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28th Quadrilateral Trade Ministers Meeting
Kobe, Japan, April 21, 1996
Shunpei Tsukahara, Japan's Minister of International Trade and Industry, issued the following statement as Chairman of the 28th Quadrilateral Trade Ministers' meeting in Kobe, Japan on April 21, 1996. Also attending the meeting were Art Eggleton, Canada's Minister for International Trade, Charlene Barshefsky, Acting U.S. Trade Representative, and Sir Leon Brittan, Vice President of the European Commission.
Ministers from Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States held the 28th Quadrilateral Meeting in Kobe to review recent developments in international trade and to continue planning and preparation for the Singapore Ministerial Conference of the WTO [World Trade Organization].
We emphasized the need for full implementation of the WTO Agreements by all members, to reinforce the credibility of the WTO. We agreed to keep under review the situation regarding implementation, bearing in mind recent measures in violation of WTO obligations, such as TRIMs [Trade-related Investment Measures]. We look forward to the report of the General Council on implementation.
We affirmed our strong commitment to the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment on all items on its agenda. We reviewed its agenda with particular focus on eco-labelling and the relation between multilateral environmental agreements [MEAs] and WTO provisions. We recognized that these topics might be more ripe for specific recommendations to be endorsed by ministers. We also decided to support the establishment of this Committee on a permanent basis.
We, the Quad, strongly support the negotiation of an Information Technology Agreement [ITA], which is an initiative for trade liberalization in the information technology industry, and reaffirmed our efforts toward its realization on the basis of mutual benefit.
We also instructed officials to explore the possibility of acceleration of tariff reduction commitments under the Uruguay Round results, to explore the possibility of further tariff reductions, and to report back to us at the earliest opportunity with a view to maintaining momentum for further liberalization.
As a further contribution to liberalization, we agreed on the desirability of completing the work program on accountancy by the time of the Singapore Ministerial Conference, of expanding the work program in 1997, and of the development of generic rules that could be applied to several professions.
Ministers responsible for the WTO basic telecommunications negotiations reviewed the current status of negotiations and reaffirmed their commitment to a successful conclusion by April 30. They decided to redouble their efforts to complete the negotiations by presenting their best MFN-based offers, and strongly urged the other WTO members to follow suit. They concluded that other participants must significantly improve their offers. They reaffirmed the need to make additional commitments on regulatory principles by referring to the reference paper, which would substantiate market access commitments. Ministers reviewed the outstanding issues in the talks, particularly the possible risk that monopolies could distort competition in international services.
We reaffirmed the importance of concluding the maritime transport negotiations by June 30, and discussed the need for contributions from all participants in order to conclude the negotiations successfully.
Noting the built-in agenda under the various WTO Agreements, we welcomed the offer by Canada to prepare a discussion paper on ways and means by which the successful completion of future work and negotiations contemplated under these agreements might be facilitated.
We reaffirmed our urgent commitment to successfully concluding negotiations on a Multilateral Agreement on Investment under OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] auspices in the spring of 1997. We recognize that informal discussions on investment have already begun in Geneva. Without in any way detracting from our determination to reach the OECD agreement, we agreed that an informal WTO Working Group should now be set up in Geneva with a view to establishing a formal WTO Working Group at the Singapore Ministerial Conference.
Recognizing that core labour standards are matters of human rights and that their development is the responsibility of the International Labour Organization, we agreed that the relation between trade and labour standards should be discussed at the Singapore Ministerial Conference, with a view to determining how to proceed.
We agreed on the importance of enhancing the coherence between trade and competition policy, and agreed that this issue should be discussed at the Singapore Ministerial Conference with a view to determining how to proceed.
We took note of the important advances in the OECD to combat bribery and corruption in international trade.
We agreed to renew our efforts to expand membership in the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement [GPA], and to improve its disciplines through reducing barriers to government procurement. As a first step, we agreed to initiate work on an interim arrangement on transparency, openness and due process in government procurement, which would help reduce corruption as an impediment to trade.
We emphasized the importance of transparency to enhancing the credibility of the WTO, and agreed to urge other WTO members to agree on procedures for de-restriction of panel reports and other WTO documents.
We affirmed our view that we intend to work to expand WTO membership as rapidly as possible, on the basis of respect for WTO rules and the achievement of meaningful market access. In this connection, we believe that effective enforcement of intellectual property rights protection is necessary for confidence building among the members needed for accession.
With regard to regional trade initiatives, the last Quad Meeting suggested the establishment of the new WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements, and we welcome its establishment. We believe that regional trade initiatives must be consistent with and complementary to the multilateral trading system. With a view to building confidence in the relation between regional initiatives and the WTO, we exchanged information on our respective regional initiatives in the interests of transparency.
On regulatory reform, we agreed that ongoing work at the OECD should be supported, and agreed to explore a plurilateral Mutual Recognition Agreement [MRA] for telecommunications equipment to remove regulatory barriers to trade.
We also underlined the need to deal with trade and development, having in mind the commitments taken at Marrakesh.
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Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada
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