Thank the Chair for convening this meeting and the Director General for his information on the discussions with major providers of finance earlier today.
This is a timely initiative from the DG, in accordance the commitments on coherence in the Marrakesh Declaration.
Lack of funds for financing of trade is only one of the problems caused by the financial crisis. The rapid development of the crises and its implications on all parts of the global economy is not easy to foresee and deal with. I guess it does not make anyone feel more confident when authorities like Alan Greenspan and other finance experts state that they might not understand or have misinterpreted the real forces behind what is now happening.
It is obvious that the primary effort will be geared towards dealing with the immediate effects of the crisis. Fiscal policy measures seem to be the first response and something many national leaders can agree upon.
Also, there is a call from different quarters for global cooperation, global regulations, redefinition of the role and purpose of the Bretton Woods institutions, etc.
International trade has for 60 years been subjected to agreed rules and regulations in the GATT and the WTO. This rules-based and predictable framework has played a crucial role in ensuring growth and development around the world. This system is working. Yes, it needs a makeover now and then. But it is not broken. So, the WTO is not the main target or the key player in hammering out immediate responses and solutions.
Still, the financial crisis calls for an energetic and coordinated response from all relevant institutions.
What would be the WTO-contribution?
Ensuring aid for trade, as pinpointed by Egypt, Lesotho, Tanzania and others is one obvious measure. We all know that in tough times such funds easily falls out if national budgets. A strong massage from the WTO-membership on the importance to continue financing trade related assistance would be timely.
Revitalization of the Working group on Trade, Debt and Finance would be another measure.
In his introductory remarks, the Director General cautioned against resort to protectionist measures. Obviously, this would only deepen the crisis and make it worse in the long run. He called for an agreed response from WTO-members not to invoke protectionist measures. We could not agree more.
As Brazil, the EU, Canada and others we believe that an expeditious response to the crises - an agreement on the main issues nama and ag – would be the best way to sustain trade flows based on agreed rules and predictable tariffs and subsidy rates.
Also, in the short run, a victory in multilateral trade negotiations would provide an important psychological boost. Re-establishing trust in the possibility of success, progress and multilateral cooperation.
On the other hand, another failure from our part in this fragile situation would really add insult to injury.
So what do we do?
Could we actually provide the success story?
I believe we could if we have certain crucial preconditions in place.
- There must be clear and concise massages from key political leaders that they stand behind any new initiatives to conclude negotiations on Nama and Ag.
- There must be texts on the table from the two chairs, consolidated and consulted with relevant parties, where the main issues to be dealt with by ministers are obvious and clear, and with no hidden surprises. In order for this to be possible, as pinpointed by the US, it is we the members that have to make it possible for Chairs to produce such texts.
Hopefully, we will be able to establish these preconditions – and provide our contribution – a most needed multilateral success-story.
As a medium-sized economy, with a strong trust in the Multilateral Trading System and its crucial role in the world economy in the past and in the future, Norway will be ready to work with the Director General and members to make this happen.