World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/120
12 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
I pay tribute to the Government and to the people of Singapore for their great hospitality, skills and efforts demonstrated in the impressive organization of the First Ministerial Conference of the WTO.
Two years which have elapsed since this institution started its existence have delivered a living testimony to the wisdom of our joint decision to establish the WTO. Much of the impressive global trade expansion over the past two years has been certainly due to the implementation of commitments undertaken in Marrakesh.
The trade growth has, in turn, helped to moderate the impact of a cyclical downturn in a number of major and smaller economies. The WTO has provided a uniform, coherent system of trade rules to be followed on a global scale.
It has generated more transparency in economic and trade policies of individual Governments. Last, but not least, the WTO dispute settlement system has proven to be generally effective in encouraging multilateral, rather than bilateral, settlement of trade conflicts. These are some of the positive effects of the WTO experience.
For the sake of objectivity we must not neglect, however, the shortfalls which need to be faced squarely as we move forward. The most visible among them seems to be the limit on capacity of some WTO Members to absorb the complexity and the impact of the system and to adapt to its requirements. This aspect should be approached for some more time with a necessary measure of tolerance and understanding.
Another problem consists in the need to improve the practical usefulness of the notification procedures which seem to have overburdened the system without yielding proportionate results in terms of proper, WTO-endorsed policy guidelines for the Members concerned.
When the Uruguay Round was coming to a close, my country - Poland - a GATT Member since 1967, was in a turning moment of its economic history. Now, looking several years back, we can appreciate one essential fact: while it may have been hard to Poland to undertake extensive Uruguay Round commitments, the effort has paid off in terms of consolidating the systemic change associated with the successful adoption of rules and mechanisms of a market economy. The absorption of WTO standards into the national legal and administrative system has also been essential for accession to the OECD earlier this year, and for the ongoing intensive preparation for future membership in the European Union.
Figures speak louder than words: during the first two years of implementation of WTO market access commitments, Poland's imports will have grown by a total of more than 65 per cent. Trade has become one of the principal factors behind a dynamic GDP expansion which continues at approximately 6 per cent per year. Foreign investment has been on the rise and it now contributes approximately a quarter of Poland's external trade. Obviously, the process has generated a number of hardships for the man in the street and caused substantial reallocations of productive capacities, thus generating certain social policy dilemmas. But the overall result has been a more efficient economic structure with higher competitive skills. This, in a nutshell, is Poland's positive lesson drawn from adjustment to the WTO framework.
Turning now to the WTO agenda I wish to express my delegation's strong view that the implementation and consolidation of the Marrakesh programme are the top priority. This includes also the completion of the unfinished business.
In telecom negotiations, Poland upholds the objective of reaching an agreement early next year. It is in this expectation that Poland will present an improved telecom offer in January.
While it is true that the trade and environment issue has turned out to be more complex and controversial than originally expected, it needs to be faced squarely if WTO is to be responsive to the realities of today's world. Therefore, we believe that the Committee on Trade and Environment should continue its activities under the present mandate.
The interlinkage between trade and investment is obvious and growing. Therefore, my delegation welcomes the initiative to establish a proper framework for examination of this issue in the WTO, without prejudging the option of possible future negotiations on the subject. Such initiative would provide us with a good opportunity to complement the work undertaken on this subject within a much smaller circle of the OECD membership and in other fora.
We also share a similar positive attitude with many other delegations as regards the trade and competition issue.
In adopting herself to the OECD and EU standards, Poland is now in the process of reviewing domestic legislation related to government procurement with a view to acceding to the respective WTO Agreement.
As regards trade and labour standards, may it be recalled that Poland's systemic transformation began with the establishment of free trade unions. Therefore, our record on this issue is straight and clean. Nevertheless we recognize the sensitivity of the problem in terms of its possible linkage to domestic politics of WTO Members and temptations to resort to trade-restricting measures. Therefore, Poland is in favour of recognizing the ILO as the principal player in the field, so as to lessen the risk of injecting politics into the regulatory framework of the WTO.
Poland is actively and extensively engaged in the process of regional integration which it considers to be a constructive component of the overall trade liberalization. The regionalism can and should be harmoniously incorporated into the WTO multilateral system. In this connection, we welcomed the establishment of the WTO Committee on Regional Trade Agreements and stand ready to continue open-minded activity of this Committee, free from a priori assumptions and prejudices.
The favourable political changes, which have taken place in the world, create a chance for the WTO system to become truly universal, as required by globalization of the world economy. It is imperative to create a uniform system of trade policy rules and criteria and the transparency of market access conditions. Therefore, Poland strongly encourages the prompt accession of China, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and other candidates as soon as they are ready and willing to accept the standard terms and conditions of WTO Membership.
Before concluding, may I recognize the high value of services rendered to this institution by its Director-General and the Secretariat. They have my delegation's gratitude and confidence.