always been dedicated to this organization is that I believe in a definition of civilization that means the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of differences and disputes through agreed rules. As imperfect as we are, I believe the WTO dispute settlement system ought to be a matter of inspiration and hopefully imitation in other areas of human differences.

I've talked to a lot of Ministers over the past few weeks. There is another important Ministerial Meeting in Africa this weekend. All this work must fold and feed into our process here. Ministers have said we should continue our work in preparation for our meeting in Doha, in November. We have heard very publicly from the United States, the EU and other trading partners — and I know this is a view shared by many others — on the need for Member Governments in this Organization to proceed steadfastly on track for the important Ministerial Conference in Doha.

They are resolute. The global economy, the need to address everyone's vital interests must drive us forward. If anything, recent events have strengthened Ministers' commitment to address reality and to make our civilized system of engagement succeed. In times of political and economic uncertainty, it's even more important.

Ministers advise and warn me that our objective must be to have as few substantial differences as is possible by Doha. I have told them of the focus and commitment of our team, and of Ambassadors' hard and patient work. In particular our Chairman is doing magnificent work on behalf of us all. But we do need to remind ourselves that our objective is to have just a handful of issues that need to be fixed and decided at Doha. Mr. Chairman, I'm still haunted by the thought of 142 ministers, multiplied by 5-minute speeches, times a dozen issues. That won't work. The next few weeks will test all of us, our patience, and our generosity, but I sense goodwill, commitment, growing flexibility and momentum.

Next week our host, the Minister from Qatar, will again visit Geneva to discuss practical arrangements. Again I must ask colleagues to revisit the number of staff necessary to make our Ministerial function. We will have to reduce numbers.

This Ministerial is important not only for the substance of our common agenda, but to correctly hold us accountable and refocus the World Trade Organization, the better to serve you and your Governments, thus the people.