World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/100
12 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
On behalf of the Government of Venezuela I should like to convey my delegation's sincere gratitude for the generous hospitality of the people and Government of Singapore. I should also like to express our appreciation for the efficient organization of this Ministerial Conference.
Our expectations for this first Conference focused on the assessment of the overall implementation of the Agreements reached in Marrakesh in 1994. Accordingly, we think it fitting to share briefly with you three reflections about the achievements and endeavours of the first two years of the WTO.
The first relates to the major effort that has proved necessary and that we have undertaken to fulfil the commitments stemming from our accession to the World Trade Organization. The work of adjusting our legal framework has been arduous and complex, and the administrative burden in regard to notifications has been no less substantial.
The second, more substantive, point is the high value we place on the improvement in the dispute settlement system. This we see as one of the major achievements of the first two years of the Organization's existence.
As is well known, in January 1995 Venezuela made use of the new provisions and procedures in this area and, to our satisfaction, the bodies which examined the gasoline claim agreed with our legal arguments. This led not only to the restoration of Venezuela's rights but also highlighted the fact that the WTO-agreed multilateral rules provide the Member countries with impartial mechanisms whereby their disputes can be clarified and resolved satisfactorily. Nevertheless, we should bear in mind that the success of a dispute settlement mechanism is confirmed when the decisions adopted are effectively acted on.
Thirdly, it is important to express our concern about what we regard as signs of the emergence of new trade restriction measures which affect the actual capacity of developing countries to penetrate major international markets. In this regard, it is significant that the application of some WTO Agreements has already run into serious problems between opposing groups of Members because the implementation of commitments has not been up to certain expectations and aspirations. This is the case, for example, in agriculture and textiles.
After the WTO's first two years, as we said earlier, this Ministerial Conference provided an opportunity to make a detailed assessment of the implementation of the various agreements, with a view to strengthening achievements and introducing remedies for deviations and shortcomings. The Conference's activities, however, have taken a different direction and we have concentrated our efforts on discussing new proposals. They meet the legitimate concern of some Members of the Organization and warrant a conceptual pronouncement on our part.
With regard to the issue of core labour standards, Venezuela reiterates its recognition of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as its rejection of forced labour, exploitation of child labour and any kind of job discrimination.
Our country's legal and economic history has, for more than 50 years, been one of growing achievements in labour rights, which it has consolidated and will continue to take further, both in the modernization of its own institutions and in its international participation in the agreements, agencies and forums suited to this matter, such as the ILO.
Venezuela recognizes that the WTO can in fact contribute to the practical extension of these rights, by trade liberalization and the resulting economic growth. But it does not accept that WTO Agreements and particularly trade restriction measures should be used as tools to enforce labour standards or challenge comparative advantages in some developing economies.
Accordingly, Venezuela considers that the ILO is the natural forum and should still be the first place to examine the relationship between trade and labour standards.
The link between trade and investment is more complex than just a contribution by investment to expanding the production base and export capacity of developing countries. Therefore, Venezuela stands ready to participate within the WTO framework in an analysis to gain a better understanding of that relationship. What is more, we consider that the analysis should be aimed at clarifying the most appropriate ways of ensuring a stable flow of investment for transforming the production of our countries in order to enhance their trade and foster their development. Hence, we must bear in mind and promote close cooperation with the work being done by UNCTAD, an institution that not only has the capacity and the experience for such studies but is also an intergovernmental forum of great political value. Development has a dimension to it that is broader than the trade or the economic dimension.
We have a similar comment on the issue of competition policies. In this case, we would emphasize the need for WTO studies to be conducted in cooperation with UNCTAD and to cover the interaction between competition policies and trade.
To conclude these remarks on the new issues, Venezuela is of the view that the Organization's future work should not be overburdened with negotiation obligations other than those contained in the built-in agenda. We feel that it is not in keeping with the priorities of expanding trade and consolidating the WTO to take up negotiations on these issues in the near future and that the decisions of this Conference should not commit us to moving along that path.
As a Member, Venezuela has participated resolutely and responsibly in the WTO, because it is of the view that the multilateral trading system affords the best legal guarantee for facing the challenges and taking up the opportunities that emerged from the Uruguay Round and because, like many other Members, my country sees the liberalization of international trade as a factor that is essential to economic growth, job creation and the welfare of peoples.