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NZ welcomes Tonga, Saudi Arabia to WTO

NZ welcomes Tonga, Saudi Arabia to WTO

Phil Goff Speech: Delivered at the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial meeting

6.30pm, 15 December

New Zealand is very pleased to welcome the accession of both Saudi Arabia and Tonga as the 149th and 150th members of the World Trade Organisation respectively.

Over threequarters of the world’s nations are now members of the WTO, and with others such as Samoa, Russia and Viet Nam in the process of joining, the WTO is well on the path to becoming a truly universal body.

New Zealand places high priority on the WTO. It is a democratic organisation, owned and accountable to the people through its member governments. It provides the only multilateral rules-based trading system in the global economy and helps to ensure that the trading interests of large and small countries alike are respected. Of course the WTO is not perfect; but it is the best system we have to win the benefits of free and fair trade between nations.

The WTO’s increasing developing country membership is important, ensuring that the benefits of globalisation reach the developing world. Four-fifths of WTO members are developing countries. They play an essential part in ensuring that the Doha Development Agenda keeps to the objective of placing developing countries’ needs and interests at the heart of the Doha Work Programme.

As a fellow South Pacific country, New Zealand welcomes Tonga, which joins with its neighbours, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, as a member of this organisation.

To Minister Dr Feleti Sevele and the Tongan delegation, malo e lelei and congratulations on this special and historic occasion and achievement. Minister Sevele, I pay tribute to your leadership and courage to implement the reforms necessary for Tonga's progress as a modern nation. For your contribution, malo ah'pito.

New Zealand and Tonga enjoy a very close relationship. Our shared Polynesian heritage, the large proportion of Tongan leaders educated in New Zealand, and the large Tongan community in New Zealand of nearly 50,000 underpins and strengthens our relationship. Tongan people have made a major contribution in our country and have added to the richness of our economic and cultural life, and on the rugby field.

New Zealand is aware of the challenges faced by Tonga and other small economies in embracing trade liberalisation, including the capacity and governance challenges. However, the development potential inherent in fair trade rules, and the protection afforded by WTO dispute settlement processes, are especially important for small economies.

In its accession to the WTO, Tonga is taking on commitments commensurate with its level of development. New Zealand stands ready to assist Tonga in meeting its new WTO obligations.

New Zealand is committed to work in partnership with its Pacific neighbours. It provides assistance in areas such as small business enterprise centres, economic advisers, agricultural and social development, and forestry. It also contributes to the WTO’s technical assistance programme, for use in the Asia-Pacific region. This has funded a range of training programmes and other projects for Pacific Island Countries.

New Zealand also welcomes Saudi Arabia’s accession to the WTO, and supported its bid for accession.

As an agricultural exporter we appreciate the moves that Saudi Arabia has made to improve trade in agricultural commodities.

We look forward to supporting Saudi Arabia as it implements its WTO commitments and to changes that will strengthen and encourage our mutual trading relationship.

Once again, congratulations to both Tonga and Saudi Arabia on their accession, which contributes to the universal and representative nature of this organisation.

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