Pacific Roundtable On WTO Issues, Wellington
Hon Jim Sutton
1 July 2004
Pacific Roundtable On WTO Issues, Wellington
Ladies and Gentlemen: I am delighted to welcome you to this meeting ? the fourth time Wellington has hosted it, and the third time I have met with you.
I extend a wam welcome to you all, especially Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia who were admitted to the Food and Agriculture Organisation last year - are they here? Thank you for coming as well.
Trade liberalization - especially the issues of export subsidy elimination and market access - is important to all trading nations, but increasingly, it is developing nations who are the most fervent in their views on it. I found this particularly striking at last year's FAO conference in Rome, which I chaired. Associate Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor also noticed the same at recent FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Beijing.
Only three Pacific Island countries are WTO members, but it is necessary for all to be aware of WTO provisions and of developments in multilateral trade negotiations - all regions are affected in one way or another by the global trading system.
I know that Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu are engaged in negotiations over accession to the WTO
New Zealand is keen to assist where it can with facilitating accession to the WTO because it is important everyone affected by international trading rules should have a say in how they are developed - but we recognise the challenges this poses for developing and least-developed countries. WTO membership is not something that people should feel forced into.
Globalisation is a reality we all have to deal with, no matter how large or small a nation we are.
Governments in the Pacific cannot shut their people away from the rest of the world. The social ties we share, as friends and family across our many islands in the Pacific, prevent that. We are exposed to different cultures, and this can bring about changes in our societies. This change is hard to adjust to sometimes.
Economic changes forced upon us by globalisation can sometimes be hard to deal with too. It is something that governments must come to grips with though, so that we can do the best for our citizens.
This event has proven to be very useful, and is even more so this year as multilateral agricultural trade negotiations gather momentum in the WTO ? July being a 'crunch' month for DDA negotiations. Vili Fuavao and his team in the FAO Sub-Regional office in Apia are to be congratulated for the enthusiasm with which they are continuing to organise this event.
NZ is very pleased to provide support to this event, and does so in the knowledge of the potential gains to be made from liberalisation of the world trading system. This is the seventh year NZ is pleased to share its trade policy expertise and experience.
It's especially appropriate this meeting is on now, as the WTO negotiations are close to a crunch point in Geneva now.
New Zealand is cautiously optimistic that this time, agreement can be reached. But there are still significant gaps in positions - the next month will be crucial.
Agriculture is still one of the key issues. Slowly and surely, it seems that a consensus might be possible.
We are standing on the brink of what appears to be a major shift in the international trading system.
It is a seismic shift equivalent to that of 10 years ago, when for the first time agriculture was included as an integral part of the multilateral negotiations known as the Uruguay Round.
This time, in the Doha Development Round, the economic superpowers of the World Trade Organisation have recognised that agriculture is a vital part of this round and as a consequence, have registered a readiness to see an end-date for export subsidies as an integral part of the outcome.
The significance of this is huge: for more than 50 years, they have been defending the use of export subsidies. Their recognition that export subsidies are undermining developing country economies and will have to go in this negotiation is an enormous step.
Developing nations have a key role in these negotiations. The majority of WTO members are developing nations.
New Zealand places importance on special and differential treatment for developing nations, and we recognise that developing countries require special treatment.
But this is the real world. The Doha Round is a negotiation. There is nothing in it, for nothing.
Movement is necessary from developing nations as well, many who have their own significant barriers to trade, which will also have to start coming down.
Fisheries subsidies rules is another area of the Doha Round that can potentially deliver substantial trade and development benefits.
Conservative estimates place global fisheries subsidies at a minimum of US$15 billion; that's equivalent to 20 per cent of industry revenue. Tighter WTO fisheries subsidies rules could benefit Pacific domestic fisheries sectors by providing growth opportunities in the absence of highly subsidised products from developed countries.
We recognise also the need to take into account the particular circumstances of the smallest coastal states - in particular where domestic industry development and artisanal fishing are involved. New Zealand has a strong interest in a continued dialogue on this issue.
This Roundtable has emphasis on trade policy, but note also that it has elements of trade facilitation, such as quarantine issues, which are critical for stimulating the trade of Pacific Island countries.
We were pleased that some real gains have been made in facilitating exports from Pacific Island nations to New Zealand through the dedicated position that has been established at MAF to work on Pacific quarantine issues. This was funded from New Zealand's RTFP allocation last year, but this financial year is to be funded from within MAF baselines. So that is additional resources for the Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I wish you all well in this meeting. I encourage you to take full part in all the deliberations - lively discussion and sharing of your own experiences will maximise the value of this event.