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Address by Minister Fast at the WTO Ministerial Gathering on the Margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting

Minister Fast at the WTO Ministerial gathering on the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting

Photo: The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway, joins Craig Emerson, Australia’s Minister of Trade and Competitiveness (right), and Pascal Lamy, WTO Director-General, at the OECD-WTO press conference. 

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May 30, 2013 - Paris

Check Against Delivery

Merci, and thank you, Craig [Emerson, Australian minister of trade and competitiveness] for hosting this very timely meet up. It will give us a chance to take stock of our progress on the road to Bali [for the ninth WTO Ministerial Conference, in December 2013]. 

In Canada, we believe there is no better job creator or generator of economic growth than freer and more open trade. Simply put, Canada, like Australia, is one of the most open economies in the world, and our actions prove it. It is therefore crucial that the WTO remain a relevant forum for negotiating new trade agreements and disciplines.

Canada supports an effective, rules-based multilateral trading system, which includes the effective monitoring and surveillance mechanisms that underpin a well-functioning WTO secretariat and dispute settlement system.

But we’ve been beating this drum for several years, yet it appears to be falling on deaf ears.

As you know, in January [at the World Economic Forum meeting] in Davos, we agreed on the contours of a package of deliverables for the Ninth [WTO] Ministerial Conference with a new agreement on trade facilitation at its core, along with outcomes on certain agriculture and development issues.

Subsequently, in April, several of us met [at the APEC ministers responsible for trade meeting] in Surabaya [Indonesia], where we recognized that negotiations were not on track and that changes were necessary to avoid derailment.

Regrettably, I understand there has not been a fundamental shift in the negotiating dynamics and that the gaps in our negotiating positions have not been narrowed.

This should be of serious concern to us all.

The consequences of a failure here cannot be overstated. Essential to the credibility of the multilateral trading system itself is the ability to update rules and negotiate new commitments.

Failure to deliver in Bali may confirm to the world that after 12 years of trying, the broader Doha agenda is simply not viable. And the most vulnerable victims of that failure will be the LDCs [least-developed countries]. And, as Craig has repeatedly noted, it is the LDCs that stand to gain the most from a satisfactory trade facilitation outcome.

Let me propose four principles to guide us as we work to get things back on track:

  • First: the centrality of the multilateral trading system and the WTO to our efforts to harness freer and more open trade and investment as the twin engines of job creation and economic growth—that should be a given;
  • Second: the necessity of transparency and the rule of law in customs administration;
  • Third: the importance of taking reasonable steps to ensure food security, along with commensurate disciplines on agricultural support; and
  • Fourth: our commitment to facilitating the integration of developing countries into the global trading system.

Based on these principles, I’d like to suggest two concrete steps going forward.

First, we must immediately direct our negotiators to clear away less substantive issues and brackets from the negotiating text. Given the large amount of work ahead of us, they need to focus only on the most substantive issues if we hope to meet our agreed objectives for Bali.

Second, and more fundamentally, we must direct our officials to come to the negotiating table with maximum flexibility. And I’m referring not only to the developed countries but to the developing countries and LDCs as well. This is not the time to engage in ‘hostage taking’ between negotiating areas. Now is the time for creative engagement without prejudice to final decisions as to the balance of elements in a final package. I can assure you that Canada will bring significant flexibility to the table and will be a constructive partner in that endeavour.

Despite the challenges we face, I am pleased to see progress in the plurilateral negotiations on the expansion of the WTO’s Information Technology Agreement and on a new Trade in Services Agreement. Canada is pleased to be engaged in both.

These efforts are increasingly important to ensure barrier-free global trade flows. Success here will not only benefit our economies, it will add further impetus to advance global trade negotiations.

As a country at the forefront of trade liberalization, Canada expects the WTO to continue to champion our common cause against the protectionism that remains a toxic threat to the global economic recovery.

The future credibility of the WTO as a negotiating forum depends on delivering a meaningful Bali package. We will fail unless we pick up the pace considerably. We need to re-engage with determination, flexibility and, most important, with a sense of urgency, for a successful conference in Indonesia.

Thank you.