Ministers from Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States met in Tokyo for the 33rd Quadrilateral Trade Ministers Meeting to review recent developments in international trade and investment and to discuss preparations for the Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Seattle at the end of this year.
We recognized that the multilateral and rule-based trading system embodied in the WTO has played an important role in promoting international trade and investment and enhancing economic growth, employment and social progress. Recognizing the importance of the WTO as the primary forum for reducing trade barriers and administering multilateral trade rules, we reaffirmed our strong support for the WTO and the multilateral trading system. We stressed the contribution that the WTO system can make towards the objectives of sustainable development. We emphasized that, to support progressive stabilization and restoration of growth in the world economy it is essential for all countries to maintain open markets, resist protectionist pressure and develop the momentum for further liberalization by building on current levels of market access, undertaking regulatory and structural reforms and providing a receptive climate for investment.
We underlined the importance of the preparatory process for the Seattle Ministerial Conference. That process should result in recommendations to Ministers setting out in precise terms the scope and modalities of future negotiations. We expressed our strong hope that future summit and ministerial-level meetings, including the OECD Ministerial Council, Cologne Summit, APEC Leaders Meeting, ASEM Meeting and the informal meeting of Ministers in Budapest, would address the next round of negotiations, increasing the momentum toward building consensus on the new round.
We agreed that the WTO should become a more universal organization. We therefore agreed that we should accelerate the negotiations to facilitate the early accession of applicants on the basis of mutually acceptable and commercially viable market access commitments and adherence to the WTO rules in time for the launching of the next round, and to maintain flexibility in addressing the particular circumstances of acceding least developed countries. We welcomed progress made in respect of the accession of China, and will continue our respective discussions with a view to completing these accession negotiations prior to the Seattle Ministerial so as to enable China to participate in the next round as a WTO Member. We look forward to similar progress with respect to the accession of other trading partners. We agreed that participation in new negotiations should be open to all countries whose application has been accepted by the General Council, it being understood that the final outcome would be decided by WTO Members.
We agreed that the next round of negotiations, to be decided at the Seattle Ministerial Conference, should be broad-based, covering other issues in addition to the built-in agenda agreed upon at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, with a view to achieving timely, manageable and digestible results. We also agreed that we would continue to examine issues that might be suggested by other Members for inclusion in the agenda. We discussed modalities for negotiations, bearing in mind the need to ensure that each WTO Member should be able to obtain a balance of interests and the desirability of concluding negotiations in three years. With a view to attaining this goal and to achieving timely progress to this end, we affirmed the importance of accelerating and deepening preparatory work between now and Seattle and the establishment of specific schedules and timetables for the conduct of negotiations, and by regular ministerial-level involvement. We discussed various options and modalities for negotiations, including the principle of a "single undertaking" and the possibility of achieving results in the course of negotiations.
We reaffirmed that developing countries, especially the least developed among them, should be integrated into the multilateral trading system more fully and that they should acquire and enhance their ability to capitalize on the advantages gained from this system. Specifically, we agreed on the importance of better coordination among individual WTO Members, the WTO and other international organizations in providing technical assistance for capacity-building in full partnership with developing countries. In this regard, implementation of WTO commitments under existing agreements and maintaining a sound macroeconomic and regulatory environment both contribute to growth and employment. We also noted that developing countries expressed considerable interests in improved access to the developed country markets as well as more effective special and differential treatment. We confirm our openness to discussing these concerns and priorities. We noted that investment, competition, trade facilitation and electronic commerce contain elements that can enhance development.
We urge the WTO to pursue further policy coherence with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as cooperation with UNCTAD, UNEP, the ILO and other international organizations. We aim to support such cooperation and complementarity of actions between relevant institutions to assist developing countries to benefit fully from further trade liberalization and to enhance their domestic capacity. We stress the importance of securing a commitment by the time of the Seattle Ministerial for closer cooperation among international organizations in support of capacity building and to develop on that basis a work program on coherence. We encouraged both the World Bank and the WTO to give higher and more immediate priority to assistance in the financing of developing countries' Uruguay Round implementation programs.
For broad-based liberalization of trade in services, we agreed that the forthcoming negotiations should cover all service sectors, including those of interest to developing countries. We also agreed to elaborate modalities for the negotiations, including, where possible, horizontal approaches as well as to develop multilateral disciplines on domestic regulations. We welcomed active initiatives taken by the private sector and encouraged further discussions among service industries, domestic regulators, and other groups.
The Quad reaffirmed the commitments on agriculture that they undertook at the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. We look forward to our Agriculture Ministerial colleagues pursuing an open and frank exchange of views on the future prospects for the negotiations at the forthcoming Quint Ministerial meeting, to be held in Vancouver on July 17-18.
We agreed that the next round of negotiations should include negotiations regarding non-agricultural tariffs and non-tariff barriers, including those of interest to developing countries. We agreed to consider ways to recognize autonomous, bound tariff liberalization in these negotiations. We confirmed our determination to conclude ITA2 expeditiously. Given the market relevance of standards and technical regulations, we underscored the importance of transparency in regulatory policy and formulation of international standards, as well as acceptance of such standards.
We agreed that work on investment should proceed on a progressive basis, including the development of objectives toward negotiations of WTO rules on investment, as appropriate, as part of a forward workplan. Any such rules must be consistent with host countries' ability to regulate economic activity in their territory and promote sustainable development. We will explore all possible approaches that could be supported by a consensus - both within our territories and internationally. Ministers reaffirmed that MAI negotiations at the OECD have ended. We agreed to seek the support of all WTO Members towards next steps on the creation of investment rules in the WTO. We share the view that work on investment should be based ew Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. We reiterated importance of enhanced cooperation among the WTO, ILO and other international organizations.
On environment, we reaffirmed that trade policy and environment policy should be mutually supportive and that the WTO should contribute to sustainable development. As negotiations proceed, consideration should be given to how environmental implications had been taken into account. We support the work of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment in this regard. In considering the issue of trade and environment, we agreed that it was vital for us to pay due consideration to the concerns of civil society. In this regard, we welcomed the contribution of the High Level Symposium on Trade and Environment in identifying issues for discussions and negotiations.
Recognizing that increased predictability in the procurement process assists developed and developing countries alike in sound management of government spending, we affirmed the need to accelerate the work on transparency in government procurement and reaffirmed our commitment to the aim of completing the work by November 1999. We recognized that this work would compliment work in other international fora. We also agreed to pursue constructively the review of the Agreement on Government Procurement.
We reaffirmed our commitments in the May 1998 Ministerial Declaration that established a comprehensive work program to examine trade-related issues relating to global electronic commerce and that continued the current practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions. Regarding the work program, we took note of the progress made to date and of the Interim Reports to be presented to the General Council shortly. We called for further progress to be made, in order to achieve a balanced package, on the basis of consensus, that continues the existing moratorium, builds on covered trade issues, clarifies and complements current WTO rules and ensures an open, enabling, transparent and predictable trade environment for electronic commerce.
We highly valued the achievements of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, which has worked generally effectively since its inception. We reaffirmed our shared interest in completing the DSU review, with particular attention to clarifying the rules, by the end of July, in order to eliminate the risk of divergent interpretations of key provisions. We also agreed that WTO Members should work together now to further improve transparency in dispute settlement as well as the efficacy of consultations and panel procedures. We are committed to ensuring that the dispute settlement system remains responsive to the needs of developing countries, and to explore the most effective means of providing assistance in this field.
We regretted that it has not been possible to agree as yet on the appointment of the next Director-General of the WTO. We agreed on the necessity of appointing the next Director-General on the basis of consensus. We underscored the urgency of addressing this situation.
Source: Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
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