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Remarks By Secretary Of Agriculture Dan Glickman

WTO Seattle Host Organization Agriculture Day
Morning Session -- Welcoming Remarks
Seattle, Washington
December 1, 1999

Good morning. Thank you all for being here. I'm pleased to have this opportunity to welcome everyone to Agriculture Day when the WTO focuses on the one area that is absolutely critical to every man, woman and child on earth.

Leading up to this week's events in Seattle, we were bombarded with terminology like multifunctionality, tariff rate quotas, state trading enterprises, the precautionary principle and so on. It struck me that these are terms far from the minds of average farmers and ranchers as they toil day in and day out to bring us the food we eat.

To them, all that matters is that they get a fair price for their efforts. That to me is the essence of our mission today and throughout this negotiating round. Somewhere under all those complicated terms is an uncomplicated desire to ensure that all farmers and ranchers, regardless of what country they're from, get as fair a deal on their goods as any other farmers or ranchers. That folks, is free and fair trade, and that is why we are here.

But one of the more difficult challenges we face is convincing people of the benefits of free trade. We should be honest about this. Let's not pretend that trade agreements aren't distasteful medicine for some folks in all countries including our own. But it would be harmful to the well-being of our countries if we limit trade just to avoid the tough sacrifices we must make in some areas.

All nations must struggle with the question of how to make it a soft landing for those who fall, even while we help others to fly. I know this is not an easy problem for any nation to deal with, practically or politically.

None of us here in Seattle can take our eyes off the ultimate goal -- free trade and greater prosperity for all. But, we must be cognizant of the need to help those displaced by globalization. We must help them find their place in this new economic order. Doing so may, in fact, ease the move toward freer trade. I am not advocating any domestic actions that would be trade-distorting. That would defeat the purpose of why we're here in the first place. But I am saying, let's recognize that, in moving forward, we need to ensure that no one is left behind.

In his annual State of the Union address to the American people, President Clinton called on the nations of the world to tear down barriers, open markets and expand trade. He also added that, we must ensure that ordinary citizens in all countries actually benefit from trade.

I've spoken at length this year and this week about the United States' specific goals in the new round -- eliminating export subsidies, reducing trade-distorting domestic supports, restricting the trade-distorting practices of State Trading Enterprises, reducing tariffs, ensuring that tariff rate-quotas are used to enhance trade, and assuring adherence to proven science-based principles.

I've also spoken about how free trade has been beneficial to individuals in the United States in general and American agriculture in particular. One thing I can never say too often is that by breaking down barriers and letting trade in, we are allowing farmers and businesses the freedom to improve, to compete, and in the long run, to prosper.

But don't take my word for it. Sometimes the best perspective comes not from those of us inside the house, but those on the outside wanting to come in.

As you all know, the premier achievement leading up to this week is the historic agreement on trade reached between China and the United States. Let me assure you, if going it alone were so wonderful, if China didn't fully realize how important being part of a free, fair and rules-based trading system is for its economy, they would not have worked so hard and have been so willing to make the necessary concessions in order to join the WTO.

And look at what this agreement means for American agriculture. With 1.2 billion [1,200 million] people, over 20% of the world's population, China presents enormous opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture tariffs on our highest priorities will be cut by half within five years. Tariff rate quotas will result in increased exports of bulk commodities like wheat, corn, cotton and vegetable oils. China has agreed to eliminate false trade barriers like those not based on proven scientific evidence. And the Chinese have agreed to eliminate export subsidies on all agriculture products. Once this agreement is fully implemented, it's estimated that annual U.S. agricultural exports will increase by nearly $1 billion [$1,000 million].

I'm of the belief that, if the Chinese adhere to these commitments, and I believe they will, we are going to see a major surge in world trade in the near future.

But I want to point out one aspect of the Chinese agreement, which hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but might very well turn out to be the most significant provision of all. For the first time, trade with China will no longer be conducted exclusively through government middlemen. Now and forever, businesses in China will have the opportunity to deal directly with businesses here and throughout the world -- private company to private company. That really means open borders, open communications and open relations between the people of China and the rest of the world. Frankly I don't see how you can have open trade and a closed society. The 20th century is strewn with evidence of the failure of that approach.

So as we embark on this new trade round, let's remember that agriculture is part of a bigger trade picture, and trade is part of a bigger world picture. But when all is said and done, these global plans and visions, and the advances we make on the world stage, are only significant in how they benefit the individual in that for each and every citizen of the world, what we achieve here is an opportunity for a better standard of living, greater food security, peace and freedom.

Thank you.

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