WTO Official Stresses "Global Village" Approach To World TradeApril 29, 2002
by Liz Montello, Student Newswriter
Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, who in September will become the first director-general from a developing country of the World Trade Organization, told Baylor University faculty, students and local business leaders that "we live in a place where every community is related to each other because they all have similar goals, aspirations, fears and needs" and that the future of world trade rests in the ability to see the world as a "global village."
Supachai's April 26 talk on "The Future of World Trade" was part of the Ben H. Williams Distinguished Speakers Series, held during a luncheon at the Hankamer School of Business. The WTO official also spoke to students in Kayser Auditorium earlier that day.
Supachai said that when he began his campaign for director-general in 1998, he did not set out to win, but "to prove to the world that we need to take care of the problems of trade." Supachai said he "will run the business in a way that the world trade system will have as much democracy, transparency and equality so that all countries can compete and negotiate from the same level."
From 1997 to March 2001, Supachai served as Thailand's deputy prime minister and minister of commerce and has been actively involved in international trade, playing an instrumental role in the drafting of Thailand's major economic policies. Supachai also has experience in the private sector, holding the position of president of the Thai Military Bank and chairman of Nava Finance and Securities.
Supachai said the WTO is "in the business of having one set of rules for every country - big or small, North or South, rich or poor," and that the WTO is in the process of creating a package deal that all member countries must fully accept or fully deny. If they want to participate in the WTO, they must be fully committed and abide by all rules and regulations.
Supachai emphasized five "novel undertakings" the WTO will begin discussing once he takes office in September. For the first time, the WTO will discuss fully dismantling government subsidies for agriculture because they "distort prices and impoverish poor farmers." Supachai cited Thailand as an example. He said that 10 years ago Thailand exported 2.5 million tons of rice, and today Thailand exports 6 million tons but revenues are virtually the same.
Further emphasizing his point, he said that the U.S. gives $365 billion in subsidies annually, and that money would be better spent re-directed toward child illiteracy or the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
The second undertaking Supachai mentioned was the service sector, which has never been included in the WTO. He said that he wishes to include mobility of professional workers and portable social insurance for the elderly.
He said that the WTO looks to achieve equality for all and to have more open trading worldwide. He concluded his speech by saying, "Ultimately, the WTO wants to create a system of global government so we can achieve the same goals - more trading and more employment with all countries participating equally with equal information and equal opportunity."
In the earlier address to Baylor students, Supachai said the WTO is "in the business of enhancing competition, higher quality products and better choices."
Supachai explained the importance of the WTO and declared the WTO the "most powerful organization at present." He said that the purpose of the WTO is to oversee trade rules and regulations and to ensure that all member countries abide by and uphold those rules. The WTO also regulates international trade including import and custom procedures and trade tariffs.
He said that at present there are 144 member countries and 28 waiting to join the WTO, but joining the WTO is a "long, drawn-out process." He said that all member countries must agree to allow the applicant country into the WTO, and to do so requires the applicant country to adopt similar trade rules and immediately terminate trade impediments.
Joining the WTO means becoming part of a multi-national trade organization based on rules. Supachai said that when countries sign up with the WTO they "give away some of their sovereign rights" because all countries must commit equally and adhere to the same rules and regulations.
Supachai said that the WTO has three main principles all member countries must abide by: 1) Most Favored Nation - no country can favor another by unfairly giving them more trade rights, better products or more choices; 2) Non Discrimination; 3) National Treatment - all trading entities should be treated fairly and equally and as if they were in their own countries.
Supachai said that the WTO's main goals are to "put a human face to WTO," to create more interaction with the civil society and to produce closer relationships between all international organizations.
The Ben H. Williams Distinguished Speakers Series honors the memory of Ben Williams, who was a member of the 1923 charter class of Baylor's School of Commerce and Business Administration, today's Hankamer School of Business. An Outstanding Alumnus of Baylor and a trustee of the university, Williams endowed a fellowship in 1953 that today funds five separate professorships at Baylor.