NEW WTO ROUND ON TRACK

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
International Trade

"We are on track for the launch of a new round of trade negotiations at the Third WTO Ministerial in Seattle," according to Trade Minister Lockwood Smith. Speaking at the conclusion of the informal WTO Ministerial meeting in Lausanne, Dr Smith said that 22 Ministers recognised the importance of launching a new round given the key role trade had played over 50 years in spreading the benefits of economic growth and development.

Dr Smith said that the Lausanne Ministerial had advanced towards broad consensus around a number of important issues, with the key elements being support for:

* new round of trade negotiations to progressively liberalise global trade;

* A broad-based round, negotiated as a ‘single undertaking', and no more than three years in duration;

* Negotiating to liberalise trade in the mandated sectors of agriculture and services;

* A comprehensive negotiation on industrial tariffs;

* A programme to better integrate developing countries into the multi-lateral trading system;

"Despite this consensus however, the successful launch of a new round in Seattle will depend on WTO Members' willingness to show flexibility on a number of outstanding issues, such as the scope of the agenda for Seattle, and the nature of negotiations on agriculture," Dr Smith said.

"The US and EU demonstrated flexibility on some aspects of the agenda and recognised the essential importance of following-up on the fundamental reform of trade in agriculture. The discussions this year within APEC and the outcomes at Auckland have been valuable in focussing discussions on important aspects of the WTO work programme, and New Zealand can take pride in this contribution.

"But the slow progress of the officials' process in Geneva shows that WTO Members will need to demonstrate more flexibility if the round is to further liberalise trade and strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system.

"Our exporters have much to gain from a new WTO round and New Zealand will continue to work with like-minded counties in Geneva to ensure the successful launch of a comprehensive round in Seattle," Dr Smith concluded. Dr Smith leaves Laussane this evening for London, where he will meet with UK Agriculture Minister Nick Brown and Trade Minister Richard Caborn to identify areas of common interest in the lead-up to Seattle. Dr Smith returns to New Zealand on Sunday 31 October 1999.