USTR Kirk: Trade Is Vital to Global Economy
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Washington - The commitment of the United States to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the international trading system is not new, fleeting or superficial, but long-standing, because a rules-based trading system is vital to global economic well-being, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says.
"The benefits of this system trickle not downward, but upward, and out. When trade works properly, it is a foundation for jobs - essential for all of our people, their families and their communities," Kirk said at the opening of the 8th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference.
"Trade has been a primary engine of growth in the most successful developing economies, and ever-increasing South to South trade is good news for all of us," he said.
The WTO, which held its biennial trade ministers' conference December 15-17 in Geneva, sets the rules that govern global commerce and provides a forum for resolving trade disputes.
At the ministerial meeting, the 153-member organization discussed the current status of the Doha Round of global trade-liberalization negotiations, gave final approval for membership to Russia, Samoa and Montenegro, and concluded a revision of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement - which will expand opportunities for goods and services providers in markets around the world, Kirk said following the meeting.
While negotiations to expand trade liberalization began a decade ago in the Qatari capital of Doha, the talks have been stymied over reluctance by many developed and developing nations to end or curb farm subsidies and industrial tariffs - both of which are major impediments to global free trade.
Kirk said the trade ministers in Geneva agreed to find a resolution to the Doha impasse and are willing to make progress wherever possible. "But ministers have emphasized that 'business as usual' has not worked, and will not work going forward," he said.
Kirk praised the trade organization for inviting Russia, Samoa and Montenegro to join. Accepting Russia after 18 years ends the problem of having Russia outside the world trade system. Russia, with a population of 142 million, is the last major world economy to join the organization. Russia is also a member of the Group of Eight advanced economies and the Group of 20 advanced and emerging global economies, and is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said that with Russia's membership, more than 97 percent of all world trade will take place among member countries. Before Russia's admission to the WTO, it had been about 95 percent.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)