Thank you very
much Mr. Chairman, it is indeed an honour to have the opportunity to speak today to this
august body. This committee has a long, distinguished and proud history of involvement in
trade issues and played an important role in the creation of the World Trade Organization.
am well aware of the important role that this committee will play both in the run up to
the Seattle Ministerial Conference and in the negotiations that follow. During my tenure
as Director-General I will most warmly welcome your counsel, your thoughts and even your
criticisms. We need critical supporters. Substantial input from the Congress of the United
States is vital to achieving the balanced outcome we need from Seattle and from the
negotiations that will flow from that meeting.
past two years have been tumultuous ones for the Global Trading System. The Financial
Crisis has had a severe impact on many Asian economies and this has lead in turn to some
significant developments for the World Trading System. Sharp currency depreciations in the
region lead to substantial contraction of imports which affected exporters in the United
States and elsewhere. Moreover, these depreciations were largely responsible for the
escalating exports from the region to the United States and Europe.
know these shifts in trade flows have had painful repercussions for some American working
families. The projected widening of the U.S. trade deficit to some $300 billion this year
has placed strong political pressures on all of you. But despite these difficult
circumstances the U.S. Congress and the Administration have shown leadership worthy of
your nation's status as the sole remaining Superpower. I pay tribute to you for this
when I talk about the Asian crisis I always ask people to imagine for a moment, how much
worse the crisis might have been, had the U.S. and European markets slammed shut to Asian
imports. Clearly, the consequences of such an action would have been dramatic. By keeping
markets open, the United States and Europe have given the Asian economies a life line,
which has been critical to their recovery. And it has been an impressive recovery, with
the promise of greater growth in the near future. A recent report from the Asian
Development Bank forecasts that "Developing Asia" will grow at 5.5% this year
and 5.5% in 2000, following growth of only 2.3% in 1998. Just as importantly, only one
Asian economy, Hong Kong, China, is predicted to suffer negative growth in 1999.
Bank attributes this turnaround largely to increased domestic demand, which should mean an
increase in the consumption of imports, including those from the United States.
fact, this is already happening. In this first half of 1999, U.S. exports to the five
Asian countries most affected by the financial crisis, rose by 12%.
successful outcome at our Ministerial Conference, will lead to greater confidence in that
region also around the world. Further liberalization and improved global trade rules hold
the prospect of great benefit for working families in both the developed and developing
will constitute a successful outcome in Seattle? First and foremost, it must be a balanced
outcome. It is vital that Ministers from all our 134 member governments are able to tell
their Capitals that they have come away from the table with something. We can expect
ministers will pursue their national interests with vigour and that's a good thing. The
more all members government's are engaged in the process, the greater the likelihood for a
is my job to do all I can to ensure that those interests can co-exist within the framework
of the WTO's rules. This will not be an easy job and the decisions taken will not be mine,
but those of ministers. Many of the same debates you have had here on Capitol Hill on
questions like trade and environment, trade and labour standards, electronic commerce,
agriculture and textiles, have also taken place in Geneva and in capitals around the
globalization has produced anxiety and even anger among young people everywhere. Even here
in the United States, where your economy with its strong growth, low inflation and low
unemployment is the envy of the world, there is much anxiety in the workplace. People
worry that their very livelihoods may be affected by decisions taken half a world away.
This is understandable. We will certainly be hearing from these people in Seattle. If the
Uruguay Round was greeted with apathy, the Seattle Ministerial Conference will be greeted
with anything but. Many of those marching in Seattle will do so out of a strong conviction
that our organization should do more to combat the ills of the world. It is ironic that
many accuse us of being a secret organization that has too much power, then they demand we
take executive action on every issue. However we should welcome their interest. Not all
our critics are wrong.
is not going away. President Clinton was right when he told our second Ministerial in
Geneva last year, "Globalization is not a proposal or a policy choice, it is a fact.
But how we respond to it will make all the difference." I would argue strongly that
the best way to do this is within a system of rules agreed by consensus of the member
governments and then ratified by Congresses or Parliaments.
member government has different demands and expectations for Seattle and the negotiations
that will follow. In addition to the negotiations on services and agriculture, which have
been mandated by the Uruguay Round agreements, member governments have taken up many other
issues. Developing countries are largely concerned with adequate implementation of the
existing agreements. Many developed countries are seeking agreements on issues like trade
and environment, investment, competition, trade and labour standards, electronic commerce
and transparency in government procurement.
is also debate about whether we engage in these issues through a comprehensive or
"broad-based" approach. I'm but a simple country boy and the distinction is lost
on me. But let me say this, which ever approach we take, the objective to these talks must
be to raise living standards for working families around the world. Whether we call these
talks, the "Millennium Round," the "Seattle Round," or the Development
Round, we must ensure that this is a "Jobs Round" because it ought to be about
raising living standards, creating new customers and building a safer more predictable
WTO is a member driven organization. One where decisions are taken by sovereign
governments. Nonetheless, in my short tenure as Director-General I have found myself asked
continually by members of Parliament, ministers and ambassadors what are my priorities for
I said earlier, my objective is to see a balanced outcome which inches up living standards
for working families. But specifically, I believe there are issues which would lead to a
"win-win" situation beneficial to all members. Agriculture and services talks
are a given and balanced agreements in these sectors will hold great promise for economic
growth and development.
I believe agreements on transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation
would improve good governance around the world, something which benefits exporters,
importers, consumers and taxpayers. There Good Governance concepts are more and more
understood as being necessary to encourage investment and trade. I also believe that an
agreement to reduce tariffs industrial tariffs can do much to increase living standards.
These are my personal views, not all agree and the outcome in these talks will be
determined not by me but by ministers.
is one issue on which I hold a substantial bias, however, the plight of the Least
Developed Countries. Three years ago at the G-8 Summit in Lyon, my predecessor Renato
Ruggiero, called for the elimination of all barriers to exports from the LDCs. I supported
the idea then, and I support it now.
Development Assistance to the Least Developed Countries has fallen sharply in recent
years. There are many reasons for this and matters involving fiscal transfers are for
sovereign states to decide. But as this aid is reduced, it is vital to the future welfare
of these countries that they be given the gift of opportunity. By opening our developed
country markets, by providing them with the technical assistance and training they need to
engage in the trading system, we are providing them that gift of opportunity.
United States has an extraordinary history of generosity. From the Marshall Plan, to the
Peace Corps. to its programmes of food aid. I saw recently that the United States will
ship 8.5 million metric tons of food to about 50 countries this year. The rest of the
world owes a debt of gratitude to this great country for its wisdom and leadership.
imports from LDCs comprise only about 0.7% of total U.S. imports. Total imports from
Africa home to the largest number of Least Developed Countries actually fell
by nearly 20% in 1998 to $17 billion. Globally, the LDC share of trade is only 0.5%. These
countries do not constitute a threat to so large and diverse an economy as that of the
it is true that many LDC products come into the United States at low rates of tariffs,
thanks to the Generalised System of Preferences and other worthy trade initiatives, trade
in many other areas still remains subject to import restrictions. In fact, only about 20%
of LDC imports to the United States are free of duty. Average duties applied to goods from
LDCs are, in fact, higher on average than the average U.S. rate. The LDC's share of world
trade is only half of one percent of total world trade.
markets to these imports is not merely a show of charity, its about justice, it is also
about creating new customers. Market opening initiatives provide consumers with wider
choices and lower prices. Moreover, enhancing trade relations with LDCs assists the United
States in building strong partnerships with countries that have struggled to keep pace in
the information age.
F. Kennedy, who began his career in Government in the House of Representatives where he
served three terms, said "If we can in every land and office look beyond our own
shores and ambitions, then surely the age will dawn in which the strong are just and the
weak secure and the peace preserved."
could not agree more with these sentiments.
alone does not offer a complete solution to the problem of the LDCs. They require relief
from their onerous debt burden and they need assistance in building human, infrastructure
and manufacturing capacity. Working together with our sister organizations, the World
Bank, UNCTAD, the International Trade Centre, the IMF and the UN Development Programme, we
are striving to provide the integrated framework of support that these countries so
desperately need if they are to be brought in from the sidelines of the Multilateral
Trading System. I have had fruitful discussions this week with my counterparts here at the
Annual Meetings of the Bank and Fund and I am optimistic that we can put forward an
enhanced programme of action for the LDCs as a deliverable in Seattle. I must tell you
that this is among my top priorities during my term in office.
am very grateful to you for providing me the opportunity to speak with you here today and
I welcome the chance to speak with all of you again in the near future.