M. Robert Zoellick, United States Trade Representative, Washington, DC, 14 mai 2004 - 2004/05/14
On the occasion of the OECD ministerial meeting in Paris in May, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick gave a major speech to the French Senate on May 13 calling for the resumption of WTO negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda. Zoellick urged WTO member states to take advantage of the upturn in the world economy to kickstart the stalled talks, which have been paralyzed for a number of months. In his speech, he gave a comprehensive overview of the situation, hailing the return of a climate more conducive to negotiation, noting the major obstacles that remain and laying out a strategy for rapid progress.
Zoellick noted that in the six months following Cancun, the United States “moved forward with countries prepared to engage in real give and take,” signing new free trade deals with eight countries, making progress with another six, and announcing the launch of talks with six more. In his words, “Our strategy maintained forward momentum for free trade, helping us resist the forces of isolation in economically difficult times.” Although he sees a regaining of momentum, he cautioned that “our ability to make notable progress by this summer depends principally […] on two steps”: resolve the “Singapore Issues” by focusing exclusively on trade facilitation through the overhaul of customs rules, and concentrate on the draft agricultural text to achieve some kind of framework for reform. The trade representative went on to affirm that solutions to these issues would rapidly lead to other breakthroughs: a framework agreement on cutting industrial tariffs and removing non-tariff barriers to trade in goods, a new impetus to open up service markets, and agreement on the best way to get the poorer and smaller developing countries participating in global trade. To achieve these goals, Zoellick believes that “other countries will need to end State Trading Enterprise export monopolies and the use of differential export taxes.” He also called for “substantial cuts in domestic trade-distorting subsidies so as to greatly narrow inequalities and lower the overall permitted amount on the path to the total elimination of trade-distorting subsidies.”
Zoellick stressed that in the crucial services sector, the United States was urging the majority of WTO member states to make meaningful offers. “As part of that effort, we are willing to make available technical assistance to help developing countries present offers. We have also urged the World Bank to help developing countries assess the potential benefits and assist in preparing proposals that will involve multiple ministries.” Zoellick invites these countries to be partners in this process so that they have a chance to capitalize on the benefits of trade liberalization, since “trade offers opportunities, not guarantees.” He added that “in Africa, we need to make sure that the poorest have access to the growth and opportunities that open markets deliver.” The U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act has created economic incentives for the 37 eligible sub-Saharan countries in Africa. To build on this success, the U.S. has launched negotiations with the five member countries of the Southern African Customs Union (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland) and continued its Middle East trade liberalization initiative, custom tailoring its efforts to the needs of each country while working toward the goal of a regional free trade agreement with the U.S. Zoellick explained that in addition to helping countries become WTO members, the U.S. was expanding the network of free trade agreements it has already signed with Jordan, Israel, Morocco, and soon Bahrain. “We are also providing assistance to build trade capacity and expand opportunities so that the countries of the Middle East can benefit from their integration into the global trading system.” For poorer developing countries that want to take advantage of new opportunities for combining trade liberalization with domestic reform, Zoellick declared, “we would be pleased to work with them to expand their ambition—for example, through the liberalization of services or sectoral negotiations in goods or agriculture or in the application of trading rules in ways that reinforce and promote their own domestic reform programs.”
The trade representative reiterated the commitment of the U.S. president, for whom the Doha negotiations remain the central objective of American trade strategy, and who knows that “more open trade is critical to offering developing countries the opportunity to move beyond the dependency of the past.” He also stated that “the President’s strong commitment to the free trade agenda […] should bolster the commitments of those who wonder whether America is serious in its offers to eliminate agricultural export subsidies […], cut drastically the tariffs on goods and agriculture, and expand services trade. We mean what we say.”  (Available in French on the AllAfrica Global Media’s Website)