Keynote Address of James Bacchus to the Silk Road Business Summit Xi'an, China
8 Sep 2017


Keynote Address


James Bacchus


the Silk Road Business Summit


Xi'an, China

September 8, 2017


I want to thank our hosts for asking me to speak today on this site of the starting point of the old – and the new – Silk Road.


It is my great pleasure to be here with delegates from 81 countries to search for the best ways to restore the ancient trade corridors between East and West in our shared search for a shared prosperity along those corridors here in the 21st century.


As my role in keynoting these proceedings, I have been asked to explain current United States trade policy.


No one can explain current United States trade policy.


Certainly it cannot be explained by those who are making it and pursuing it and changing it in all kinds of contradictory ways from day to day.


Just yesterday, I read three different views of the US policy on renegotiating the US free trade agreement with South Korea – including one from the President that differed from that of two of his Cabinet members.


Pulling out of the Korea-US free trade agreement would be a mistake for the United States at any time. And could there be a worse time than now?


Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a mistake.


Withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement would be a mistake.


Pulling back on the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was a mistake.


Worst of all, the current dangerous combination of US indifference and intimidation – of backtracking and bullying – toward the World Trade Organization is a mistake that could have profound global economic and geopolitical consequences for the United States and for the rest of the world.


Common to all these mistakes is a retreat by the current government of the United States from international and, especially, from multilateral cooperation in confronting economic and other issues of shared and increasing global concern.


Common also to all these mistakes is the belief that trade is a “win-lose” game in which there is necessarily always a “winner” and a “loser” and not the “win-win” game that history and experience have shown us trade can be through multilateral cooperation.


This mistaken current trade policy of the United States will change with time. There will be another presidential election.


In the meantime, polls show that a solid majority of Americans continue to believe that lowering barriers to trade is good for American consumers and the American economy.  And they continue to believe that concluding international agreements for freer trade is in America's interest.


Most Americans also understand that ours is a Pacific nation, and that we must be a part of a rising trans-Pacific economy to be able to continue to grow and prosper.


We understand, too, that we have friends in the Asia-Pacific region, and that we must stand by them.


Not least, we understand that we must strive for a closer and cooperative relationship with China if the entire world is to have the leadership it must have to confront global climate, economic, and security concerns.


What must we do while we wait for American trade policy to change and to return to more enlightened views in favor of freer trade and more international cooperation?


We must do precisely what we are all doing here.  We must go ahead to strengthen the foundation for global cooperation, prosperity, and peace through endeavors such as the Silk Road initiative.


How should we proceed?


It will not be surprising to you that – as an international jurist – I emphasize the need for enabling frameworks of mutually agreed rules that will help make markets work and flourish in support of trade and investment.


Yes, we must remake the Silk Road.


But, to succeed, we must make the Silk Road smooth.


We must hasten the full implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. We must expand that WTO agreement to include services and investment facilitation.


We must conclude new bilateral investment treaties building toward an eventual global framework for investment.


As part of those treaties and that eventual global framework, we must have investment rules that encourage and support foreign direct investment by guaranteeing the obligation of contracts, ensuring non-discriminatory treatment, providing protections against expropriations without due compensation, protecting intellectual property rights, safeguarding trade secrets,

and more.


To succeed as it should, the Silk Road initiative must blend sustainability into all its rulemaking by recognizing that economy and environment are one and the same, and that we cannot have lasting economic growth without environmental protection.


And to succeed as it should, the Silk Road initiative requires the full commitment of each and every one of us – and the full commitment of each and every state involved – to the rule of law, both nationally and internationally.


The rule of law is essential to protect the rights and the property of individual traders and investors – including from the arbitrary say and sway of the state.


Without the rule of law, trade will not flow as much as it could, and much of foreign direct investment will not be forthcoming.


The Silk Road initiative can be an historic opportunity for every country represented here.


It can be an historic opportunity for us all.


I look forward to helping you all make of this initiative the kind of shared international success it should be.