World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/105
12 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
Let me begin by joining the distinguished speakers who preceded me in warmly congratulating the Republic of Singapore for so kindly accepting to host the first WTO Ministerial Conference, demonstrating its particular interest in the multilateral trading system.
With hardly any natural resources, Singapore has moved to the forefront of the world's trading nations. This spectacular success deserves our respect and admiration.
This is why I would ask you, Mr. Chairman, to transmit to the distinguished Prime Minister of your beautiful country and to its people and Government, the fraternal greetings of the people and Government of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and its President, H.E. Henri Konan Bedie.
In April 1994, at the historic meeting in Marrakesh, the Ministers initialled the Final Act of the longest and most ambitious round of negotiations the world has known since the end of the Second World War. The Final Act of the Uruguay Round inspired considerable hope, but also gave rise to concern.
Following the entry into force in January 1995 of the World Trade Organization, guarantor of the results of the Uruguay Round, we are meeting here today to add a new page to the history of the multilateral trading system. The page which we are endeavouring to write together must take account of the legitimate aspirations of each and every one of us.
Thus, before moving on to the new issues, we must try to focus our attention on the results of the first two years of the WTO's existence.
I shall therefore begin by discussing the challenges facing the developing countries in general and Côte d'Ivoire in particular in the field of international trade, and then go on to examine the policies and strategies required to curb the negative effects of the Uruguay Round Agreements on the most vulnerable economies. Finally, I shall present our views regarding the new issues, on which there is seldom a consensus.
The process of globalization and liberalization which has followed the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of negotiations and the creation of the World Trade Organization has provided the world economy with fresh possibilities of growth and development. However, it is a process which involves many risks for developing countries such as ours which, owing to the fragility of their economies and their low current level of technological development, do not stand to gain from it in the immediate future.
Numerous studies have revealed that the cost burden on the developing countries in general, and the ACP countries such as Côte d'Ivoire in particular, are essentially the result, inter alia, of:
- The erosion of trade preferences owing to the progressive elimination of the advantages enjoyed by our countries, and in particular, the erosion preferences with respect to commodities that are essential to Côte d'Ivoire, such as coffee and cocoa;
- an increase in the cost of food imports due to the elimination of export subsidies.
Since the entry into force of the WTO, many developing countries have been experiencing great difficulty in fulfilling their obligations, particularly with respect to the notification procedures laid down in the Uruguay Round Agreements. These countries, more than any others, require technical and financial assistance in order to meet all their obligations, and it is essential that the international community should show solidarity and a willingness to cooperate in that respect.
In order to reduce the risk of marginalization of the developing countries in connection with the globalization and liberalization of trade, a number of specific policies and measures will have to be adopted with a view to:
- Taking full advantage of the transitional period during which the developing countries are granted exemptions to help them to enhance their trade efficiency in response to the challenges deriving from the Marrakesh Agreements;
- developing technical and financial assistance to help them adapt their economies to the evolution of the multilateral trading system and to benefit more fully from the opening up of markets.
Our country, Côte d'Ivoire, has attended all of the international meetings devoted to the negotiation of world economic policy.
Moreover, Côte d'Ivoire has persistently done its utmost to apply the provisions agreed in international fora.
In that connection, we are continuing to liberalize our trade as recommended by the WTO, and we have been diligent in turning the private sector into the driving force behind our growth.
Côte d'Ivoire has reformed its judicial system, and created an investment facilitation body for local and foreign private investments as well as an arbitral chamber.
The results of all these reforms are conclusive, and confirm, if need be, that Côte d'Ivoire is back on the road to growth. Indeed:
* The country has moved from a negative growth rate at the beginning of the 1990s to a rate of 2 per cent in 1994 and 7 per cent in 1995, and should achieve a rate exceeding 7 per cent in 1996;
* public and private investments are recovering;
* public and private savings are clearly on the rise;
* the devaluation of the CFA franc has restored the country's competitiveness and resulted in a sharp increase in exports.
The satisfactory results of the macroeconomic aggregates have enabled us to make significant headway in the social sectors, particularly in the areas of health, education and employment.
We are convinced that our integration into the international trade system will depend largely on our ability to participate actively in the WTO, to exercise our rights and to fulfil our obligations.
In short, our entire development policy must carry the stamp of globalization and liberalization. That is why we feel more than ever that the time is ripe for our partners to step up their support for our efforts to achieve sustainable development, bearing in mind the need for coherence in their decisions.
I cannot end my statement without addressing the subject of the new issues:
1. Trade and investment
There is a real need in this connection to monitor and coordinate investments at the international level. After all, trade and investment are clearly two sides of the same coin. Thus, without interfering in the work being done at UNCTAD, the WTO could act as a forum for discussion in the framework of an educational process which could lead to the negotiation of an international treaty if all parties deemed such a treaty necessary.
2. Trade and environment
Although trade and environment is not strictly speaking a new issue in trade negotiations, discussions within the Committee on Trade and Environment have given rise to the concern that measures and policies aimed at protecting the environment might simply serve as an excuse for imposing protectionist measures within a country's borders or for introducing additional conditions without considering the interests of the developing countries.
3. Labour standards
Côte d'Ivoire has always been able to adapt its labour codes to the recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which rehabilitate the private sector, guaranteeing the rights of salaried employees.
The Members of the WTO should adopt a more constructive approach to this issue. In condemning the inhuman conditions in which people are called upon to work in certain countries, it is essential to avoid cancelling the comparative advantages of the developing countries in that area and turning labour standards into market protection measures.
4. Competition policy
Côte d'Ivoire considers that in the light of the globalization and liberalization which is taking place, there is a pressing need to draw up international rules governing trade and competition policy.
5. Regional integration
Finally, my country maintains that the issue of regional integration and multilateralism provides the answer to the policy of diversifying production and markets, developing appropriate infrastructural networks and ensuring the rational allocation of resources in the context of enlarged regional markets. Thus, Côte d'Ivoire asks the WTO to support the harmonization of regional trade policy.
When this Conference is over, we would like to think that the international community has been able to identify ways and means to consolidate the achievements of the Uruguay Round and the real prospects of the multilateral trading system.