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    New WTO Director-General Speaks Out

     

     
     
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2002

    Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, new Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

    WTO's new Director-General addresses ITC's Executive Forum on National Export Strategies.

    We are in the midst of an unprecedented global trade negotiation, the Doha Development Agenda. But while it's nice to have trade agreements, they must be usable and pragmatic. Countries have to involve the public and the private sectors, which have to be prepared to use the trade agreements. This cooperation will be needed even more in the future because of the complexity of the agreements.

    Countries need all kinds of technical assistance to make trade agreements "usable". ITC has been working to integrate the private sector into the full realm of trade activities, to help governments create symbiosis between the private and public sectors. Good public-private sector cooperation is key to successful trade strategy and it will be ever more necessary in the future. I fully support ITC and have high regard for the quality and practicality of its programmes.

    A major aim of the Executive Forum is to arm you with the capacity to develop your own strategies. There are four reasons why I think this Executive Forum is really needed.

    Uncertainty

    The first is the global economic condition. The conclusion of the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook is that we will be confronted by a world full of uncertainties. Stock markets are not going to perform as they did in the 1990s. We are seeing anaemic growth in some of the key economies around the world and structural changes that will take some time to produce sustainable growth. And we have to brace ourselves for some surprises, for geo-political risks.

    We must push back any effort to backslide into more protectionism. We have to reconcile our differences and resolve our disagreements in the most peaceful manner so that trade can flourish.

    Doha Development Agenda

    The second area is the Doha Development Agenda. It is going to be full of old and new issues, some less and some more controversial. One of them is services. This is not new. But for the first time we are looking at the full engagement of countries in the services sector.

    Why is it important to be able to determine your key strategy in services? Because the rate of growth in this sector has been exceeding the growth rate in the merchandise sector, in trade as well as in production. The World Bank estimates that if you reduced impediments in the services sector by 50%, you would get five times the gains of reducing barriers in the merchandise sector. In advanced countries, services account for more than 70% of gross domestic product (GDP). But even in average developing countries, they account for 40% to 50% and are growing all the time. The services sector could be the underpinning factor in growth.

    Public-private partnerships

    Third, negotiators need information from the private sector when going into trade talks, so that they can analyse the consequences of what their governments take on. It pays to have the private sector involved right from the beginning. Understanding the rules and being informed is a key to success in negotiations, so that countries can translate the results into their own national strategies.

    Coordination to mainstream trade

    The fourth issue is coordination. If we want to mainstream trade into economic planning, to use trade as a tool for development, we need coordination - between agencies and within countries. In this regard, WTO, ITC and UNCTAD should always work together.

    Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi is Director-General of the World Trade Organization. This article is based on his remarks at the Executive Forum on National Export Strategies (25 to 28 September 2002), at which he addressed government and business leaders from 25 countries.


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