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> Round Table for Least-developed Countries (LDCs) on Best Practices in the WTO Accession Process
> Press release: China gives a USD 400,000 programme for least developed countries
Thank you Minister Chen Deming for your strong partnership and for joining me at the opening of this “Beijing Round Table on Best Practices in WTO Accessions” for Least Developed countries (LDCs).
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the WTO Membership, let me pay tribute to the Government of China for its leadership on WTO accessions, particularly on the accession of the Least Developed Countries. I pay particular tribute to the Ministry of Commerce of China, and to Minister Chen himself, for their work with me and Secretariat Staff, to initiate, drive and establish the “China’s LDCs’ and Accessions Programme”. The MOU has set the foundation for the WTO’s engagement with China to support WTO accessions in general and LDCs’ accessions in particular. Implementation of the “Programme” is also expanding the framework and parameters for China’s broader support for several other areas of WTO technical assistance, capacity building and cooperation writ large.
At this opening, I am pleased to acknowledge my friends who accepted Chen’s and my invitation to participate at this Accessions Round Table for LDCs.
Thank you Deputy Prime Minister Lauofo for agreeing to be present, only a few days away from Samoa’s historic 50th Independence Anniversary. I know it was a tough decision! Welcome also as the 155 Member of the WTO.
I pay my profound respect to all Article XII Member representatives gathered here today: Cambodia, Nepal, the Russian Federation; Oman; Montenegro; and, Ukraine. I thank also the 10 acceding LDCs present here today; with no less appreciation to our Working Party Chairpersons — past and present. We appreciate the participation of Minister Wilson Laleau, Minister of Trade and Industry, Haiti and LDCs’ Coordinator
Why are we here today? Although we are always happy to visit this beautiful city of Beijing — and enjoy its ancient and modern wonders — but, the reasons for our presence here today are special. First, this Round Table is taking place at an important juncture. We have just welcomed Samoa, an LDC, as the 155th Member of the Organization earlier this month. With the support of all WTO Members, the WTO is on the verge of concluding the two LDCs accessions of Lao PDR and Yemen this year. These would be on the hills of a record 4 accessions concluded last year. So, I ask all participants at this Round Table, including participating WTO Members, to confirm the 2012 accessions of Yemen and Lao PDR, as concrete “deliverables” from this Round Table. Second, in July, the General Council will adopt a report, with decisions, to strengthen the 2002 Guidelines on LDCs Accessions, pursuant to the MC8 Decision in WT/L/846. This Round Table provides participants with an opportunity to contribute to implementing the MC8 Decision. Third, Building on the Phnom Penh Workshop in 2009, this is the first time that the Secretariat is organizing an “Activity” for Article XII Members, immediately following on their own accessions, to share their experiences and hence contribute to improving the functioning of the accession process to ensure that the system is reinforced and expanded and made stronger, as a consequence. Fourth, we are here to strengthen the WTO accession process and also celebrate its results. Fifth, WTO accessions are key elements in strengthening trade multilateralism. It is the WTO trade pathway to domestic reforms, competitiveness and growth. It is a uniquely WTO approach to development.
Accession is a strategic priority of the WTO. To achieve universality is the ultimate goal of the WTO, because enlargement of the rules-based multilateral trading system is a key source of strength. Expansion of the membership will further strengthen the WTO’s role in providing economic stability and security for the global economy, particularly in periods of economic and/or financial crisis.
LDC’s accession has its special systemic value because it is a demonstration of the development dimension of the Organization, through a domestic reform pathway to foster faster economic growth.
For acceding governments, benefit of WTO membership is obvious. It provides new opportunities for trade, attracts investments and sustains economic growth. As I indicated in my 2010 Annual Report on Accessions, all newly acceded Members grew faster in trade and recovered quicker from economic crisis. Sustained trade growth has enhanced living standards and country welfare and prosperity. Walk along Chang-An Street just in front of this building. It provides evidence of improved welfare for working families, in all respects. Ten years ago, for the ordinary Chinese, this was a distant dream!
However, it is also true that the WTO accession is not an easy process. It requires serious domestic economic policy and legislative reforms for WTO-consistency. This condition is not varied for any member. This is the true source of strength in our rules-based system. These reforms entail difficult domestic debate and painful adjustments. However, the experience of the newly acceded Members has proved that all these reforms, faithfully implemented, become the indispensable foundation for countries to grow, develop and prosper. The old adage is true: short-term pain, for long-term gain. A Chinese proverb says that “beneficial medicines are often bitter in your mouth”. We all believe that WTO accession is “beneficial medicine” for LDCs’ economic development. Not to be lost sight off in the “pain and medication metaphor”, are the “sweeteners” with appropriate, useful, special and differential treatment, such as with transition periods, capacity building, technical assistance and continuing strong support by WTO membership, more evident now than ever before.
The WTO accession process is complex. The nature of the negotiations (bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral levels); the technical complexity of the subject matter; the diverse range of interests; polarizing domestic debates in the process of building ownership; and, the resources invested, over time, have challenged all categories of Acceding Governments. But, it has been done — not once, but now 29 times!!!
To make it easier, but without undermining the strength of our rules-based system, at MC-8 Ministers decided to streamline and strengthen the 2002 Guidelines on LDCs’ accessions. The Subcommittee on LDCs is currently preparing its recommendations for a Decision by July General Council. This Round Table is privileged to have as one of its participant, H.E. Ambassador Steffen Smidt, Chairman of the LDCs’ Sub Committee. I invite Round Table participants to contribute to the on-going exercise with practical ideas, suggestions and proposals, in particular on the operationalization of the 2002 Guidelines. Seize the opportunity. You have it. In his Report, I believe that the Ambassador Smidt will certainly also refer to the suggestions emanating from this Round Table.
We know why we are here. The substantive totality of the WTO accession knowledge is converged in this room, ready to be shared with our LDC colleagues. I hope this unique opportunity will bring fruitful results! Make this Round Table count!
I would like to re-assure all LDCs that the WTO Secretariat will play it part. The Secretariat Team is hard at work. Many initiatives have been put in place since 2009. They are now bearing results. One of these initiatives is the Accessions Commitments Database (ACDB), which has been developed over a two year period, and which I would like to launch after Opening this Round Table.
Before, I conclude my remarks, I want to express my particular appreciation to Ambassador Yi. Ambassador’s Yi’s contributions to the organization of this Round Table have been indispensable. Even more importantly, he has provided essential leadership as Chairman of the Working Party on the Accession of Lao PDR; and, in doing so, pro-actively intervened with other Chairpersons to support the accessions of Lao PDR and Yemen. Ambassador Yi and his Team in Geneva should be proud of their contributions, on behalf of China, to WTO accessions.
In closing, together with Minister Chen, I wish you every success in your deliberations over the next 3 days and I am pleased to declare OPEN, this “Beijing 2012 Round Table on WTO Accessions Best Practices for LDCs”.
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