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Barshefsky: APEC Ministers suggest three-year WTO

Excerpts: September 10 APEC Ministerial Press Conference
(Barshefsky: APEC Ministers suggest three-year WTO round)

Participants in the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting agreed that the "single most important feature" of a new round of trade liberalization and investment negotiations by the World Trade Organization (WTO) would be its conclusion within three years, according to U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky.

Such a time limit would mean that issues "not genuinely ripe for full-scale negotiation should not be part of any single undertaking," Barshefsky said during a September 10 press conference in Auckland, New Zealand. "Instead the round must remain balanced but manageable."

One of the significant outcomes in the Ministerial Joint Statement relates to biotechnology, according to Barshefsky.

"The APEC call for a rules-based system that is at least transparent and science-based would make an enormous difference to agricultural trade," she said. "It goes without saying that if the science is negative, that is the end of the inquiry. But, process-wise, we must be sure that regulations are published and followed, that the scientific data required are spelled out and then considered in an appropriate manner, and that the process not be politicized as it is today, particularly in the European Union."

On accelerated tariff liberalization (ATL), Barshefsky said that "APEC remains fully committed to early progress on ... zero-for-zero tariff treatment" in the areas of forest products, fisheries, the auto industry, toys, gems and jewelry, environmental goods and services, food, and medical equipment.

"The idea that has been discussed and will be further discussed in Geneva (at the upcoming WTO Ministerial) is that there should be early provisional implementation of those tariff cuts before the conclusion of a round," she said. "But in terms of a final binding, that is to say a contractual final commitment to implement in the future, the rest of the market access negotiations would have to successfully conclude in the round."

China's accession to the World Trade Organization is still under discussion, Barshefsky said.

"We have not yet established a specific timeline for conclusion of the talks, because for both China and the United States the resolution of the outstanding issues on satisfactory terms must be the goal. And that is far more important than establishing any arbitrary timeline," she said.

"With respect to accessions generally, of course, accessions consist not only of bilateral discussions but of very substantial and complex discussions in Geneva among all of the parties. The discussions in Geneva on China's accession, as well as on the accession of Chinese Taipei and some 30 other countries, are proceeding in Geneva on a normal basis," she continued.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who also attended the press conference, emphasized that the United States remains committed to a one-China policy, dialogue between China and Taiwan, and a peaceful resolution of the situation.

Following are excerpts of the press conference, as released by the Department of State:

(begin excerpts) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(Auckland, New Zealand)
For Immediate Release
September 11, 1999

APEC MINISTERIAL PRESS CONFERENCE

EXCERPTS INVOLVING
SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
AND
U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE AMBASSADOR CHARLENE BARSHEFSKY

September 10, 1999
Aotea Center
Auckland, New Zealand

QUESTION: I have a question for Ambassador Barshefsky. In the light of what the New Zealand minister has just said about the early results and single undertaking, does this mean the United States has now abandoned its position that there should be an early harvest of agreements in any round? Are you now -- do you now take the view that you should simply go for a single undertaking?

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: The short answer is no. And let me explain that answer. The United States' view on single undertaking is that there can be no agreement on single undertaking until the bounds of the WTO agenda is agreed. The APEC Ministers' statement makes clear that the single most important feature of the round -- apart from agriculture, services and industrial tariffs -- is that it must conclude within three years. Necessarily, that means that issues not genuinely ripe for full-scale negotiation should not be part of any single undertaking, and instead the round must remain balanced but manageable, which is precisely the United States' position.

With respect to ATL (Accelerated Tariff Liberalization), the significance of the decision reached at APEC is this. First off, that APEC remains fully committed to early progress on the eight sectors for, essentially, zero-for-zero tariff treatment. The idea that has been discussed and will be further discussed in Geneva is that there should be early provisional implementation of those tariff cuts before the conclusion of a round, but in terms of a final binding, that is to say a contractual final commitment to implement in the future, the rest of the market access negotiations would have to successfully conclude in the round. So this again is entirely consistent with the United States' position that trade liberalization is an on-going process. It is not merely a process that starts and stops every decade with the launch of a round.

QUESTION: My question is to Madame Secretary Albright. You met with the PRC Foreign Minister, Minister Tang Jiaxuan, yesterday, and it was reported that there was a lengthy discussion regarding Taiwan. And Minister Tang told us, after the meeting, that he raised certain -- several points and, by using very harsh words, he said that the difficulty for the past few months of the U.S.-China relations is solely responsible at the U.S. side. He also said that President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan is the biggest stumbling block in the development of U.S.-China relations. I wonder, do you have any response to this statement, and what's the prospect of the outcome of President Clinton's meeting with President Jiang Zemin tomorrow?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I believe that I had a frank and productive discussion with Foreign Minister Tang yesterday. We had met previously in Singapore and have maintained contact. In response to the issue of Taiwan, which is very much on the minds of Beijing, I made very clear that our policy has three pillars. It remains the same, which is we have a one-China policy, we believe that the situation ought to be resolved through dialogue, and peacefully. I think that there have clearly been questions recently about the U.S.-China relationship. We believe that it is an important relationship and that it is in U.S. national interests to have one in which there is engagement between the United States and China. That is what President Clinton believes. And it is hard to predict the outcome of any meeting, but there have been a number of meetings in the past between the two Presidents. I am sure that they will be discussing a variety of issues that concern both of us, that have to do with our trade relationship, the issues of non-proliferation, human rights, and issues where we believe that our interests are really very much in common -- that is, to do with the situation on the Korean peninsula.

************************

QUESTION: I understand there's been some progress on the talks between the United States and China on WTO accession. I was wondering if Ambassador Barshefsky might be able to give us a bit of a readout and, in particular, what issues still stand between the two sides and how you potentially see a way around the Taiwan and China entry question, if it gets to that stage. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: I think I did provide an essential response yesterday evening to the question of meetings held between the Chinese side and the United States' side on WTO. I've indicated that the U.S. and China have resumed WTO discussions, that we have asked our officials to begin to address outstanding issues so that they can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner. We have not yet established a specific timeline for conclusion of the talks, because for both China and the United States the resolution of the outstanding issues on satisfactory terms must be the goal. And that is far more important than establishing any arbitrary timeline. I do think that the discussions which Minister Shi and I have had last night were constructive and were very productive in tone. You know, of course, that there has been essentially no contact on the WTO issue for over four months for reasons with which I know you are quite familiar. And so the meetings that have been held, both in Beijing by our technical people as well as between Minister Shi and myself, have helped, I think, to break the ice and to allow for engagement in a more routine and normal manner. And I think that is all to the good. We're quite pleased about that, and I think that essentially captures the sum and substance of the discussions.

With respect to accessions generally, of course, accessions consist not only of bilateral discussions but of very substantial and complex discussions in Geneva among all of the parties. The discussions in Geneva on China's accession, as well as on the accession of Chinese Taipei and some 30 other countries, are proceeding in Geneva on a normal basis.

*********************

QUESTION: I would like to ask the American delegates whether they could expand a little bit on the agricultural decisions that are being proposed and whether you had any difficulties or disagreements or stumbling blocks with some of the ministers of the different economies here, particularly in regard to Australia or China or Japan? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR BARSHEFSKY: I think there are two very significant outcomes in this declaration with respect to agriculture. The first has to do with the complete elimination of agricultural export subsidies on a global basis. This is a matter highlighted by Vice President Gore at Davos this past January. The United States is of the firm view that global agricultural export subsidies are trade distortive, discriminate against the developing world, and artificially restrain agriculture production in countries that have a comparative advantage in that production. I did not detect any difference among APEC economies with respect to the absolute importance in the next round of, first off, a core focus on agriculture and, second, the absolute elimination of agricultural export subsidies.

The second significant outcome has to do with biotechnology. That is to say, an APEC call for a transparent, rules based, scientific process with respect to the issue of biotechnology.

To digress for a moment, as you know, from the U.S, point of view, our chief complaint with respect to European biotechnology decisions is that the regulatory process in Europe, such as it exists, is opaque and highly politicized. The APEC call for a rules-based system that is at least transparent and science-based would make an enormous difference to agricultural trade. It goes without saying that if the science is negative, that is the end of the inquiry. But, process-wise, we must be sure that regulations are published and followed, that the scientific data required are spelled out and then considered in an appropriate manner, and that the process not be politicized as it is today, particularly in the European Union.

(end excerpts)


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