Former Minister for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms


30 November, 2009 (Geneva Time)

WTO 7th Ministerial Conference
Mr Crean’s intervention to the Plenary Meeting

Thank you very much Mr Chairman, Secretary-General, Ministers, Excellencies. It is my pleasure also to be here at this very important Conference.

There are three issues that I would like to touch on in the time available.

The first is the vital link between trade and development.

Trade liberalisation is not enough for developing countries in itself. There is no point in opening markets if those countries are not competitive enough or productive enough to take advantage of the market openings. And for them capacity building is an essential link, a key corollary for the work that we do in market liberalisation.
That is why we in Australia are pleased to participate by significantly increasing our commitment to the WTO’s fund for aid for trade program and also our contribution recently announced to the Advisory Centre for WTO Law.

This capacity building is essential to equip developing countries with the ability to undertake the negotiations. There is of course a broader concept of capacity building that defines a nation’s productivity. And this too is a task on which we must commit ourselves to going forward.

We are pleased to be able to engage with neighbours in the South Pacific through Pacer Plus and it was also an essential ingredient in concluding the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement between ourselves and New Zealand.

The second point is that trade itself matters. And so concluding Doha is the essential task for us in 2010. It matters because trade is an economic stimulus, a stimulus that does not cost the budget. And it matters also because strengthening the rules based system is the most effective insurance against the reversion to protectionism. And concluding the Round takes out more insurance. So I join with those who urge every effort being made to try and conclude the Round in 2010, in particular those calls for the continuing political engagement going forward, because it has been political engagement along with the work of our senior officials that has seen important progress made in the second part of this year. But unfortunately not enough to reach a conclusion. We have to multilateralise the work done this year, we have to have continued official engagement and I believe it is essential for Ministers to come together in the early part of 2010.

The final point that I would like to make is to ensure that the WTO remains responsive to the evolving challenges going forward. Climate change has been mentioned. I agree. We need to accelerate in my view the outcome in environmental trade in goods and services. It is all very well to talk about aid for climate change; we need to liberalise the trade that facilitates mitigation and adaptation. Food security too and energy security lead to important opportunities for us to be engaged through the services vehicle in facilitating greater productivity in agriculture, and also greater efficiency with which we extract resources to meet energy security.

Practical improvements in the way in which we function are also important. And I do welcome India’s advanced thinking on this. I think also the role of regional trade agreements is an essential issue going forward, ensuring that they don’t undermine the multilateral trading system.

I think we need to also integrate better the capacity building models, not just on a bilateral basis, but within the regional and international architectures that are emerging.

And finally I think it is in all of our interests to find better and more effective ways by which we measure the benefits of trade and to demonstrate why it is in everyone’s interests that we continue the liberalisation agenda.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I look forward to our deliberations over the next few days.


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