Trade Ministers' Quadrilateral Meetings

April 30 - May 2, 1997
30th Trade Ministers' Quadrilateral Meeting, Toronto
Chair's Statement

Ministers from Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States met in Toronto for the 30th Quadrilateral Meeting to review developments in international trade since the Singapore Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to consider future directions in international trade in an evolving world economy.

We noted that the rules-based international trading system enshrined in the Agreement Establishing the WTO, has successfully contributed to remarkable growth in trade in goods and services and in international investment, and thereby to economic growth and employment in member countries. We therefore affirmed our strong support for the WTO as a global forum for ongoing liberalization, consultation and discussion, and examined in detail implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements, the current work program of the WTO, including both the pre-existing built-in agenda and additional, work assigned to the WTO at Singapore, and prospects for future progress. We also affirmed our belief that the WTO should enjoy universal participation; we thus confirmed our support for the early accession of applicants on commercially viable terms in a manner that preserves the integrity of WTO rules. We encourage those acceding to move their negotiations forward as quickly as possible, including on market access for goods and services.

We agreed that full implementation of existing WTO obligations ensures the certainty and predictability essential for traders and investors. We discussed developments that could carry significant implications for the trading system. In this regard, we look forward to reviewing plans for removal of balance-of-payment restrictions on imports at upcoming consultations in Geneva, and agreed to exercise continued vigilance respecting trade-related investment measures of certain countries that appear to contravene WTO disciplines.

We reviewed the WTO's ambitious built-in agenda for further negotiations, such as those called for in agriculture and services, and reviews, such as those to be undertaken on technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, in accordance with agreed time frames. We acknowledged that fulfilling this mandate requires the commitment of all WTO members to engage in the necessary analysis and exchange of information, and to anticipate developments in commerce and technology that may affect international trade. Building on our earlier initiatives in support of transparency, including through de-restriction of documents and domestic consultations, we invite the Director General to consult with members regarding appropriate means for encouraging informal dialogue between WTO working groups and committees and business, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties, in the belief that such dialogue will contribute to broader understanding of and support for the WTO, and to ensuring the responsiveness of WTO activities.

Given the importance of financial infrastructure to all economic sectors in support of growth and development, Ministers welcomed the agreement of the WTO Financial Services Committee on a timetable aimed at concluding the recently relaunched negotiations by mid-December. To this end, it was agreed that the Quad should table requests by mid-June and offers no later than the July 14 date established in the agreed timetable and to work with other countries to encourage them to do the same. The Quad resolved to work toward a full MFN agreement and with all participants to achieve significantly improved market access and national treatment commitments. It was recognized that flexibility may be required on transition periods for liberalization measures in certain circumstances.

Recalling our commitment at the WTO Singapore Ministerial Conference to the observance of internationally recognized core labour standards and recognizing the role of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in this regard, we look forward to further work in the ILO on core labour standards and on strengthening promotion, implementation and supervisory procedures. We will encourage collaboration between the WTO and ILO secretariats and ensure that members of both organizations are kept informed of such collaboration.

We recalled the important items added to the WTO's agenda at the Singapore Ministerial Conference:

We noted as well the significance of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and the Agreement on Basic Telecommunications, which together liberalize approximately $1 trillion in trade in goods and services. On the ITA, we will work together to broaden participation in the agreement, including by countries acceding to the WTO. We will jointly pursue, in consultation with our private sectors, expansion of product coverage and review of non-tariff measures in the context of this fall's review of the agreement ("ITA II"), as well as problems of forced technology transfer that impede trade in technology-intensive products. On basic telecommunications, we urge all WTO members to ensure full and effective implementation of these agreements. We will work together with applicants for accession to the WTO in the development of their schedules of services commitments in this sector.

We intend to build on the momentum of the basic telecommunications services and Information Technology agreements by exploring all opportunities for further tariff liberalization and harmonization, including through acceleration of reductions of Uruguay Round commitments. We have asked our officials to consult with our private sectors on these issues, including possible coverage and definitional issues, and to report back to us on the results of their deliberations by mid-July.

We discussed the important role of the OECD in support of trade and investment liberalization and rule-making. Recognizing that a number of outstanding issues will require further work, we confirmed our commitment to concluding negotiations on a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) by the time of the 1998 OECD Ministerial Meeting. We will continue to work together at the OECD to address the issue of bribery of foreign officials, which distorts markets, hinders economic development and undermines the democratic accountability of the rule of law essential to the effective functioning of the global economy. We look forward later this month at the OECD Ministerial Meeting to taking further steps in criminalizing foreign commercial bribery and to assure enforcement to accompany national efforts to eliminate the tax deductibility of bribes paid to foreign officials and commitments undertaken in other fora, including the UN, to address this problem. We support fully the work of the OECD on regulatory reform, with its focus on good regulatory practices, and endorse peer review of regulatory policies in the interest of greater transparency. We encourage increased dialogue and collaboration between the OECD, the WTO and the International Standards Organization to reduce the rapid expansion of technical barriers to trade.

We exchanged views on the contribution that the WTO can make for the benefit of the least developed countries, and agreed to participate actively in preparations for the high-level WTO/UNCTAD/International Trade Centre meeting later this year to increase the capacity of those countries to enjoy the benefits that flow from increased trade and investment, including through increased co-ordination of technical assistance among national donor agencies and international institutions. We also discussed current programs, policies and proposals related to the least developed countries, including work in the G-7 aimed at further integrating the economies in Africa into the trading system. We welcomed our respective commitments to exploring favourably opportunities to increase market access for the least developed countries through different means, and call on the most advanced developing countries to participate in this effort.

We also exchanged views and information on the various regional initiatives in which we are engaged. We reaffirmed the primacy of the multilateral trading system and our commitment at Singapore to ensuring that regional trade agreements are complementary to and consistent with WTO rules. We welcomed the constructive work undertaken to date by the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements, and agreed to work together to expedite completion of it examination of agreements notified and to support further work on the systemic dimensions of regional trade agreements.

In an increasingly global economy, where the world trading system provides an essential vehicle for economic growth and jobs through increased exports of goods and services and investment opportunities abroad, and increased efficiency through foreign direct investment and increased competition at home in support of our national economic objectives, we affirmed our commitment to political engagement in the WTO at the ministerial level on an ongoing basis. We look forward to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the GATT — the predecessor of the WTO — in the first half of 1998, and to using that occasion to take stock of further progress and to reflect on future directions at a ministerial conference.

Source: Released at the 30th Quadrilateral Trade Ministers' Meeting, May 2, 1997

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