February 04,2000

Committee to Hold Hearing on the U.S. Trade Agenda

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today announced the Committee will meet on Thursday, February 10, 2000 at 10:00 a.m. in SD-215 Dirksen Senate Office Building to hear testimony to consider the implications of the Seattle Ministerial on our trade policy and to begin the process of moving forward with our trade agenda.

The following witnesses are expected to appear before the Committee:

I. A panel consisting of:

The Honorable Charlene Barshefsky, U.S. Trade Representative; Washington, D.C.

II. A panel consisting of:

Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce;
Washington, D.C.

Allen F. Johnson, President, National Oilseed Processors Association;
Washington, D.C.

Mark Van Putten, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation; Vienna, VA

Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO; Washington, D.C.

Susan S. Westin, Associate Director, International Relations and Trade, General Accounting Office; Washington, D.C.


In November 1999, the 134 member countries, as well as 30 observer governments, convened in Seattle, Washington for the Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. This was the largest trade conference ever hosted by the United States, and was intended to mark the launch of another round of trade negotiations. These negotiations, particularly on the issues of agriculture and services which are part of the so-called built-in agenda of the WTO, are of vital importance to U.S. exporters.

The Seattle Ministerial Conference was marked by public demonstrations that, at times, turned violent. While the demonstrations garnered a great deal of public attention, the failure to agree to a Ministerial Declaration and to launch a new round reflected the lack of consensus among member countries on whether and on what terms to proceed with negotiations.

The sources of this disagreement are unclear. Some blame the lack of political will on the part of the member countries to start the talks for the breakdown in Seattle, while others argue that the WTO has grown too large and too cumbersome as an institution to undertake further negotiations. Whatever the reasons, the widespread perception is that the inability to launch a broad round of negotiations in Seattle has dealt a severe blow to efforts by the United States to open foreign markets for our exports.

The purpose of this hearing is to consider the implications of the Seattle Ministerial on our trade policy and to begin the process of moving forward with our trade agenda. This evaluation of the WTO is important given, two important votes that Congress will likely face this year: the first is a potential vote under section 125 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which allows any member to introduce a resolution to withdraw Congress's approval of the United States' participation in the WTO, and the second on granting China permanent normal trade relations status as a part of that country's accession to the WTO. Because of the importance of the lessons to be drawn from Seattle, this will likely be the first of a series of hearings that the Committee on Finance will host on matters related to the United States' participation in the WTO.