USTR - U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman - Opening Statement, WTO Plenary Session, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre
The Office of the United States Trade Representative

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman - Opening Statement, WTO Plenary Session, Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN:  Thank you, Chairwoman Miller.  I would to thank our hosts, the people of this vibrant and welcoming city.  Hong Kong is the perfect setting for this historic meeting.  By embracing free trade, Hong Kong has become one of the world's great cities, and its people enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.

This setting should inspire us.  It should inspire us to succeed at the job we have been sent here to do - raise the living standards of all the world's people, particularly those in developing countries - by unleashing the power of more open trade.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create economic opportunities, to alleviate poverty and to bond nations to each other in the peaceful pursuit of prosperity.  This is the basis of President Bush's vision he presented in his speech before the United Nations in September. There is a lot at stake here. We cannot afford to fail.

The United States has come to Hong Kong determined to solidify and to build on the gains that we have made since the July 2004 framework. This week, we have been reaching out to our trading partners on a full range of issues from market access to cotton to fish subsidies.  We have been prodding others to go further in opening their markets, and we are calling for investment in development linked to trade. Our strong hope and desire is that, with hard work, we can still conclude an agreement by the end of next year.

You know, I sense that there is a growing consensus among members.  I heard it yesterday in the introductory speeches.   I've heard it again this morning from both my colleagues Minister Lin, Minister Deiss, informed by economic analysis and their own experience.  I believe members are more open to flexibility and more understanding of the importance of open trade because they believe it can deliver tangible benefits to their citizens. We must continue our pursuit, therefore, of knocking down trade-distorting subsidies, expanding market access in agricultural and industrial goods and services.

More than two months ago, in a bid to jumpstart the talks in advance of this meeting here in Hong Kong, the United States put forward a bold and comprehensive proposal to eliminate all agricultural export subsidies by 2010, to substantially reduce and eventually eliminate altogether trade-distorting domestic subsidies. Most importantly, especially for the developing world, we called for greater market access, meaning cuts, real cuts, in tariffs and elimination of quotas.

Minister Lin's economic analysis is exactly right. All the studies point to one thing: the development benefits of Doha will come from market access.  I believe the proposal energized the talks at a very critical stage.

Unfortunately, I also believe that energy has now dissipated a bit, while we wait for a number of key members who cannot seem to agree to a balanced package in agriculture. As we gather here, I must tell you that I believe there remains only one way to break the current deadlock in agriculture. It requires a convergence on reducing tariffs in the relatively protected agricultural sector. Not in one country or another, but globally, worldwide, a framework that we can all agree to.

Again, I join other countries in the developed and developing world in calling for our trading partners, in Europe and elsewhere, to agree to this global formula that truly meets the Doha requirement of substantial improvement in market access.

At the same time, we must make progress on a balanced package that not just includes agriculture, but also includes further reductions in non-agricultural tariffs and barriers to trade and services.  This is only fair.  There needs to be a parallelism here, too, and a balance here, too.

After all, manufactured goods now account for 75% of global commerce. What's more, progress in this area is also important to the developing economies. Think about it. Recall that 70% of the tariffs paid by developing countries are paid to other developing countries.

So in addition to agriculture, we must make progress across the board. We can't let our generation's opportunity slip. Here's what we would propose that we commit to this week, in the next few days.

One, in agriculture, any forward progress on market access would be more than welcomed.  But even if we can't make progress in market access, we should be able to set a date for the agreement we've already made to eliminate all forms of export subsidies.

Second, in non-agricultural market access, we should agree to the structure that adheres to the principle that benefits flow from reducing the highest tariffs the most. The so-called Swiss formula -- with two coefficients -- is what this group ought to adopt in the next few days.

Third, in the area of trade and services, we must challenge each other to offer better quality market access commitments, particularly in key sectors such as financial services, telecommunications, computer-related services, environmental services, express delivery, distribution, and energy services.  And this week, we should set a new deadline for tabling a revised and improved offers in services.

Fourth, although we may not achieve all we had hope for this week, let us set another deadline to keep the pressure on.  It is going to be tempting after Hong Kong to take a deep breath, won't it?  We can't let that happen.  Minister Lin talked about an aggressive work plan after Hong Kong.  We also need to push up against the date.  We should not leave without setting a date early next year to come together again, this time to break the deadlock on the major core issues so our negotiators can complete work by the end of 2006.

Finally, and extremely important to the success of Doha, we must be proactive this week in giving the least developed countries development assistance, and we must support capacity building to complement the progress we are trying to make in opening markets and unleashing trade.

The United States is already the largest donor of aid for trade in the world. We believe in it.  We prioritized it.  We provided $1.3 billion to those separate issues, and that is a 46% increase from last year. Our spending on trade-related assistance, in fact, has more than doubled in the past five years.

Overall, in that five year period, we have provided a cumulative of $4.5 billon in grants, not loans, in grants.  These are to ensure countries build the governmental and physical infrastructure needed to fully participate in and benefit from the global trading system.

We believe in aid for trade.  We believe we must do more.  To put our resources behind that sentiment and to help make this ministerial meeting a success, I am announcing today that the United States will double its commitment   We will double our contribution for aid for trade from US$1.3 billion in 2005, to US$2.7 billion annually by 2010.

Of course, we will continue to urge Congress to pass the President's budget request in these areas.  And we will encourage developing and least-developed countries to prioritize trade in their development plans.  I must underscore, as others have before me, that these funds and the additional money announced today must go hand-in-hand with the marketing openings that are part of Doha.

Expanding markets, eliminating trade-distorting subsidies, is the core.  And the aid for trade announced today is a complement to that, not a substitute for it. There have been some ups and downs in the last five years, which is to be expected when almost 150 countries get together and grapple with tough issues that have economic and political implications back home.  It is not easy.  But the time has come to stop postponing the toughest work.  I believe that either we move forward or we risk moving backward. toward protectionism that will stunt economic growth and will harm the developing world the most.

So this week, let's recommit ourselves to action.  Let's work with vision and political courage and hope.  In doing so together, my colleagues, we can make history and we can meet the Doha promise.

Thank you.

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