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WTO NEWS: SPEECHES - DG MIKE MOORE

24 August 1999
Launch of Report into: APEC 10 years & beyond

Address given by Rt Hon Mike Moore MP to the House of Representatives, Parliament Buildings, WELLINGTON

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Prime Minister, Mrs Shipley & Don McKinnon, Foreign Minister, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a pleasure to join hands with you today and to speak, not only about New Zealand’s interests and regional interests, but the global imperatives necessary so we can raise living standards and build a better trading system that’s more balanced, fairer and allows the full family of Nations to subscribe through rules and process, to a more effective system.

On this rests the ability of all countries to provide more jobs, more income, which in turn nearly always provides for a cleaner environment, better human rights and more resources for health and education.

In Parliament later today I shall give my final speech. That will be the appropriate time in which I can express my appreciation to colleagues and officials for their support and guidance over the years. That will be the last speech for several years I can give as a New Zealander.

What we have learnt in the last half of this century is that our prosperity is best advanced when we co-operate, engage and recognise that jobs in our country are based on the capacity of our neighbours to purchase goods and services.

As the Prime Minister has noted, I attended the fast APEC Ministers’ meeting in Canberra in 1989. For the first time China, Hong Kong China and the province of Taiwan sat around one table. That, in itself, was an historic event. Originally there were only 12 APEC members; today there are 21 member economies covering 57 per cent of the world economy and half the world’s population.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke of Australia hit upon the idea of setting up a ministerial forum for regional economic co-operation - later named APEC - after a visit to Seoul in January 1989. Alas, - we must give the Aussies the credit for this one!

Ten years on APEC has undergone a remarkable development, deepening and broadening its agenda and membership.

There are now 21 members of APEC, and APEC’s achievements in the past decade have far exceeded the expectations that we held for it in the beginning. Since then our region has gone through the greatest economic reversal in 50 years.

The Asian Crisis was real, is real, as is the recovery.

There are those who make a living out of predicting gloom, some even seem to enjoy it, suggested this was the end. Remember the headlines? But it did not signify an end to multilateralism and openness, nor did it prove that the system failed. It proved the opposite; it proved how resilient the system is.

One of APEC’s great contributions has been in establishing the climate for openness, and in the main, leaders and governments stood firm, learnt the lessons and started rebuilding. They resisted the pressures to revert to protectionism. We know those policies prolonged and made the Great Depression so much deeper, and from this the twin tyrannies of fascism and Marxism arose.

The Prime Minister and I talked the other day about whether APEC was an economic, political, or moral issue. I think it’s all those things. It’s not complicated. It’s about getting more customers. It’s about whether or not we run the world based on the civilised order of rules, or force. Whether we settle our differences by process, or force. Of course it’s imperfect and it can be improved.

Some suggest that APEC and regionalism are in contradiction to the WTO and multilateralism. One trade expert once said that regional arrangements were Iike street gangs, not nice, but if you live in the neighbourhood you had better join up.

I don’t agree. Open regionalism can give impetus to the best option, multilateralism. It gives smaller countries the opportunity to learn the political, economic and business skills necessary to engage further.

However, it does sometimes reflect the lack of satisfaction with the progress of the multilateral system.

I wish you well at APEC, Prime Minister. It will be an important impetus for the Ministerial at Seattle and a new round. Although it’s a bit of a worry that frequently such gatherings send dozens of communiqués to the WTO for consideration. Somehow where a score of Pacific Nations can’t agree, I’m supposed to get over 130 Nations to agree.

History has shown us that open societies do better. That’s true. Our region testifies to this general principle.

Thirty years ago 70% of Indonesians lived in what the World Bank called extreme poverty. Now, despite the recent problems, it’s 10%.

Look and admire at what Japan has delivered to its people from the rubble and ruin of the 1940’s. Now it’s the 2nd most powerful economy in the world, and a constructive force for good in the world.

However, the very poor, the less developed countries still don’t get the access they need for their products, and the technical assistance to fully engage so that they can sit at the table of our global family and share equally and fully.

It would not cost the rich nations of the north much to wipe barriers for the poorest countries. Our region can do more to assist them to participate and I hope APEC shows a lead here.

While we can celebrate that in the last 50 years since the GATT, now the WTO, came into being, people are, in the main, living longer, infant mortality is down, employment and income up and literacy improved, still much more needs to be done.

We know of two visions of Europe. One, united, a force for good in the world, where people respect and enjoy each others’ cultures, music, food, where they travel freely and trade openly between each other. And the other vision, the mirror opposite, the tribal despair that is the Balkans.

Yet, when Bosnian women refugees set up business to employ themselves and feed their babies, the richest nations on earth won’t allow fair access for their garments. No wonder the young idealistic and best of our youth have grave misgivings about what we are trying to do.

Yes, 1.5 billion people have had their incomes doubled in the past 25 years, BUT the IMF reports that three billion people are still living under $2 a day, with growing inequity between rich and poor, with forests being degraded at the rate of an acre a second, with 130 million children still not in school, with 1.5 billion people still not having access to clean water, and two billion people not having access to sewerage. We cannot be complacent.

More than this, we must be concerned that 80 to 90 million people are being added annually to our planet, mainly in the developing world. Two billion more souls must feed themselves by the year 2025. This argues for more openness, not more closed economic Berlin Walls.

The WTO cannot solve all these problems. Sovereign governments have the prime responsibility, but I hope that the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, UN, UNCTAD and the other great agencies, can better co-ordinate; to serve the people more effectively and with greater coherence. These organisations are owned by sovereign governments who must give us the mandate, the resources and the domestic approval to better serve.

In this, I know the New Zealand government, over many administrations, has always been a good international citizen. Because we know that in global politics and commerce, as in domestic or family affairs, we serve ourselves best when we serve others.

I congratulate the authors of this booklet well and wish those who come to APEC good luck and look forward to co-operating with you.