Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates Calls on Congress To Give President Authority to Negotiate New World Trade Deals

SEATTLE, Feb. 26, 1999 — Speaking to the annual meeting of the Washington Council on International Trade (WCIT) today, Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates called on Congress to grant the president
“fast-track”
negotiating authority before the World Trade Organization (WTO) 1999 Seattle ministerial meeting in November.

“There is tremendous potential for the growth of online commerce worldwide,”
Gates said.
“But we won’t realize the full potential of that growth unless new trade agreements eliminate the prospect of tariffs on electronic transfers and guarantee free market access for electronic commerce providers. The significance of these issues makes it important that the president have fast-track negotiating authority, which will help enable our government to negotiate strong new trade agreements in these areas.”

Patricia Davis, president of the Washington Council on International Trade, reinforced the urgency.
“In today’s world, trade is an essential means toward expanding economic opportunities. This is especially true for Washington state, where international trade is the track our economic health runs on,”
Davis said.
“Our country and our state will be winners when Congress once again grants the president fast-track authority.”

“The reason is simple,”
Davis said.
“Trade brings prosperity. An expanding economy is the only real job security for today’s workers and their children. This is why the Trade Council is so pleased to have been instrumental in bringing the WTO ministerial to Seattle. This is not only the largest trade meeting ever held in the United States, but arguably the most significant. The Seattle ministerial will kick off a round of global negotiations that will shape world trade for the next generation.”

Importance of the WTO Meeting

The ministerial meeting, which is scheduled for late November at the King County Convention Center, will draw trade ministers and high-level delegations from 134 member countries and a number of observer delegations, as well as world press. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky will chair the meeting.

The meeting is expected to be the largest trade event ever held in the United States. It is expected to launch global negotiations that will further open markets in goods, services and agricultural trade. President Clinton has already called for a new three-year negotiating trade round to begin after the Seattle conference.

Importance of the WTO

The WTO is an invaluable tool for helping nonindustrialized nations share in global prosperity. The WTO is a force for inclusion, not exclusion. Through a system of regulations, enforcement of multilateral trade agreements and dispute-resolution procedures, every member country has a voice and a vote. Access to the halls of power, electronic resources and WTO expertise is a tangible form of capacity-building for developing nations.

WCIT and Microsoft Want to Give Teachers Tools

Microsoft also announced today that it is providing $25,000 in seed money to create tools for teachers that will allow them to educate students about the importance of world trade to the Washington economy. The Washington Council on International Trade will ask other companies to contribute the remainder of the $100,000 needed to create those special trade tools.

WCIT is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan association composed of private sector businesses, public sector representatives, consular groups and individuals. Galvanized by a flourishing international trade sector, WCIT serves as a clearinghouse for information on international trade in Washington. More than any other state in the union, Washington looks to vigorous two-way trade for its well-being. The council advocates for pro-trade policies at federal and state levels by focusing on key trade-related issues that affect the health of Washington’s businesses and communities.

The second objective of the council is embodied in its educational arm, the International

Trade Education Foundation (ITEF). For the last 22 years, ITEF has sponsored an annual two-week intensive summer seminar on international trade and economics. It is a training ground for junior high, high school and college teachers from around the state. The course, Washington State in the Global Economy, has been approved by the state for 80 clock hours. The program is tuition-free to participating teachers and currently has over 400 alumni.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
“MSFT”
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Microsoft is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on the WTO meeting in Seattle, please visit the organizing committee Web page at http://www.wtoseattle.org/ . Additional information about the Washington Council on International Trade can be found at http://www.wcit.org/ . If you are interested in viewing more information about Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/ on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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