Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
at the Opening Plenary Session at the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference
December 15, 2011
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Director-General, distinguished excellencies.
“We gather at an anxious moment for the global economy. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that many are looking to this gathering for signals about the health of the World Trade Organization – one of our most important international institutions.
“The commitment of the United States to this institution is not new, it’s not fleeting, and superficial, but rather longstanding, steadfast, and profound. It is a commitment founded on the work of generations of Americans from both of our political parties, all believing that rules-based trade is vital to our collective well-being.
“The benefits of this system trickle not downward – but upward, and out. When trade works properly, it is a foundation for jobs – essential for all of our people, their families, and their communities. These communities are the foundation of nations, and trading nations are the foundation of a peaceful world.
“We should celebrate that the WTO has helped scores of developing countries use trade as a tool for development. Indeed trade has been a primary engine of growth in the most successful developing economies, and ever increasing South to South trade is good news for all of us.
“We should also celebrate the accomplishments of the World Trade Organization’s day-to-day work, through our standing committees, its monitoring functions, as well as the important contributions of its dispute settlement system and existing rules. WTO rules have facilitated new trade flows and have been a critical defense against protectionism in these difficult economic times.
“We must continue to ensure that the WTO leads the way in examining issues of vital relevance to a healthy global trading system – issues such as new market access, fish subsidies, food security, trade facilitation, and regional trade agreements.
“But we must also face significant challenges, most prominently in our efforts to conclude the Doha Round.
“For all of the Round’s complexity, the current impasse in many ways comes down to one single, vexing quandary: the WTO has not come to terms over core questions of shared responsibilities among its biggest and most successful Members. The world has changed profoundly since this negotiation began a decade ago, most obviously in the rise of the emerging economies. The results of our negotiations thus far do not reflect this change, and yet they must if we are to be successful.
“All of us are still grappling with the best way to move forward with the Doha Round.
“But one thing is abundantly clear: our current path is not leading us to a successful outcome. We need every bit of creativity we can muster in developing different approaches. And it is critical that we turn the page to a more productive chapter.
“The United States stands ready to do our part, and I look forward to hearing the perspective of my colleagues at this critical juncture on how we can move forward. Thank you.”