8:32 AM Nov 14, 1995


Geneva 14 Nov (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- The Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Renato Ruggiero, told a press conference Wednesday that he was no inherent conflict or contradiction between the growing trend towards regionalisation and the WTO multilateral system.

Ruggiero referred in this connection to the growing trends towards globalization and gave that as the reason why the WTO did not view the growing regionalization with particular concern.

The WTO had a strong and ambitious agenda and he did not see there would be problems between regionalism and multilateralism, Ruggiero said. There was no inherent contradiction between enhancement of regionalism -- in APEC, Mercosur or elsewhere - and multilateralism, he added.

On the Singapore Ministerial meeting, the WTO head said it would have the important job of looking at the implementation of the WTO agreements and the report on Trade and Environment and "we will have a discussion on investments".

Ruggiero felt encouraged on reports of the Seville meeting between US and EU businesses on both agreeing on need to deal with investment and competition in the WTO.

In what he seemed to envisage as a new round of negotiations in 1999, the WTO chief mentioned the commitment to negotiate in 1999 further liberalisation in agriculture and services, and the new issues for negotiations on environment, investment and competition policies, as well as any demands from developing countries for further market access and acceleration of liberalisation in textiles and clothing and others (presumably the US and ICs) on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

With such an agenda, he saw no inconsistencies between regional and multilateral efforts.

Ruggiero envisaged a better process for multilateral scrutiny of regional agreements -- free trade or customs unions -- to ensure their consistency with Art. XXIV of the GATT and establishment of one committee to look into this rather than a multiplicity of working parties as now.

In collaboration with UNCTAD and its Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero, Ruggiero envisaged a programme being evolved for dealing with the special problems of Africa and bringing about its integration into the world economy.

Ruggiero said he was going to pay special attention to the situation of Africa where there had been some recovery and growth over the last two years but not enough. He planned to visit Africa with the head of the International Trade Centre to study African problems on diversification.

The WTO head was hopeful that the impasse over the constitution of the Standing Appellate Body would be resolved soon.

Asked to explain the slowing down of trade growth in 1995, and projected in 1996, after the WTO came into being, the WTO economist, Mr. Richard Blackhurst explained it in terms of business confidence having been boosted by the Uruguay Round accords agreed to in December 1993 and signed at Marrakesh and the fact that such confidence would have been shaken if no accords had been reached. He saw future growth in terms of kicking in of the tariff concessions and liberalisation of textiles and clothing and investments as a result of this.

Ruggiero said that while protectionism was never dead, at the moment under regional initiatives and the WTO governments were engaged in more and more liberalisation and this was a bigger force than protectionism.