Press release of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
Geneva, 9 June 2001
N° 119


The 182 MPs from 71 national parliaments, gathered together in Geneva at the initiative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on 8 and 9 June 2001 for the first ever world parliamentary meeting on international trade, adopted a final declaration in which they underscored the need to intensify their activities in national parliaments aimed at overseeing and influencing government policy in relation to trade negotiations. A total of 315 delegates were present at the meeting.

The representatives of national parliaments also declared that "at the international level, we need to complement these activities by meetings so as to obtain and share information, exchange views and experiences and discuss the structure, working methods and issues facing governments and the WTO". They called on the IPU "to work with other parliamentary assemblies and organisations in assisting us to meet these challenges. We invite the IPU to hold a parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference and to present plans for a programme of activities which, on the above basis, seeks to add a parliamentary dimension to international trade negotiations and arrangements".

Proactive role of parliaments in the field of international trade

In her opening statement, the President of the IPU Council, Dr. Najma Heptulla, who is also the Deputy Chairperson of the Indian Rajya Sabha (Upper House), recalled that "the new economy must not legitimise the polarisation of wealth through an unrestricted market. A few pockets of prosperity in the vast ocean of impoverishment would render the new economy unsustainable".

Dr. Heptulla stressed that "there are genuine concerns about the future of the domestic economy vis-à-vis global commitments...The new trade regime should provide a buffer for domestic industries and enhance the employment potential of the national economies". She added that in the absence of a strong domestic industrial sector, it would be difficult to ensure sufficient purchasing power in every society a prerequisite for sustaining the widening global market.

For the President of the IPU Council, "in the global economy producers and buyers will have to coexist in equilibrium. Disparity in the distribution of the fruits of development would deplete the purchasing power of the prospective buyers. Accordingly, only the economic empowerment of the broader population can make the new economic regime universally acceptable and sustainable".

In her concluding remarks, Dr Heptulla emphasised that "the pre-eminence of economic factors in the development of nations makes it a political imperative for parliaments to assume a proactive role, in particular in the field of international trade... In the final analysis, failure to act will lead to the erosion of democratic institutions".

WTO Director General dialogues with MPs

Before holding an exchange of views with the MPs meeting in Geneva, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Mr. Mike Moore, delivered a speech in which he declared : "For me, one important challenge is to reconnect the WTO with people... This meeting is an important opportunity for members of parliament to commence bridging the gap between the institutions like the WTO, which you own and fund, and the people. You have the responsibility in your respective parliaments to act as a relay between the government and the people, and to provide the necessary political oversight. To do this, parliamentarians and legislators need to know about the institutions they own. Parliamentary select committees should aggressively scrutinize the WTO and other international organisations. We need this. It is healthy. The IPU, as the international organisation of parliaments world-wide, can help provide a comprehensive and cohesive parliamentary response to the challenges of international governance. I welcome this debate and the greater scrutiny it implies. You have my support...I believe that your involvement can help us promote greater openness, fairness, balance and predictability in international trade".

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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