November 29,1999

Roth Meets with African Trade Ministers

Market Access Key Issue

SEATTLE -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today delivered the following remarks to the African Trade Ministers at the WTO Ministerial Meetings in Seattle.

"One of the greatest challenges we face in expanding the benefits of international trade is ensuring the participation of our African trading partners in that process. That is why I am particularly pleased to be here with you at the start of this program focusing on technical assistance.

"This month, I led the successful fight on the Senate floor for the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

"As I said then, I viewed the passage of that act as an investment in a stronger economic relationship between Africa and the United States. We need to reach agreement with our colleagues in the House of Representatives to ensure final passage, but I am optimistic we can do that when Congress returns in January.

"That said, I also made clear during the Senate debate that the African Growth and Opportunity Act did not pretend to be the answer for all of the economic challenges facing Africa. There is much to be done on all fronts.

"That is why I am pleased to see that you are joining here in discussions that might strengthen our ties further and broaden your countries' access to world markets generally.

"I firmly believe that international trade and the global economy that defines America's economic future defines the economic future of Africa as well. We need to join in every effort to expand the benefits of the international trading system to all of our nations if we are to succeed here in Seattle.

"I know that the new Director General, Mike Moore, has come to the WTO with the developing world, and Africa in particular, very much on his mind. He has already proved a forceful advocate for proposals that would expand the benefits of the trading system to our African trading partners. The draft text of the ministerial declaration reflects those efforts.

"I support the effort to draw our trading partners throughout the developing world into the global economy. And, I support the initiatives within the WTO, the World Bank, and other international institutions to provide the technical assistance that will help our partners, particularly in Africa, achieve that goal.

"At the same time, I also want to empha that the WTO has to work for all its members, both developing and developed, if it is to succeed. That includes the United States. To win the debate on trade that we face here in the U.S., we need to make progress at liberalizing markets abroad.

"You have seen that reflected in the U.S. proposals, which, in the main, have focused on opening markets and strengthening the WTO as an institution, whether as a forum for future negotiations or as a vehicle for resolving trade disputes.

"There is, however, a tendency to ask the WTO to do too much. The WTO, like the African Growth and Opportunity Act, cannot solve all of the economic challenges we face in the global economy as some suggest it should.

"What the WTO is good at is one thing - that is opening markets. And, the reason that the WTO is good at that is that it offers a forum in which its members can negotiate for reciprocal benefits in other markets in return for opening their own.

"When we ask the WTO to reach beyond that role, we will not only undermine its effectiveness, we will undermine its legitimacy.

"That is why my plea to you and to all of the trade officials and parliamentarians that I intend to meet with during the coming week is to keep the WTO focused on the market access negotiations that it does best.

"That is where the WTO can provide added value in the world economy and that is how the WTO can best contribute to our economic future, whether in America, Africa, or Asia.

"I know you are aware of the criticism and the protests we face here in the United States over trade policy. If you don't, you will certainly have the opportunity to see it first hand while you are here in Seattle!

"But, I believe that debate is healthy. What we need to do is respond to the critics of the WTO and of the international trading system by allowing the WTO to do what it does best.

"In my view, that is the strongest statement that you as trade ministers and government officials can make in response. Let us not forget that, as representatives of our respective governments, we are the representatives of civil society and of the broader economic interests of our people. Those interests are best served by expanding economic opportunity and that is what trade is all about.

"With that, let me turn the program back over to Ambassador Barshefsky and her staff. I applaud your efforts here and will look forward to seeing you again as the week progresses."