Office of the United States Trade Representative


The World Trade Organization: Beyond Cancun
By: Gregory Walters, Director of Small Business Affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative 09/10/2003

On Sunday, September 14, 2003, the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico came to a close without an agreement on how to proceed in the furtherance of trade liberalization among the 146 member countries. 

There can be no doubt that the U.S. government arrived in Cancun prepared to negotiate and move towards further trade liberalization. However, good intentions and preparedness could not overcome “won’t do” attitudes among some of the members.  As Ambassador Zoellick said in his press conference, “… There were ‘can do’ countries here [in Cancun] and there were ‘won’t do’ countries.  The harsh rhetoric of the ‘won’t do’ overwhelmed the concerted efforts of the ‘can do’.”

Some have suggested that the lack of a successful conclusion to this meeting sounded the death toll for world trade.  To the contrary, and much to the benefit of U.S. small businesses, the Bush Administration has never put all its “trade” eggs in the singular basket of the WTO.  This is not to say that the U.S. will not be seeking further liberalization through that organization.  However, the U.S. has not, and will not, seek trade liberalization only through the WTO.

As a result, the bilateral and regional initiatives, which we have discussed in this column, become even more important to the success of your business overseas.

The Bush Administration remains committed to opening markets and gaining access for U.S. small business owners.  The bilateral negotiations with the CAFTA, SACU, and other countries continue toward their expected closing dates.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations are continuing as scheduled and the United States sees this negotiation as another opportunity for Latin American countries to earnestly negotiate for the economic benefit of their citizens.  As Ambassador Zoellick said in his press conference, “We are now offering another opportunity to create something significant across the Americas.  The hand is there.  It is up to them to see that.”

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