Zoellick shares the US's take on the Cancun Ministerial
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick answers questions during the final press conference of World Trade Organization Fifth Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico.


Cancun, Mexico, September 14, 2003: Zoellick: The UN General Assembly has its role. My lesson is, it's not an effective mindset or model for trade negotiations. Demands and tough rhetoric are easy; negotiations require commitment and hard work. And some countries will now need to decide whether they want to make a point or whether they want to make progress.

We have been seeking to suggest that some larger developing countries have a responsibility here, too. In my opinion, some spent too much time with tactics of inflexibility and inflammatory rhetoric before getting down to negotiate. Unfortunately -- and this was the real shame -- many smaller developing countries that followed this lead couldn't make the turn that some of the other, bigger developing countries were ready to negotiate. And as a result, all walked away empty handed.

The U.S. trade strategy, however, includes advances on multiple fronts. We have free trade agreements with six countries right now. And we're negotiating free trade agreements with 14 more. All our free trade agreement partners, some quietly, some more actively, tried to help over the course of the past couple of days. The results are very revealing to me, that over the past few days, a number of other developing countries, that are committed to opening markets and economic reforms, expressed their interest in negotiating free trade agreements with the United States.

I'll be pleased to take your questions.

Neil King, Wall Street Journal. Q: Ambassador Zoellick, I'm curious to know what your assessment is on how damaged the Doha Round is now and what your prediction is as to whether it could possibly live up to its timetable?

ZOELLICK: It's hard for me to believe that, in the position we are now, that we will be able to finish on time. And I was straight with my colleagues and I was straight over the course of the process.

Doug Palmer, Reuters News Service. Q: The fate of the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiation has been closely tight to the WTO, particularly the issue of agriculture. Given the setback here, your pessimism about completing the Doha Development Round by 2005, do you think that is still an achievable target date for concluding the FTAA?

ZOELLICK: Yes, and the effects here could cut a number of ways. As we left the Green Room, actually, Minister Amorim (Brazil) and I, who have been working together on a lot of the agricultural issues -- we actually have a lot in common on agriculture -- said, well, we talked a little bit about the ALCA -- the Free Trade Area of the Americas -- in our bilateral meeting, and I said, "Well, we'll follow up with you on that." You know, many countries in Latin America chose different strategies here. However they chose or whatever they worked, they missed the opportunity to cut our subsidies. They were there to be cut if they wanted to cut. They didn't do it. And frankly, we are now offering another opportunity to create something significant across the Americas. The hand is there. It is up to them to see that...I will say that, there are a lot of countries in Latin America that if that one does not move forward, they are quite eager in moving forward separately.

Jutta Hettig, Inside U.S. Trade, Q: How will China's membership in the G-21 affect our bilateral trade relationship with the giant with whom the United States has an enormous trade deficit?

ZOELLICK: Our basic policy toward China has been that we know they have made a lot of difficult changes as part of their trade and their economic reform process. This is not an easy implementation process. At the same time, you are correct: we have a 100 billion dollar deficit. We want to keep our markets open to China, but I have emphasized the key way to help us to do that is for China to follow through on its obligations and help open markets. Frankly, I saw nothing here that undermined my belief that that is what the Chinese are trying to do. The one issue that (China) emphasized was some special treatment for recently acceded members. But frankly, it was a point they made, it was not something that was done in any particularly strident fashion. So Minister Lu was a good partner here. I am sure we will have our challenges on other issues in the days ahead.

Bruce Stokes, National Journal. Q: Ambassador Zoellick, at the end of Seattle, Pascal Lamy and Charlene Barshefsky turned to Mike Moore, who was then the director-general of the WTO and said, "You have to fix this organization. It doesn't work." Implicitly, you have also criticized the way in which things are decided here or move forward here, but you haven't gone so far as to say that we need to go back to Geneva and make the WTO work better. You have said, "We will solve trade liberalization through bilateralism and regionalism if we need to." Are you saying that you don't think it is a U.S. responsibility to try to make the WTO work better?

ZOELLICK: No, Bruce, and I think the United States has tried very hard to make the organization work. Here is the reality we confront. It is an organization that works by consensus. I don't think that is going to change, and so I don't think it would be very fruitful to try to spend time trying to move to voting patterns or others.

The question always is: you have to compromise. How are you going to move something forward? We never really knew for sure because we never got to this final stage about what people could live with. I've explained to people the basics: We can cut subsidies if I get the EU to cut subsidies closer and if we open markets. We'll open markets more than others will open markets, but we have got to get markets open. Which, by the way, will help the developing world as well with their trade.

So that's the formula. It's on the table. People will have to decide whether they want to engage in it. As I said, we'll always be there to engage in it -- but I'm also not waiting forever. We're going to move elsewhere.