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Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release May 20, 1998
                     STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
             on Conclusion of World Trade Organization Meeting

I am pleased and proud that the members of the World Trade Organization ("WTO") have accepted my invitation to hold the 1999 WTO Ministerial meeting in the United States. This meeting will enable us to advance the ambitious agenda I laid out earlier this week to shape the world trading system to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Next year's meeting will bring home for Americans the important stake that we all have in the global economy. And I welcome the decision by the WTO to ask United States Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky to chair that meeting. In Geneva, we made important advances on our proposal to free the potential of electronic commerce. I am particularly pleased that the WTO members joined the United States in a standstill on any tariffs on electronic transmissions sent across national borders. We cannot allow discriminatory barriers to stunt the development of the most promising new economic opportunity in decades. This worldwide proposal builds on far-reaching agreements we reached within the last week with the European Union and Japan.

As we build a trading system for the 21st century that honors our values and expands opportunity, we must do more to ensure that spirited economic competition among nations never becomes a race to the bottom -- in environmental protections, consumer protections, or labor standards. Without such a strategy, we cannot build the necessary public support for continued expansion of trade. I will work to ensure that the WTO and other international institutions are more responsive to labor, the environment, consumers, and other interests so that we can build the public confidence we need in our trade expansion initiatives.

I want to thank Ambassador Barshefsky, Secretary Glickman, Ambassador Rita Hayes, our Ambassador to the WTO, and all the representatives of the U.S. business community, and other participants in the Ministerial who worked to make this meeting a success.