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Speech by PS for CIT at Plenary Session of WTO Sixth Ministerial Conference (English only)

    Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Miss Denise Yue, at the Plenary Session of Hong Kong Ministerial Conference of World Trade Organization today (December 14):

Madam Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It is an honour for Hong Kong, China to host the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and for myself to address its Plenary. I would like to join the Chief Executive and the Trade Secretary of Hong Kong, China - who spoke yesterday - to welcome every WTO member delegation to Hong Kong. I wish you all an enjoyable and fruitful stay.

     The launch of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) is the most important undertaking of the WTO since its establishment ten years ago. At the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha in 2001, we - the membership of the WTO - took up the challenge of formulating a broad and balanced programme of trade liberalization and development.  We agreed to place the needs and interests of developing economies, particularly the least developed among us, at the heart of the programme, both in name and substance.

     Four years on, the mission has yet to be accomplished. This is of grave concern because the window for concluding the DDA is rapidly closing. With the end of 2006 as the effective deadline, we must all do our utmost at this Ministerial Conference so that enough progress is made to complete the final dash on the home straight. Much is at stake: the credibility and relevance of the WTO; the longer-term economic development of the world; and - most importantly - the chance of helping to lift tens of millions of the worldˇ¦s citizens from poverty. From Albania to Zimbabwe, we - the 150 members of the WTO - will be held accountable by the world.

     Hong Kong, China is a staunch supporter of the WTO and the rules-based multilateral trading system it represents. To us, free and open trade is not just an academically sound proposition, its welfare enhancing effect is borne out by fact, namely the phenomenal economic growth and social development of Hong Kong over the years.

     Hong Kong, China would like to see tangible progress on all fronts of negotiations in this Ministerial Conference, in agriculture, NAMA, services, as well as in rules, development and other areas.

     Without doubt, agriculture is the lynchpin. Sadly, not enough progress has been made. I hope members will do their utmost in the negotiations this week to achieve more inroads. Although the political reality dictates that agriculture is - and will continue to be - the make or break issue of the DDA, I believe it need not be a stumbling block to work in the other areas. I believe at this Ministerial Conference, members should push the envelope as far as possible in all the other areas and lock in whatever results achieved, so that when further progress is made in agriculture, every other piece of the final jigsaw will have already been in place. Hong Kong, Chinaˇ¦s position on agriculture is clear: we support the reduction and elimination of all trade-distorting and restrictive measures.

     Development is the other key to the success of the DDA. For DDA to live up to its name, the WTO membership must redouble its efforts in this area and concentrate on the needs and sensitivities of developing economies, including the least developed among them. Deeds speak louder than words. Hong Kong, China has earlier put forward a five-point development package for this Ministerial. Much work has already been done in Geneva, and an early harvest of this package is certainly within reach now.

     NAMA and services concern essentially the reduction and elimination of market access barriers, the core business and competence of the WTO. Hong Kong, China practices free and open trade. We support the reduction and elimination of all tariffs and other barriers to trade.

     Rules represent challenges of a different kind. They may be less visible than market access barriers but are of no less importance. They constitute the guarantee of the multilateral trading system in which international trade is conducted. They need to be couched tightly enough to secure commitments - not undermine them, to facilitate trade - not impede it. So the continued improvement of rules matters much to the credible conclusion of the DDA and the sustainability of the multilateral trading system.

     The DDA negotiations hang in the balance. It is up to us, members of the WTO, to tip the balance in the right direction by delivering a credible outcome in Hong Kong. Hong Kong, China will do everything it can to encourage and facilitate this outcome.  

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Issued at HKT 13:48


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