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WTO: Trade issues to be tackled by tourism pro

The World Tourism Organization (WTO<.>) has appointed Geoffrey Lipman as special advisor to the Secretary-General on…

The World Tourism Organization (WTO ) has appointed Geoffrey Lipman as special advisor to the Secretary-General on  Trade in Tourism Services.

Mr. Lipman, the chairman of Green Globe 21 and former president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), will be responsible for promoting the fair and sustainable liberalization of tourism services in the next round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization.

“Geoffrey Lipman is a great champion of the tourism industry. His vast experience in working with the private sector and in government relations will be a strong asset in our efforts to obtain a balanced form of liberalization,” said WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli.

“WTO is committed to full, but controlled liberalization of the tourism sector to eliminate all remaining barriers to trade,” said Mr. Frangialli. “Our goal is to advance tourism in the next trade round, taking into account the ideas embodied in Global Code of Ethics for Tourism-which has just been approved by the United Nations-and paying close attention to socio-cultural issues.”

“In this way, tourism can provide a good example for other sectors of how an industry that is already liberalized can make more progress towards sustainable development,” he added.

WTO’s Working Group on Liberalization has put forward a Draft Annex on Tourism to be added to the General Agreement on Trade in Services or GATS. The annex proposes new rules for ensuring equitable trading conditions in international tourism, consistent with the needs for sustainable development of tourist destinations.

“It is in the industry’s own interest to avoid sacrificing everything to short-term profitability and to give future generations a chance to discover the natural and cultural heritage on which tourism relies for its development,” said Mr. Frangialli.

The World Trade Organization, at its meeting in Doha last November, reaffirmed its commitment to continue working in the services sector and introduced social concerns as part of the scope of the negotiations, particularly in developing countries.

According to Mr. Lipman: “WTO/s role is to ensure that the interests of developing countries are taken care of through a fair liberalization process and through positive, pro-active steps taken by the tourism industry.”

The Tourism Annex to GATS is especially important to the developing world because tourism is the only sector in which the developing countries have a trade surplus.

As president of the WTTC, Mr. Lipman was instrumental in positioning tourism as a mainstream industry within the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. “WTO has a real opportunity here to get trade ministries talking with the tourism sector about the human face of liberalization. That/s why I am so excited about taking on this position,” said Mr. Lipman.

As the first president of WTTC throughout the 1990s, Geoffrey Lipman was responsible for expanding the global tourism alliance of Chief Executive Officers from 10 to 100 members. Prior to joining the WTTC, he spent 20 years with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), where he was Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs. He has published several reports and books on airline liberalization and was a member of the European Union “Comite de Sages” on air transport liberalization.

Since attending the Earth Summit in 1992, Mr. Lipman has focused much of his attention on sustainable tourism, establishing the Green Globe environmental programme for consumers, corporations and communities.