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29th Quadrilateral Trade Ministers Meeting
Seattle, Washington, September 28, 1996
Ministers from Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States met in Seattle for the 29th Quadrilateral Meeting to assess preparations for the World Trade Organization's (WTO) first ministerial meeting to be held in Singapore, December 9-13 1996.
Quad partners recognized that we must provide leadership in preparing for the Singapore meeting. At Singapore, we will have the opportunity to ensure that the WTO is a dynamic forum for on-going liberalization, consultation and discussion. We look forward to a business-like, practical meeting where we can consolidate the gains already achieved and take stock of the work to date in implementing the Uruguay Round agreements, the current work program of the WTO including the so-called built in agenda and the future work program of the WTO.
We have much work ahead of us if the WTO is to exercise its central role as the engine for progressive liberalization of the world economy as we approach the next century. The WTO's ambitious built-in agenda for further negotiation and reviews provides an important basis for our work. We need to ensure that the agreed timeframes for these negotiations are respected, and to utilize existing institutional machinery for further work - the process of analysis and information exchange which would allow Members to understand the issues involved and to identify their interests in respect of them before undertaking the mandated negotiations and reviews.
We reaffirm the importance we attach to expanding the membership of the WTO on the basis of respect for WTO rules and achievement of meaningful market access commitments by all who are seeking to join the WTO. Recognizing these requirements, rapid progress on all the accessions remains a high priority.
Similarly, we agreed that the continued integration of developing countries into the WTO's system of rights and obligations is vital to the smooth functioning of the trading system. It is incumbent upon those who have reaped the benefits of the open multilateral system to more rapidly assume their full obligations to the rules, commensurate with their role in the global economy.
We had a detailed discussion of WTO implementation issues and concluded that on the whole Uruguay Round agreements had been satisfactorily put into operation. However, we identified a number of areas where greater effort was needed. From the systemic standpoint, it is clear that the quality and quantity of notifications under many agreements need to be improved; that some Member have so far failed to translate commitments into updated national legislation and implementing regulations; that certain Members are not observing their legal obligations, with the problem being particulary acute in TRIMs (e.g. certain countries' auto regimes); that additional attention must be paid to monitoring and enforcement of commitments made; and, that the least developed countries are in need of greater technical assistance to help them meet their implementation obligations. We instructed our officials to ensure that the committee reports to the Singapore meeting reflect an accurate assessment of the state of implementation and provide direction for the work ahead.
Recognizing that considerable progress has been made in the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment, it is our shared hope that further progress might be registered in the weeks to come before Singapore. The Committees' report should be comprehensive and show where consensus has been possible as well as where more work will be required. What we have done so far should enable us to sharpen our focus and the Committee should continue to pursue its mandate beyond the Ministerial Conference. Ecolabelling and the relationship between MEAs and the WTO were raised as important elements of the work program.
We reaffirmed the importance we attach to the successful conclusion of the negotiations for harmonizing non- preferential rules of origin within the agreed deadline.
We considered the plight of the least developed countries and agreed that preferential policies and liberalization efforts in their favor should continue to be the focus of international discussions and autonomous national decisions and that the more advanced developing countries should also be asked to take measures designed to facilitate access to their markets by LLDC exporters. We agreed that further consideration should be given to additional multilateral action and coordination. Recognizing that the LLDCs are in need of infrastructral improvement before they can take full advantage of trading opportunities, we agreed we would support the organization of a meeting in Geneva early next year which would group WTO Member government and their aid agencies with international financial institutions and the LLDCs in an effort to increase coherence and efficiency in the provision of technical assistance.
We reconfirmed our commitment to conclude the basic telecommunications negotiations in February 1997 and agreed that Quad countries should urgently review their offers and make best efforts to improve them before the Singapore Ministerial Conference. The United States and the European Union announce their intention to table improved offers in advance of the Ministerial in the belief that these improved offers would assist in obtaining high quality offers from a critical mass of countries. We also acknowledged the importance of making further progress by the Singapore Ministerial in resolving the outstanding issues relating to international services and satellites. Improved offers and resolution of these issues will be necessary if the negotiations are to conclude successfully.
We urge that financial services negotiations be resumed in early 1997 with the aim of achieving significantly improved commitments that would provide financial services suppliers with substantially full market access and national treatment on a non-discriminatory basis.
On professional services, we agreed to redouble our efforts so as to complete the work on accountancy as early a possible in 1997. We also agreed on the desirability of expanding the work program in 1997 and of the development of generic rules that could be applied to several professions, building on the accountancy work.
All of us recognized that expanding market access opportunities in industrial products would be an important contribution to the package for Singapore. The Quad countries are determined to providing the leadership necessary to complete the Information Technology Agreement and to work together urgently to conclude the ITA by the Singapore Conference and reaffirmed our efforts towards its realization on the basis of mutual benefit. The ITA could serve as a centrepiece for a broader market access package to be agreed at Singapore. We intend to vigorously pursue an intensive work program on all relevant issues so as to ensure that broad participation from countries can be agreed at Singapore.
As part of the package, we noted that the further expansion of the 0/0 agreement on pharmaceuticals was already agreed and should be implemented by the beginning of April, 1997. We also agreed to work together to see what other elements could be added to the package, including acceleration of reductions already agreed and further liberalization more generally.
Looking beyond Singapore, we agreed that the Ministerial should assure that additional opportunities for further liberalization of industrial tariffs will be considered by the Market Access Committee as part of the WTO's future work program.
At Singapore, we are determined to achieve a consensus on the rapid negotiation of an interim agreement that will provide transparency and due process in government procurement regimes of all Members. This will be an important first step in achieving an expansion of the membership and an improvement in the disciplines of the Agreement on Government Procurement.
We agreed that for the WTO to remain a dynamic institution, it should also embrace work in a number of new areas to broaden understanding of emerging issues and, as appropriate, prepare the ground for possible negotiations at a subsequent stage. We agreed to work together to develop the necessary consensus in Geneva on an agenda that reflects the interest and concerns of all parties.
With respect to investment, we reaffirmed out commitment to successfully conclude the OECD MAI negotiations by the Spring of 1997. Quad Ministers agreed that more open international investment rules are needed in the interest of all participants in the world economy. Building on our agreement in Kobe to seek establishment of a working party of investment at Singapore, we agreed to focus our efforts on developing a mandate to be agreed at Singapore. We also agreed that the mandate should both focus on educative and analytical work, and provide for next steps, and agreed to use the joint Canadian-Japanese paper as a basis for further work.
At our last meeting in Kobe, we agreed that the relationship between trade and core labor standards should be discussed at the Singapore meeting with a view to determining how to proceed. Quad Ministers agree that our relations in the field of trade should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living and ensuring full employment. Since Kobe, this issue has been discussed in Geneva on several occasions, with the result that the Director General has been able to identify four areas of common ground with respect to core labor standards. We agreed that we would work together to build a consensus based on the Director General's assessment with a view to determining how to proceed at Singapore, recognized the importance of cooperation with the ILO and other relevant institutions. We agreed that the discussion of this issue would not be used as a pretext for introducing protectionist measures.
We had a further discussion of the proposals on the table in respect of competition policy. Quad Ministers agreed that effective competition rules rigorously enforced are necessary to safeguard market access opportunities and to avoid trade problems. Noting that the issues were extremely complex, we nevertheless considered that we would support the initiation in Geneva of a more in-depth discussions of competition policy issues, provided that the terms of reference for any such discussions are acceptable to all WTO Members.
We pledge our continued support for the Director-General and the Chairman of the General Council in their efforts to bring together a successful first Ministerial Conference of the WTO.
Finally, we briefly discussed regulatory reform and agreed that it is essential to promote entrepreneurship, job creation, expanded market access opportunities, trade and investment, technological change, and economic efficiency. In this respect, we support the on-going work at the upcoming Tokyo Symposium on regulatory reform this December. We look forward to the results.
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