New Trade Round Clearly In Sight

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

"A new comprehensive Round of trade negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is now clearly in sight," Trade Minister Lockwood Smith said on his return to New Zealand today.

Dr Smith was returning from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, where he attended the second ministerial meeting of the "Friends of the Round" group.

"The Uruguay Round led to substantial gains for New Zealand," Dr Smith said. "But barriers still exist for our key export products in many of our key markets. A comprehensive Round covering as many sectors of trade as possible offers the best prospects for better market access for New Zealand exporters, including the agriculture and services sectors."

The Friends of the Round group is an open and informal collection of WTO members including Argentina; Australia; Chile; the Czech Republic; Hong Kong, China; Hungary; the Republic of Korea; Mexico; New Zealand; Singapore; Switzerland; Thailand and Uruguay. It is working to build consensus among WTO members that a new global Round should be launched at the end of 1999.

"Members of the group gave widespread recognition to the need for a broad-based and comprehensive agenda for a Round, addressing tariffs and other barriers to trade," Dr Smith said. "The importance of APEC's contribution to this was referred to, with APEC's early liberalisation package being seen as giving additional meaning and momentum to a broader multilateral negotiation."

Dr Smith said a considerable amount of work was still to be done before a new Round could be launched, with key WTO members remaining to be convinced on the shape of new negotiations, and on how comprehensive these negotiations should be.

"But momentum is building," he said. "We will be making every effort to launch a new Round of comprehensive negotiations in the WTO at the end of next year."