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U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
Remarks on the Importance of the WTO at the First Working Session of the 8th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference
December 16, 2011
“Let me begin with a clear statement on the perspective of the United States: We believe that this institution and the multilateral trading system it upholds remain strong, and its value is fundamental to individual, national, and global economic welfare. Without the system of rules embodied in the World Trade Organization, and the committees and processes that help us work productively with one another and resolve our differences, frankly, we would be lost.
“We all have a special responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the most effective functioning of the multilateral trading system. Its credibility and long-term sustainability depend on our careful cultivation of the legacy of more than six decades of our common endeavor. We must be continually attuned to possibilities for keeping the WTO’s work fresh, relevant, and adaptable to the circumstances facing us in a challenging global economy.
“For the United States, it is particularly important that we ensure that we are bringing new energy to the work of our standing Committees that give practical effect to the Agreements that are the bedrock of a rules-based multilateral trading system.
“We know that the next few years will entail ongoing challenges in our efforts to effectively resist protectionism. And we must make every effort to fight protectionism vigorously. The United States frankly would have wished to see a stronger acknowledgment of this coming out of this Conference. Fighting protectionism is, after all, a central – if not the central – mission of this institution.
“We recognize that a big part of ensuring that the benefits of this institution are shared broadly comes from integrating new members, and we welcome the accessions of Russia, Montenegro, Vanuatu, and Samoa. The United States is proud of our record in providing assistance to countries acceding to the WTO, particularly least developed countries (LDCs).
“Recognizing that Members continue to pursue trade liberalization bilaterally and regionally, we were also disappointed that we could not agree to a work plan on regional trade agreements (RTAs). We nonetheless hope to pursue useful work in this area, focusing on ensuring RTA consistency with WTO rules.
“We also need to recognize the importance of transparency and the need for Members to improve their track records in meeting their notification obligations that are essential to the basic functioning of many WTO Agreements.
“The future of the WTO lies in creating and maintaining rules that are of high quality, relevant to evolving 21st century challenges, and advancing trade liberalization. All Members should work together to think creatively to meet both current and emerging challenges, in order to ensure the continued strength of our rules-based trading system.
“In all of these activities, the United States looks forward to a strong partnership with all WTO Members. Thank you.”