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Mr. Chairman, Minister Velasco; Distinguished Ministers and colleagues; Director-General Lamy; Chair of the General Council, Ambassador Matus; Excellencies; Honorable Delegates and Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization here in Geneva. First of all, I wish to extend, on behalf of the Swiss Government, a warm "Bienvenue à la Genève Internationale".
For Switzerland, the WTO represents an important institution. As you know, Switzerland has an open and highly export-oriented economy. The WTO system of developing and monitoring multilateral trade regulation provides the necessary framework in which our economies can prosper. Not only was Switzerland a founding Member of the organization; we are also proud to be its host country. I feel particularly pleased that the Swiss government, with the support of the people of Geneva, will soon be able to provide the WTO with renovated and re-designed facilities.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: We are all struggling with the challenges facing us due to the financial and economic crisis. However, the crisis also reminds us of the importance of coordinated action and the need for multilateral rules. Fortunately, we can rely on the achievements and the proper functioning of the WTO: Its rules, its system of tariff bindings, the peer reviews in ordinary committees, the trade policy reviews and the monitoring mechanism set up by the Director-General on trade-related developments as well as the dispute settlement mechanism, has served us well as an effective bulwark against the temptation of protectionism. Yes, the WTO has proven its usefulness and importance in these times of crisis.
Containing protectionism and maintaining open markets is the key to growth and prosperity in all of our countries - today and tomorrow. In the short term, we have to conclude the ongoing Doha negotiations. This is the best and most necessary contribution the WTO can offer, in order to tackle the economic crisis and support economic recovery. Our nations and our economies expect us to deliver a balanced and comprehensive result from the Doha Round - and this, soon. My country is committed to contributing its fair share to a successful outcome - even though I have to tell you that I am facing very tough resistance at home, in particular because of the agriculture negotiations. Since, in Switzerland, the Doha results will be submitted to a popular referendum, my farmers can and will vote on the Doha results. I, therefore, seriously face a NO-vote, which is not an option I can take. Indeed, Switzerland is being asked to pay a very high price on agriculture. At the same time I do not see the same degree of progress on all issues of the single undertaking such as, among others, services, NAMA, trade and environment or the three TRIPS issues: Namely GI register, GI extension and TRIPS-CBD. Discussions and negotiations in these and other areas should catch up in the coming months. Recalling the common objective of finalizing the Doha Round in 2010, I invite the Director General to consider a stocktaking exercise early next year.
Let me inform you that we, the G10 Ministers, met this morning in order to set our priorities for the Doha negotiations in the coming months. We have confidence in the ability of the Chair of the agriculture negotiations to help bridging the remaining gaps among WTO member's positions. We are willing to continue working on the basis of the December 2008 modalities text. However, we express our concern on the lack of substantial progress in many of the other areas of the Doha Round since December 2008.
Besides the Doha Round, we have to give some attention to the WTO itself - our trade organization. My assessment is that, today, the WTO is, to a large extent, preoccupied with the Doha negotiations, whereas the ordinary committees do not always receive the necessary attention from Members. This is contributing to the perception by the outside world that the WTO is losing its relevance, which is a big danger for WTO. WTO has to remain relevant - not for our negotiators, no - for our consumers and our businesswomen and businessmen, who cannot afford to act with the same kind of time spans as we often do in the WTO. Together with other Members, Switzerland is therefore proposing to engage in a process to review the WTO's functioning, efficiency and transparency and to consider improvements to the system where appropriate. The objective should be to preserve the achievements of the WTO while adapting the organization where necessary to the challenges faced by its Members - always endeavouring to seek solutions which serve to liberalise trade and not restrict it.
Furthermore and very importantly, we must also think beyond Doha. If the WTO is to remain relevant, it has to adapt to and embrace new challenges: probably the most urgent of these is climate change. In this context, trade is often perceived as a problem. We should, however, focus much more on how trade can become part of the solution. This is a challenge to the WTO. Its rules have to protect Members against trade discrimination but at the same time its rules must contribute to - and not hinder - the implementation of effective measures to combat climate change. Also, while some regulatory issues are being dealt with in the Doha negotiations today, many others are not. Since our Meeting in Singapore in 1996 we still have unfinished business to deal with - on trade and investment, on competition policy, and on transparency in government procurement.
While the WTO must retain its role as guardian of open markets, it must, at the same time, be able to factor in other concerns. In today's globalized and interlinked world we need more coherence. The fragmented architecture of international governance resembles a series of isolated pillars. Our task is to transform them into a web of constant interaction and mutual observance. Trade cannot be treated in isolation as it has implications for development, environment and social matters. I would like to express my gratitude to the Director-General and to convey my respect for his vision in bringing up these issues of coherence - be it the aid-for-trade initiative, or the joint WTO-UNEP report on trade and climate change, or the joint reports of the WTO with the ILO. It is important that the WTO continues to coordinate and collaborate on these issues with the other relevant international organizations.
Finally, let me once again welcome you all to Geneva, and to the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the WTO. Let us show the world that the WTO is alive and relevant; that the WTO is part of the solution of today's economic problems and that we are preparing the WTO for the challenges which will be important to our nations tomorrow.