World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/102
12 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
Allow me to pay tribute to the Government of Singapore for the excellent facilities they have placed at my delegation's disposal. I wish also to commend the management of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the administrative steps taken to ensure that this Conference is a success. I am sure that under this excellent environment the Conference will achieve its objectives.
The holding of this first WTO Ministerial Conference reflects, in many ways, a correct and appropriate reading of the mood and desire of the many countries present here. For us in Zambia, there is full commitment to the process of advancing the pace of socio-economic development of our people. There is a firm realization in our country that a sustainable basis for reducing poverty among our people, achieving enhanced economic growth and creating productive jobs cannot be attained without doing business with the rest of the world particularly through trade.
We accept the premise that international trade is an essential ingredient for socio-economic development. We are therefore happy to be present at this Conference as it will give us an opportunity to share views, on matters of mutual interest, with distinguished delegates from other countries. We are aware that a lot has been achieved since the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. However, much remains to be done as there are many issues yet to be addressed and concluded. For example, it can be safely stated that global trade has had uneven impact on developing countries, especially the least developed ones. These countries are having serious problems of integration into the multilateral trading system and are being marginalized. This is due to a number of factors including lack of adequate financial resources to develop their economic and socio-infrastructure and to enable them to build productive capacities. The limited availability of qualified human resources is also a serious obstacle to these countries.
My country has embarked on and is implementing a bold and wide-ranging programme of economic reforms which has given prominence to the private sector. We have removed cumbersome investment legislation and procedures and, have introduced generous investment packages in support of this effort. We have liberalized the foreign exchange and foreign trade regimes, i.e. we have abolished foreign exchange controls and import licensing. My country offers immense and countless opportunities in agriculture, mining, tourism and manufacturing to mention but a few areas. Through these measures and opportunities it is our hope that investors will be attracted to invest in Zambia so that our country can take its rightful place and meaningfully participate in the growing global economy.
Zambia is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The two regional groupings offer the opportunities of a larger market than can be offered by anyone of the individual Member States. Within these regional groupings we are taking positive steps towards harmonizing trading arrangements including tariff reductions and removal of non-tariff barriers.
We in Zambia fully appreciate the important role foreign direct investment can play in the development of our country. We also appreciate that political harmony and stability are essential to attract foreign investment. In this respect, I am happy to report to this distinguished gathering that, since the introduction of plural politics in 1991, Zambia has enjoyed and continues to enjoy peace, stability and democratic governance. On 18 November this year, Zambia held peaceful and democratic elections which were contested by five opposition parties and a large number of independent candidates. These elections were a resounding victory for our young democracy and the free market policies that my Government put in place five years ago.
In order to avoid continued marginalization of developing countries, especially the least developed ones, and in order to ensure that these countries meaningfully participate in the growing global trade it is important that Member States of WTO and the international community at large address issues of particular interest to least developed countries as a matter of urgency. External debt has become and continues to be a serious burden for least developed countries (LDCs), yet these countries are expected to integrate themselves into the international trading environment. We believe that the promotion of meaningful trade among nations requires financial resources. Therefore, we urge our development and trading partners to adopt measures that will facilitate efforts to meet our obligations under different trade agreements.
Some developing countries will require technical assistance to develop and reform their domestic legislation to bring it in conformity with WTO requirements. The importance of this aspect in the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements cannot be over-emphasized and will undoubtedly require maximum support from the WTO. The WTO should continue to recognize the problems faced by LDCs and my delegation would like this Ministerial Conference to reaffirm the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Measures in Favour of the Least Developed Countries.
Regarding the work of the current WTO Ministerial Conference here at Singapore it is my delegation's view that we should avoid taking decisions which would have the effect of overloading the WTO with matters which legitimately belong to other multilateral institutions to which most of us are members. I am referring to proposals being made by some delegations at this Conference on investment and trade and, on the relationship between trade and labour. These issues which are very important should be legitimately dealt with by UNCTAD and ILO respectively. We should also be careful in handling matters, within the WTO, which may impinge on Member countries' internal policies and strategies. My Government has a very open system of procurement. However we feel that this is an area requiring careful studies by relevant multilateral institutions before we can consider a multilateral agreement for government procurement.
It is my fervent desire that firm and practical resolutions should come out of this Conference. I have no doubt that delegates present here will approach the Conference with a clear view of meaningfully contributing towards the improvement of the quality life of our peoples the world over. My delegation hopes that all agenda items will be addressed with the seriousness they deserve. I wish to assure you of my Government's desire to exert its energies towards promoting harmonious trade relations within the framework of WTO.