Seattle trade round needs ambitious objectives

  • 31 August 1999

Sir, Politicians and trade diplomats should be made aware that a vast constituency of business interests is convinced that a new broad-based trade round is just what the doctor ordered for the world economy.

Governments should set ambitious objectives for the round, however much the atmosphere may have been soured by recent transatlantic trade disputes and the prolonged leadership squabble in the World Trade Organization.

To avoid a repetition of the eight-year marathon of the Uruguay Round, governments should set a strict three-year deadline for completion when they make their decisions on the new round at the WTO ministerial conference in Seattle at the end of November.

The launch would give added momentum to world economic recovery. A successful “Millennium Round” would send a positive signal to traders and investors the world over.

Further progress must be made in liberalising trade in agricultural products, which is vital to developing countries. As the knowledge economy develops apace, there will be an ever more pressing need for more open markets for trade in services.

We also urge governments to seize the opportunity of the new round to push forward the process of creating within the WTO high-standard multilateral rules to protect and liberalise foreign investment.

Business would like to see a much broader concept of market access than in previous trade rounds. The focus should be on multilateral rules for commercial transactions on a global basis, enabling companies to compete freely and on equal terms.

The right decisions at Seattle would tell business that governments are committed, not only to the traditional fare of tariff cuts, but also to further reducing non-tariff barriers to market access.

The undersigned representative business organisations are looking for a trade and investment liberalisation package that matches the realities of the global marketplace.

Maria Livanos Cattaui, Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce
Douglas C. Worth, Secretary General, Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD
Mohan Kaul, Director-General, Commonwealth Business Council
Willard M. Berry, President, European-American Business Council
Robert Lees, Secretary General, Pacific Basin Economic Council
Dirk F. Hudig, Secretary General, Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe