Monday, December 6, 1999
Volume 35, Issue 48; ISSN: 0511-4187
Remarks at a World Trade Organization luncheon in Seattle
William J Clinton
� December 1, 1999
� Thank you very much. Ambassador Barshefsky, thank you for your
remarks and your work. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very large
delegation from our administration here today, and I hope it's
evidence to you of our seriousness of purpose. I thank the Commerce
SBA Administrator, Aida Alvarez, my National Economic Councilor,
Gene Sperling; Ambassador Esserman; and my Chief of Staff, John
Podesta, all of whom are here, and I thank them.
� I want to say that I agree that Mike Moore is the ideal person to
head the WTO, because he has a sense of humor, and boy, do we need
it right now. [Laughter] Did you see the gentleman holding up the
big white napkin here before we started? He was doing that to get
the light for the television cameras. But he was standing here
holding the napkin and Mike whispered to me, he said, "Well, after
yesterday, that could be the flag of the WTO." [Laughter] We'll have
rolling laughter as the translation gets through here.
� Let me begin by saying welcome to the United States and to one of
our most wonderful cities. We are honored to have you here on a very
important mission. Today I want to talk a little bit about the work
that we're all here to do: launching a new WTO round for a new
century, a new type of round that I hope will be about jobs,
development, and broadly shared prosperity and about improving the
quality of life, as well as the quality of work around the world, an
changing global economy and the changing global society.
� Let me begin by saying that 7 years ago when I had the honor to
become President of the United States, I sat down alone and sort of
made a list of the things that I hoped could be done to create the
kind of world that I wanted our children to live in, in the new
century, a world where the interests of the United States I thought
were quite clear: in peace and stability; in democracy and
� To achieve that kind of world, I thought it was very important that
the United States support the increasing unity of Europe and the
expansion of the European Union; that we support the expansion of
NATO and its partnership with what are now more than two dozen
countries, including Russia and Ukraine; that we support the
integration of China, Russia, and the Indian subcontinent, in
particular, into the large political and economic flows of our time;
that we stand against the ethnic and religious conflicts that were
still consuming the Middle East and Northern Ireland, then Bosnia
and later Kosovo; that we do what we could to help people all over
� And I thought it was important that we give people mechanisms by
which they could work toward a shared prosperity, which is why we
wanted to finish the last WTO round; why we are working hard with
our friends in Europe on a Stability Pact for the Balkans; why we
know economics must be a big part of the Middle East peace process;
why we have an Asian-Pacific Economic Forum, where the leaders meet;
why we've had two Summits of the Americas with our friends in Latin
America; why we're trying to pass the Africa and Caribbean Basin
trade initiatives; and why I believe it is imperative that we here
succeed in launching a new trade round that can command broad
support among ordinary citizens in all our countries and take us
where we want to go.
� There are negative forces I have tried to combat, in addition to
the forces of hatred based on ethnic or religious difference: the
terrorists, the problems of disease and poverty, which I hope that
the large debt relief initiative that we are pushing will help to
the world we want-- where the poorest countries have children that
can at least live through childhood, and where the boys as well as
the girls can go to school and then have a chance to make a decent
living; where countries with governance problems can work through
them; where wealthy countries can continue to prosper but do so in a
way that is more responsible to helping those who still have a long
way to go economically; and where, together, we can meet our common
responsibilities to human needs, to the environment, to the cause of
world peace-we will not get that done unless we can prove, for all
of our domestic political difficulties and all of our honest
differences, we still believe that we can have an interdependent
global economy that runs alongside our interdependent international
� And we are called upon here to meet against a background of a lot
of people coming here to protest. Some of them, I think, have a
short memory, or maybe no memory, of what life was like in most of
your countries not so very long ago. So let me say again, I condemn
the small number who were violent and who tried to prevent you from
� But I'm glad the others showed up, because they represent millions
of people who are now asking questions about whether this enterprise
in fact will take us all where we want to go. And we ought to
welcome their questions and be prepared to give an answer, because
if we cannot create an interconnected global economy that is
increasing prosperity and genuine opportunity for people everywhere,
then all of our political initiatives are going to be less
successful. So I ask you to think about that.
� When I hear the voices outside the meeting rooms, I disagree with a
lot of what they say, but I'm still glad they're here. Why? Because
their voices now count in this debate. For 50 years--one of the
reasons I said we needed a leader like Mr. Moore, with a sense of
humor, because for 50 years global trade, even though there were
always conflicts-- you know, the United States and Japan, they're
our great friends and allies; we're always arguing about something.
But to be fair, it was a conflict that operated within a fairly
narrow band. For 50 years, trade decisions were largely the province
of trade ministers, heads of government, and business interests. But
also like to be heard. And they're not so sure that this deal is
working for them.
� Some of them say, well-and by the way, they're kind of like we are;
a lot of them are in conflict with each other, right? Because a lot
of them say, 'Well, this is not a good thing for the developing
countries. They haven't benefited as much as they should have, while
the wealthy countries have grown wealthier in this information
society." Others say, "Well, even if you're growing the economy,
you're hurting the environment." And still others say, "Well,
companies may be getting rich in some of these poorer countries, but
actual working, laboring people are not doing so well." And others
have other various and sundry criticisms of what we have done.
� I would like to say, first of all, I think we need to do a better
job of making the basic case. No one in this room can seriously
argue that the world would have been a better place today if our
forebears over the last 50 years had not done their work to bring us
closer together. Whatever the problems that exist in whatever
countries represented here, whatever the legitimacy of any of the
because we have worked to expand the frontiers of cooperation and
reduce the barriers to trade among people. And we need to reiterate
our conviction that that is true. If we were all out here going on
our own, we would not be as well off in the world as we are.
� Secondly, at the end of the cold war, I am sure everyone in this
room has been struck by the cruel irony that in this most modern of
ages, when the Internet tells us everything, as Mr. Moore said, when
we are solving all the problems of the human gene and we will soon
know what's in the black holes in the universe, it is truly ironic
that the biggest problems of human society are the oldest ones,
those rooted in our fear of those who are different from
us--different races, different ethnic groups, different tribes,
different religions. All over the world, people consumed by
� When people are working together for common prosperity in a
rule-based system, they have big incentives to lay the differences
down and join hands to work together. So if we just make those two
points to our critics, I think it's very important: Number one, the
last 50 years of increasing economic cooperation for trade and
investment; and number two, the world of the future will be a safer
place if we continue to work together in a rule-based system that
offers enormous incentives for people to find ways to cooperate and
to give up their old hatreds and their impulses to violence and war.
� Now having said that, we now have to say: What next? I think we
have to acknowledge a responsibility, particularly those of us in
the wealthier countries, to make sure that we are working harder to
see that the benefits of the global economy are more widely shared
among and within countries, that it truly works for ordinary people
who are doing the work for the rest of us. I think we also have to
make sure that the rules make sense and that we're continuing to
make progress, notwithstanding the domestic political difficulties
that every country will face. We all benefit when the rules are
clear and fair. I think that means we have to cut tariffs further on
manufactured goods and set equally ambitious goals for services. I
think we should extend our moratorium on E-commerce. I think we
should treat agriculture as we treat other sectors of the economy.
that. I think we have to leave this luncheon saying, in spite of
that, we're going to find some way to keep moving forward because
the world will be a better place, and the world will be a safer
� Now, let me offer a few observations of what I hope will be done.
First, I think we have to do more to ensure that the least developed
countries have greater access to global markets and the technical
assistance to make the most of it.
� Director-General Moore has dedicated himself and this organization
to extending the benefits of trade to the least developed countries
and I thank you for that, sir. Here in Seattle, 32 developing
nations are moving toward admission to the WTO. EU President Prodi
and I have discussed this whole issue, and I have assured him, and I
assure you, that the United States is committed to a comprehensive
program to help the poorest nations become full partners in the
world trading system. This initiative, which we are working on with
the EU, Japan, and Canada, would enhance market access for products
from the least developed countries consistent with our GSP
initiatives, which, I am glad to report, are making good progress
through the United States Congress.
� Building on our recent collaboration with Senegal, Lesotho, Zambia,
Bangladesh, and Nigeria, we would also intensify our efforts to help
developing countries build the domestic institutions they need to
make the most of trade opportunities and to implement WTO
obligations. This afternoon I will meet with heads of international
organizations that provide trade-related technical assistance and
ask them to help in this effort.
� And I will say this. I do believe, after the Uruguay Round, when we
set up this system, that we did not pay enough attention to the
internal capacity-building in the developing nations that is
necessary to really play a part in the global economy. And I am
prepared to do my part to rectify that omission.
� We also must help these countries avert the health and pollution
costs of the industrial age. We have to help them use clean
technologies that improve the economy, the environment, and health
care at the same time. And I will just give one example.
� Today is World AIDS Day. And today the USTR, our Trade
Representative, and the Department of Health and Human Services are
announcing that they are committed to working together to make sure
that our intellectual property policy is flexible enough to respond
to legitimate public health crises.
� Intellectual property protections are very important to a modem
economy, but when HIV and AIDS epidemics are involved and like
serious health care crises, the United States will henceforward
implement its health care and trade policies in a manner that
ensures that people in the poorest countries won't have to go
without medicine they so desperately need. I hope this will help
South Africa and many other countries that we are committed to
support in this regard.
� More generally, this new round should promote sustainable
development in places where hunger and poverty still stoke despair.
We know countries that have opened their economies to the world have
also opened the doors to opportunity and hope for their own people.
risen, and democratic institutions have become stronger. We have to
spread that more broadly.
� So secondly, I want to say what I said at the WTO in Geneva last
year. I think it is imperative that the WTO become more open and
accessible. While other international organizations have sought and
not shied from public participation-when that has happened, public
support has grown. If the WTO expects to have public support grow
for our endeavors, the public must see and hear and in a very real
sense actually join in the deliberations. That's the only way they
can know the process is fair and know their concerns were at least
� We've made progress since I issued this challenge in Geneva last
year, but I believe there's more work to be done from opening the
hearing room doors to inviting in a more formal fashion public
comment on trade disputes.
� Now look, let me just say, I know there's a lot of controversy
about this. And as all of you know, I'm about to enter the last year
But I'm telling you, I've been in this business a long time. And in
the end, we all serve and function at the sufferance of the people,
either with their active support or their silent acquiescence. What
they are telling us in the streets here is, this was an issue we
used to be silent on. We're not going to be silent on it anymore. We
haven't necessarily given up on trade, but we want to be heard.
� The sooner the WTO opens up the process and lets people
representing those who are outside in, the sooner we will see fewer
demonstrations, more constructive debate, and a broader level of
support in every country for the direction that every single person
in this room knows that we ought to be taking into the 21st century.
So we can do it a little bit now and a little bit later. We can drag
our feet, or we can run through an open door. But my preference is
to open the meetings, open the records, and let people file their
� No one-no sensible person-expects to win every argument, and no one
ever does. But in a free society, people want to be heard, and human
dignity and political reality demand it today.
that open trade does indeed lift living standards, respects core
labor standards that are essential not only to worker rights but to
human rights. That's why this year the United States has proposed
that the WTO create a working group on trade and labor. To deny the
importance of these issues in a global economy is to deny the
dignity of work, the belief that honest labor fairly compensated
gives meaning and structure to our lives. I hope we can affirm these
values at this meeting.
� I am pleased that tomorrow I will sign the ILO convention to
eliminate the worst forms of child labor. And I thank the United
States Senate on a bipartisan basis for supporting us in this. I
believe the WTO should collaborate more closely with the ILO, which
has worked hard to protect human rights, to ban child labor. I hope
you will do this.
� Let me say in all candor, I am well aware that a lot of the nations
that we most hope to support, the developing nations of the world,
have reservations when the United States says we support bringing
if we had a certain kind of rule, then protectionists in wealthy
countries could use things like wage differentials to keep poorer
countries down, to say, "Okay, you opened your markets to us. Now
we'll sell to you. But you're selling to us, and we want to keep you
down, so we'll say you're not paying your people enough."
� The answer to that is not to avoid this labor issue, not when
there's still child labor all over the world, not when there are
still oppressive labor practices all over the world, not when there
is still evidence in countries that ordinary people are not
benefiting from this. The answer is not to just throw away the
issue. The answer is to write the rules in such a way that people in
our position, the wealthier countries, can't do that, can't use this
as an instrument of protectionism. We can find a way to do this.
� But there is a sense of solidarity all over the world, among
ordinary people who get up every day, will never be able to come to
a luncheon like this, do their work, raise their children, pay their
taxes, form the backbone of every nation represented here. They
deserve basic, fundamental decency, and the progress of global trade
States, or any other country, now or later, to be able to use this
as a shield for protectionism. But to pretend that it is not a
legitimate issue in many countries is another form of denial, which
I believe will keep the global trading system from building the
public support it-deserves.
� Finally, we must work to protect and to improve the environment as
we expand trade. Two weeks ago, I signed an Executive order
requiring careful environmental review of our major trading
agreements early enough to make a difference, including the input of
the public and outside experts and considering genuinely held
concerns. We stand ready to cooperate as you develop similar
systems, and to integrate the environment more fully into trade
� We are committed to finding solutions which are win-win, that
benefit both the economy and the environment, open trade and
cutting-edge clean technologies, which I believe will be the next
industrial revolution. We will continue to support WTO rules that
recognize a nation's right to take science-- based health, safety,
� Now I want to say something about this. Again I know, there are
some people who believe my concern and the concern of the United
States about the environment is another way that somehow we can keep
the developing countries down. That is not true. There are basically
two great clusters of environmental issues facing the world today.
First, there are the local issues faced primarily by the developing
nations: healthy water systems and sewer systems, systems to
restrict soil erosion and to otherwise promote the public health.
� It is in everyone's interest to help those things to be installed
as quickly and efficiently as possible. But the real issue that
affects us all, that prompts my insistence that we put this issue on
the agenda, is global warming and the related issue of the loss of
species in the world as a consequence of global warming.
� And the difference in this issue and previous environmental issues
is this: Once the greenhouse gases get in the atmosphere, they take
a long time, 100 years or more, to dispel. Therefore, one nation's
greenhouse gases, in the United States. We won't be long, but we are
now. But we have to do something about this. And I want to say to
you what I said to the people at our table. There is now clear and
compelling scientific, technological evidence that it is no longer
necessary for a poor country growing rich to do so by emitting more
greenhouse gas emissions. Or in plainer language, a nation can
develop a middle class and develop wealth without burning more oil
and coal in traditional manners. This is a sea change in the reality
that existed just a few years ago.
� And let's be candid, most people don't believe it. A lot of people
in our country don't believe it. But in everything from
transportation to manufacturing to the generation of electricity, to
the construction of buildings, it is now possible to grow an
economy, with much less injury to the atmosphere, with available
technologies. And within 5 years breathtaking changes in the way
automobile engines work and in the way fuel is made, especially from
biomass, will make these trends even more clear.
� I do not believe the United States has the right to ask India or
But I do believe that all of us can responsibly say, if you can grow
at the same rate without doing what we did-that is, fouling the
environment and then cleaning it up-Mr. Kono remembers-I remember
the first time I went to Tokyo over 20 years ago, people wore masks
riding their bicycles around. And now the air there is cleaner than
it is in my hometown in Arkansas.
� What is the difference now? It is not just a national issue. If you
foul the atmosphere and then you later clean it up, the greenhouse
gases are still up there, and they'll be there for 100 years,
warming the climate.
� Now, we do not have a right to ask anybody to give up economic
growth. But we do have a right to say, if we're prepared to help you
finance a different path to growth, and we can prove to you-and you
accept, on the evidence-that your growth will be faster, not
smaller, that you'll have more good jobs, more new technology, a
broader base for your economy, then I do believe we ought to have
those kind of environmental standards. And we ought to do it in a
voluntary way with available technologies. But we ought to put
environment at the core of our trade concerns.
� Now I don't know if I've persuaded any of you about any of this.
But I know one thing: this is a better world than it would have been
if our forebears hadn't done this for the last 50 years. If we're
going to go into the next 50 years, we have to recognize that we're
in a very different environment. We're in a total information
society, where information has already been globalized, and citizens
all over the world have been empowered. And they are knocking on the
door here, saying, "Let us in and listen to us. This is not an elite
process anymore. This is a process we want to be heard in."
� So I implore you, let's continue to make progress on all the issues
where clearly we can. Let's open the process, and listen to people
even when we don't agree with them. We might learn something, and
they'll feel that they've been part of a legitimate process. And
let's continue to find ways to prove that the quality of life of
ordinary citizens in every country can be lifted, including basic
labor standards and an advance on the environmental front.
� If we do this, then 50 years from now the people who will be
about you that Mr. Moore articulated our feelings for the World War
� Thank you very much, and welcome again.
� NOTE: the President spoke at 3:05 p.m. in the Spanish Room at the
Four Seasons Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Ambassador Susan
G. Esserman, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative; Mike Moore,
Director-General, World Trade Organization; Romano Prodi, President,
European Commission; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono of
Japan. The President also referred to GSP, the Generalized System of
Preferences; and Executive Order 13141 of November 16,1999 (64 FR
63169). A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the
tape was incomplete.