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WTO works for all, Goff tells Pacific MPs

WTO works for all, Goff tells Pacific Parliamentarians

Brazil's successful action against United States cotton subsidies shows that developing countries and major powers are treated equally under the rules-based system of the World Trade Organisation, Foreign Minister Phil Goff told a workshop for Pacific parliamentarians today.

The three-day workshop on the multilateral trading system and the trade-related concerns of developing countries in the Pacific has been organised by New Zealand in its new capacity as Secretariat of the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Association's Pacific region.

"This workshop is especially timely given the debate about the role and value of the WTO and trade liberalisation, particularly for small countries," Mr Goff said.

"WTO agreements and the binding dispute settlement system help to ensure that the trading interests of large and small countries alike are respected. That's why New Zealand gives high priority to the WTO.

"It is not perfect but it is the best system we have, and one that we can continue to improve by engaging with it. Parliamentarians have a role to play in informing wider civil society on global trade issues and in encouraging an open and informed debate on trade issues.

"Nothing can equal the returns to the world economy from genuine progress in trade liberalisation at the multilateral level. Studies have estimated that the abolition of all trade barriers could boost global income by as much as US$2.8 trillion dollars and lift 320 million people out of poverty by 2015.

"Developing nations now make up 80 percent of the WTO's membership, and they play an important part in ensuring that the needs and interests of the developing world remain at the heart of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

"For small countries, such as New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours, the highest trade priority is the successful completion of the Doha Round, which is the equivalent of holding bilateral negotiations with 148 countries.

"Thanks to the WTO, the New Zealand economy has so far gained over $9 billion from the last round of negotiations, the Uruguay Round. It is estimated that the round has increased our agricultural export receipts by $6.1 billion since 1995 through greater market access and WTO members being less able to use export subsidies as a barrier.

"All sectors of the New Zealand economy have gained from increased ability to access markets at lower tariff levels, resulting in tariff duty savings of $3.1 billion. We have also won dispute settlement cases against Canada on Dairy and the US on Lamb worth a combined $90 million a year.

"New Zealand supports accession to the WTO by Pacific Island countries and we are fully committed to providing on-going assistance with trade facilitation measures.

"We are equally committed to helping Pacific Island countries develop their economies through trade with the outside world, as integration into the regional and international economy is an important and indeed necessary step in the process to realising greater economic growth."

ENDS

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