Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 06 October, 1999

Written Answers. - World Trade Organisation.

94. Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will be present at the next ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation; her views on whether the new millennium round which the organisation propose should be opposed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19203/99]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): As the Minister of State with responsibility for trade, I expect to attend the third ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation, scheduled to be held in Seattle from 30 November to 3 December 1999. This ministerial will take the necessary decisions to launch a millennium round of trade negotiations in the WTO in 2000.

The European Union has been, and is, engaged in the detailed work, within the WTO, preparing for these negotiations. Ireland has participated fully in the preparation of EU positions.

The EU is firmly convinced that a comprehensive trade round, involving a broad range of issues is the best way to address the challenges resulting from rapid and far-reaching economic changes, to manage properly and effectively the globalisation process, to promote equitable growth and development and to respond in a balanced manner to the interests of all WTO members, in particular the developing countries.

Eight rounds of trade liberalisation and strengthening of multilateral trade rules have made a major contribution to global prosperity, development and rising living standards. Since 1951, global trade has grown seventeen fold, world production has more than quadrupled, and world per capita income has doubled. The multilateral system has helped a large number of developing countries to successfully integrate into the international economy and developing countries' share of world export trade has increased by nearly 50 per cent over the past three years.

The WTO, since the conclusion of the Uruguay round, has brought about major improvements in market access and more predictable rules that have benefited the membership as a whole, in [1299] particular smaller countries. Over the period 1995-97, the volume of global trade increased by almost 8 per cent annually, far outpacing the growth in GNP. WTO and OECD studies on the impact of the Uruguay round have confirmed the positive impact on the world economy as its results are taking effect.

In addition to a decision to launch a new round of trade negotiations, I would hope that the Seattle ministerial will take decisions that will strengthen the WTO as an institution. These could include improvements to the dispute settlement understanding, the creation of an institutional basis to better address development concerns, the improvement of co-operation between the WTO and other major international institutions and improved procedures to create greater transparency and public awareness of the WTO.