September 29,1999

Roth Statement at Hearing on the WTO Ministerial Meeting

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee today held a hearing on the preparations for the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle and the objectives for the multilateral negotiations that will follow. The following is the statement of Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE):

"In my view, there is no more important issue to America's economic future than that of international trade --

•"Exports have driven one-third of the economic growth we have witnessed in recent years.

•"Trade has raised our standard of living by making a wider array of higher quality products at lower prices available to American consumers.

•"Jobs linked to exports pay, on average, 15 percent higher wages than other jobs in the economy.

•"Trade has helped contain inflation, lower interest rates, and make housing more affordable to all Americans.

"Despite the manifest benefits of international trade, protectionism is once again on the rise in both political parties. As long as I am Chairman of the Finance Committee, I will fight that trend. If there was ever a time to call those who believe in free markets to the ramparts, now is the time.

"We have before us an historic opportunity. The world is coming to Seattle, Washington, in late November. There, we will launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations that will write the basic rules of the international trading system for the decades to come. We must seize that opportunity to ensure that the rules are written in a way that fosters trade, competition, and economic growth.

"In my view, the alternative we face is stark. The alternative is to cede the streets to the new voices of protectionism -- to the voices of limits and economic decline. Trade wars and bad economic times tend to become real wars that sweep us in despite our best intentions.

"To avoid that result, we must offer workers in our own society and abroad the opportunity to make the most of their labor and the freedom to choose where and how to invest the returns from their wages. A new round of multilateral negotiations within the WTO provides an opportunity to do just that.

"What we need to hear from the Administration today is how they intend to achieve those objectives in Seattle. We need to hear what tangible progress we can expect from the Seattle meeting and what concrete objectives will guide our negotiators in the talks that will follow. We also need our witnesses to explain how we can best contribute to the process in support of our farmers, manufacturers, service providers and workers."