Supachai Panitchpakdi: There is no alternative to a global trading system

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From a speech by the director general of the World Trade Organisation, to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York

From a speech by the director general of the World Trade Organisation, to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the WTO. It is an occasion which warrants some celebration because, 10 years after its foundation, the WTO has never been more relevant and more important. Ours is an organisation where trade disputes are resolved in a systematic and orderly fashion, where trade policies are analysed and debated rigorously and where the governments of the world come to negotiate the continued reduction of trade barriers and to set the rules which govern international business activity.

Sometimes, I am amazed that an organisation which spends the vast majority of its time deciding matters of a supremely arcane nature has attracted so much media attention and controversy. Yet there can be no doubt that, in an era of ever-increasing economic integration, there is real need for such an organisation.

The global economy has advanced with remarkable speed over the past decade. Developments that no one could have foreseen in 1995 are today shaping the way we live. Products that many of us had never imagined and which few people owned are now a central part of everyday life. Countries like China, India, Brazil and Mexico now play a major role in the global economy and in international economic policy-making.

Technological change and global economic integration have not come without cost. There has been displacement in the workforce and anxiety about the future in many countries, particularly in the industrial word.

For this reason, the concept of globalisation has sparked much debate. But we have learned that there is no alternative to the global trading system in international commerce. Without global rules, the problems we face would not go away; they would merely become more difficult to resolve.

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