World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/107

    12 December 1996

Organization    

    (96-5282)




    Original: English

MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE

Singapore, 9-13 December 1996

KENYA

Statement by the Honourable Joel F.K. Barmasai M.P.

Assistant Minister for Commerce and Industry

    It is a great honour and privilege for me to address you on this momentous occasion of the First Ministerial Conference of the WTO.

    I am also overjoyed to be doing so on this important day of 12 December which marks the 33rd anniversary of my country's independence. In this connection, allow me to convey greetings and well wishes from H.E. the President and the people of Kenya as we commemorate this historic day.

    Permit me to join those who have congratulated you on your election, and to express our satisfaction with the manner in which you have conducted the deliberations of this Conference so far. You can count on my delegation's support and cooperation.

    Allow me also, to convey, through you, Sir, my delegation's sincere appreciation, to his Excellency the President, the Prime Minister, the Government, and the entire people of Singapore, for the warm and wonderful hospitality extended to us since our arrival in this beautiful city. The facilities that have been placed at our disposal are excellent.

    I would now like to address myself to the business of this Ministerial Conference. In this connection, I wish to point out at the outset that we have already been overwhelmed by the current Uruguay Round Agreements.

    We should not therefore be overstretched further through introduction of yet new issues to the WTO Work Programme. Instead, the focus should be on the timely implementation of what we already have.

    For this reason, my delegation attaches a lot of importance to technical assistance that is necessary to facilitate the integration of developing countries into the new international trading system.

    In this connection, we appreciate the initiative taken by the WTO, in conjunction with UNCTAD and ITC, in implementing the Integrated Technical Assistance Programme for selected countries.

    Kenya has been one of the beneficiaries of the Programme, for which we are very grateful indeed.

    Having said that, I feel that it is necessary for me to express my delegation's views on the issues that this Conference has been deliberating on since Monday.

Trade and development

    It is widely recognized that the pursuit of open market-oriented policies, based on WTO principles is crucial for economic growth and development.

    Most developing countries including mine have, however, experienced problems associated with adjusting to the new challenges resulting from the Uruguay Round Agreements.

    In our efforts to surmount these challenges, my Government has put in place various economic reform policy measures such as trade liberalization which include, the abolition of import licences on virtually all imports and the removal of foreign exchange controls.

    We have similarly liberalized the financial sector and have put in place a comprehensive privatization programme of State-owned corporations.

    Although the results of these policies are quite encouraging, further reform will require the full support and understanding of the international community.

    In that connection, I wish to salute those who have highlighted the problems of the weaker countries in their statements. It is my hope and expectation that our stronger trading partners will consider positively the proposed plan of action in favour of these countries, so that they, too, can be integrated into the multilateral trading system.

Accession

    For the WTO to be truly universal and in order to strengthen the multilateral trading system, my delegation welcomes countries that are endeavouring to accede to the WTO.

    We believe that adequate assistance should be accorded to acceding developing countries. We need to rapidly bring them on board and facilitate their full participation in the system.

Dispute settlement

    The Uruguay Round Agreements and the establishment of the WTO resulted in a strong rule-based system aimed at safeguarding Members' interests.

    A central element in providing security and predictability in the functioning of this system, is the dispute settlement mechanism.

    We believe that the machinery has worked relatively well for the trading partners who have used it.

Textiles

    The inclusion of the textiles and clothing sector, under the discipline of the multilateral trading system, has been hailed as one of the major achievements of the Uruguay Round.

    However, doubts have arisen as to the genuineness of some of the major importing countries, whose implementation of the Agreement has been more in letter than in spirit.

    For instance, the products that they have selected for integration are largely those that were outside MFA restriction in the first place.

    We see no immediate benefit accruing to developing countries, if products of their export interest are integrated only in final phases of transition period.

Net food-importing countries

    The Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on net food-importing countries recognized the problem of higher food import bills likely to result from the Agricultural Reform Programme.

    The Decision called for the establishment of a financing mechanism to assist affected countries. My delegation reiterates the need for speedy implementation of the Decision.

Trade and environment

    In the conduct of international trade, environmental concerns should be taken into consideration.

    The issue before us is how to uphold and safeguard an open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system on the one hand, and promote sustainable development, on the other.

    My delegation recognizes that Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), represent an important instrument for tackling global environment problems, but we should also be conscious of the need to prevent environmental concerns from becoming a pretext for protectionism in trade.

    We, therefore, do not support the use of unilateral trade measures to protect the environment outside the territory of a Member.

    Another area of interest to my delegation is how to ensure that environmental measures such as eco-labelling and packaging requirements remain compatible with fair trading rules.

    The Rio Earth Summit recognized the importance of eco-labelling as an environmental tool to assist consumers make informed choices.

    However, the proliferation of different types of eco-labelling schemes has raised concerns about market access problems, especially for small-scale exporters in countries like Kenya.

    Assistance to developing countries in this area in terms of access to relevant technology and finance, as well as capacity building will be necessary if they are to conform to the laid down requirements.

Trade and labour standards

    The obligation on Member States to ensure adherence to core labour standards is unquestionable. As evidence of our commitment to social justice, my Government has ratified a number of ILO Conventions.

    The arguments for linking trade and labour standards are not convincing. Hence, any proposal to enforce labour standards through the machinery of the WTO is unacceptable to my country.

    We wish to re-emphasize that issues of labour standards should be left to the ILO to handle, but without any linkage to trade.

Trade, investments and competition policy

    Investment and competition policy issues have elicited interesting debate before and during this Ministerial Conference.

    The WTO, Trade-Related Investments Measures (TRIMS) Agreement provides for the possible inclusion of investment and competition policy within five years of the entry into force of the Uruguay Round Agreements.

    In addition, during UNCTAD IX Conference, UNCTAD was mandated to carry out a study in this area. The position of my delegation therefore is that this issue should not be handled by WTO at this stage.

Secretariat

    Before concluding, I wish to express Kenya's strong view that, as the WTO addresses trade issues in their global context, its Secretariat should similarly be reflective of the geographical representation of the WTO membership.

    In this regard, I would urge the Director-General to continue with his laudable efforts of increasing Africa's representation within the Secretariat especially at the higher echelons.

    Finally, I wish to reaffirm my country's support and commitment to the goals and objectives of the WTO and wish the Organization every success.