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Opening Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman at the WTO Mini-Ministerial

January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014
Davos, Switzerland


"Good morning.  Thank you, Johann [Schneider-Ammann, Swiss Minister of Economy] for hosting us here today.  And thank you, Roberto [Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization], for your leadership. 

"I'd like to make three points today.

"First, we strongly agree that the WTO's first order of business must be to finish what we started.   First and foremost, that means implementing the historic Trade Facilitation Agreement that we completed in Bali in December to ensure that we unlock its full potential, particularly for the developing world.   

"It also means agreeing to a work plan as we seek to identify future opportunities for progress.  The United States is open-minded and we are willing to consider a discussion on any of the outstanding issues.  As Roberto mentioned, we recognize the interconnectedness of many of the issues that remain outstanding and we believe it is important to look at all the dimensions of each issue.  For example, if we are going to look at export competition in agriculture, we also need to look at the full range of agriculture issues, including market access, the role of state trading enterprises, export restraints, and all of the other factors that cause distortions in agricultural trade.

"Second, we need to avoid falling back into the stalemates of the past that have prevented progress.  The most damaging outcome for the WTO would be to return to the deadlocked situation of several years ago.  We should be on guard to prevent ourselves from returning to bad habits.  Roberto has laid out a series of principles that will help in that regard, keeping with the call from MC8 to pursue creative, fresh, and credible approaches.

"Third, we must proceed based on the new knowledge we have acquired in recent years.  We need to ask ourselves how trade has changed in the last decade or so.  At the WTO, we are still operating on databases that reflect the trading world of the late 1990s.  We need to ask ourselves how to update our databases and use better tools to capture current trade and subsidization patterns.  Finding more accurate baselines for this discussion will be an important part of this work program.

"Let me conclude with a word on how the United States sees our various trade initiatives in relationship to the multilateral trading system. In addition to ongoing work in Geneva, we are currently engaged in a series of plurilateral and regional negotiations. We see these negotiations as fully consistent with and complementary to the multilateral system. The United States remains fully committed to the WTO. We were pleased to play a leadership role to support the successful Bali outcome. And we look forward to working with all of you as we chart out the course ahead."