Press release of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
Geneva, 18 May 2001
N° 114


The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is organising the first Parliamentary Meeting on International Trade on 8 and 9 June 2001 at the Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG). More than a hundred MPs specialists in international trade in their own parliament will participate.

The Parliamentary Meeting on International Trade will be chaired by the President of the IPU Council, Dr. Najma Heptulla (India) and will hear a statement by the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mr. Mike Moore (New Zealand), who will also take questions from the participants.

The overall theme for the June meeting is: For a free, just and equitable multilateral trade system: Providing a parliamentary dimension.

The subjects to be debated at the June meeting will be:

  • Globalisation from a trade perspective: the role and action of parliament as a relay between government and the people
  • WTO and the current international trading system: the role of parliaments in the field of legislation
  • Parliamentary oversight with respect to future trade negotiations, particularly from the development perspective.
"One of the important issues that will be addressed in the June meeting will be the concerns and problems faced by developing countries in implementing the WTO agreements and in getting a fair share of international trade", says Dr. Heptulla.

"The meeting seeks to provide a parliamentary dimension to international trade", explains the IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson (Sweden). "It will be a complement to the work of governments and will discuss the international trade issues from the particular perspective of parliaments in their constitutional role of relaying the views of people to governments, of legislating and overseeing government".

For the Director General of the WTO "The current WTO drive to forge closer contact with parliamentarians reflects my personal experience and beliefs. I believe that parliaments and their members have a critical role to play in bringing international institutions and ordinary citizens closer together. In turn, the IPU as the international organization of parliaments worldwide can help its members to provide a comprehensive and cohesive parliamentary response to the challenges of international governance. It is important for parliamentarians and legislators to know about the institutions they own and fund".

"A bridge between the citizens and the WTO"

"This parliamentary meeting on international trade is a new challenge for the IPU as well as for the WTO. For the WTO this is the first serious effort to create a global network with parliamentarians. For the IPU, the challenge is to rely more on the resources existing in the parliaments, to recruit MPs with a specific expertise, for instance in international trade", says Finish MP Kimmo Kiljunen.

Mr. Kobsak Chutikul, a specialist in international trade from the Parliament of Thailand, notes that "one of the major problems is the perception among the people in many countries that there is something wrong with the multilateral trade system, that it is not transparent enough, that it is not representative enough... From the parliamentary side we believe we, parliamentarians, can act as a bridge between citizens and the WTO".

"The IPU could be the primary basis for the international democratic structure of world governance", declares French MP Beatrice Marre. Her colleague from Gabon, Bernard Okindja adds : "We MPs are the representatives of the civil society. Ever since its founding, the WTO enacts new rules aimed at regulating world trade. And this poses problems, as can be seen from the events in Seattle or Porto Alegre. The IPU's initiative should give us a better grasp of certain aspects that the WTO does not see, for it does not have the ability to solve everything. We hope that the WTO will take our future suggestions into consideration".

"In Africa and Latin America there are people who earn less than a dollar a day. These people need greater job opportunities so that they can earn more, and in this way stimulate national and international trade", adds Mexican MP Ricardo Alaniz Posada.

"The globalisation of the economy has aroused fears, concerns and worries. These fears must be allayed. WTO is going to try and launch a new round of trade talks. We must ask ourselves how they should be approached best, so that both developing and developed countries stand to benefit", concludes Mr. Fangbo Cai, Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China.

Founded in 1889 and based in Geneva, the IPU currently has 141 affiliated national parliaments and five regional assemblies as associate members. It also has a Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York

Contact for information or interviews : Mrs Luisa Ballin, IPU Information Officer, phone +4122)919 41 16/27, fax +4122 919 41 60, e-mail lb@mail.ipu.org or cbl@mail.ipu.org

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