World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/28
9 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
It is a great privilege for me and my delegation to participate in this First Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Singapore for the wonderful organization of this Conference and for the warm hospitality extended to us.
I would also like to express our appreciation to the distinguished Director-General for his important contributions that enabled the World Trade Organization to take its place among the foremost international organizations of our day.
I am confident that the WTO will gain even further prominence in the years to come as the dominance of trade in our national economies become even more important and its contribution to the well-being of the peoples of the world will be more and more evident.
The first two years of this Organization have shown that the decision taken at Marrakesh to establish the WTO has been a correct one. With its membership of over 120 countries and many others waiting to join the Organization, the WTO has already consolidated its position. The report of the Director-General outlining the activities of the Organization during its first two years illustrates this reality very accurately.
The Turkish Government believes that liberalization of trade at regional level contributes to trade expansion in the global context.
In the regional framework, the most important step taken by Turkey was the completion of the Customs Union with the European Union on 31 December 1995. The Customs Union will be the main factor shaping Turkey's liberal foreign trade policies and orientations within the wider WTO framework.
Indeed, the steps taken by Turkey or those that will be taken in the very near future are in compliance with its obligations for the completion of the Customs Union. As they are parallel to its commitments vis-à-vis the World Trade Organization, these measures will facilitate and accelerate Turkey's implementation of the WTO provisions.
In this regard, I would like to give brief information about the areas in which we are taking measures within the framework of the Customs Union. They cover the following:
- Abolition of tariff and non-tariff barriers;
- common customs tariff towards the third countries;
- customs code;
- liberalization of trade in agro-industrial products.
- Competition policy;
- intellectual and industrial property protection;
- rules on State aids;
- public procurement procedures;
- harmonization of standards;
- harmonization of agricultural policy;
- environmental cooperation.
Turkey is also a very active member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, (BSEC), and the Economic Cooperation Organization, (ECO). These two organizations cover an area ranging from the Balkans in Europe to the boarders of China in Asia. Many members of these organizations have not yet joined the WTO. Turkey is trying its best to promote the objectives of the WTO also within the framework of these organizations. We see our regional initiatives as a complementary element of our participation in the global trading system.
Turkey is convinced that a liberal international trade system based on the principles of free competition, non-discrimination and elimination of barriers to trade will serve the interests and welfare of the whole global community. We see our regional initiatives as a complementary element of our participation in the global trading system embodied in the WTO.
The measures we have taken in light of these policies have proved that we are on the right track.
Indeed, when Turkey started to implement its trade liberalization policies in the 1980s, it ranked 67th in the world share of exports and 51st in imports. Today, it has become 36th in the former and 27th in the latter. When considered from the trade volume aspect, we rank as the 16th country in the WTO. Before the Customs Union with the European Union, the tariff protection in Turkey was about 21 per cent. It is now down to 5.6 per cent and is set to fall further to 3.5 per cent with the implementation by Turkey of the EU's Uruguay Round commitments.
We believe our main priority should be to see that the Uruguay Round commitments are fully implemented. At the same time multilateral trade liberalization should be sustained. Every support should be given to achieve the efficient functioning of the WTO and the multilateral trading system. We are of the view that introduction of new issues for the future work of the WTO should not promote new forms of protectionism.
We recognize the need for time and assistance by some developing countries to achieve these objectives. We know that once they are ready, they will be even more enthusiastic to participate in new initiatives. However, these considerations should not lead us to be reluctant to new issues. Because, the ultimate objective before us is full liberalization and we should not lose momentum so soon after we have embarked on this promising venture we call the WTO.
We believe that we should start preparing the ground for further initiatives. The Turkish approach to issues like trade and investment; trade and competition and more transparent rules in government procurement will be shaped by these considerations. In fact, as the world gradually abandons protection through tariffs, countries begin to observe the enforcement of trade-related measures more and more strictly. Failure to implement the universally acclaimed principles like fair competition or intellectual property rights, or compliance with international standards concerning consumer safety or the environment, will in practice eliminate the opportunities of a country for marketing its products abroad. Under these circumstances, any country that wishes to have a place in world trade, integrate into the world economy and stimulate economic growth, should try to implement these principles as effectively as possible.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to briefly state the views of Turkey on different issues that we shall be taking up during this Conference.
I. BUILT-IN AGENDA
Dispute Settlement System
Dispute settlement system is the heart of the WTO system. It gives the opportunity to every country to protect its trade interests not on the basis of economic power but on the basis of common and enforceable rules. We understand that between January 1995 and 18 October 1996 over 40 distinct matters have been raised in the DSB, and in respect of 12 different matters dispute settlement panels have been established. This demonstrates that the dispute settlement system is an outstanding success of the WTO's first two years. However, the Dispute Settlement Understanding should be interpreted in such a way to attach special consideration to the regional initiatives which are complementary to the multilateral system embodied in the WTO. Furthermore, all Members should refrain from attitudes representing double standards vis-à-vis the regional integrations.
Great importance should be attached to the work of notifications. We believe that transparency of the WTO system mainly depends on how complete the compliance with notification requirements is. Moreover, a credible notification process is essential for the effective operation of the WTO. Hence, we support the establishment of a strong body with a mandate to review the notification obligations and procedures throughout the WTO Agreement.
Twenty-eight countries have applied to join the WTO. Many of them are major developing countries, and among the most significant emerging markets. We believe that further participation of developing countries in the multilateral trading system will contribute substantially to the expansion of world trade, economic growth and prosperity to the benefit of all. We attach great importance to the success of the accession negotiations. The accession procedures should of course be concluded in compliance with the basic principles of the WTO. We welcome the recent conclusion of accession process for Ecuador, Bulgaria, Mongolia and Panama.
Technical cooperation and developing countries
As stated by the Director-General in his report, the technical cooperation activities of the WTO have gained further importance with the accession of new members and active participation from many other developing members.
Trade and development and the participation of the developing countries
We all recognize that the active participation of developing countries in the Uruguay Round negotiations have facilitated the creation of the WTO. Participation of the developing countries strengthens the multilateral trade rules and disciplines and paves the way to the full universality of the Organization.
Since the entry into force of the WTO Agreements, there has been significant growth in international trade both in goods and commercial services and the share of the developing countries both in output and revenue terms in international trade has increased.
We also recognize that developing and the least developed countries need both technical and financial assistance to implement the development policies and to adjust themselves to the competitive environment in the global economy.
In this respect, we encourage the Committee on Trade and Development to continue its work and support the "WTO Plan of Action" for LLDCs and the "Guidelines for WTO Cooperation" prepared by the Committee.
Additional market access opportunities should be granted to the LLDCs as outlined by the Director-General in the Lyon G7 Summit.
Turning to unfinished business, we must ensure a meaningful and important outcome of the current negotiations in the services area. These are the negotiations on basic telecommunications and maritime transport. Our aim is to obtain substantial market access and national treatment commitments on MFN basis. In this context, our priority should be the successful conclusion of the ongoing negotiations in these areas.
Bearing in mind the share of commercial services in international trade and the need for further liberalization in this sector:
1. Turkey expects all Members to contribute to the negotiations on basic telecommunications.
2. We should be prepared to start negotiations on financial services in 1997. Further liberalization in this field will ensure transparency, non-discrimination and additional gains for all the participating countries.
3. Working Party on GATS Rules should continue its work to provide a sound basis for the initiation and completion of the negotiations on emergency safeguard and public procurement. Strengthened multilateral disciplines will serve to establish a balance between the rights and the obligations of the developed and developing Members.
4. Negotiations on maritime transport services should start as soon as possible.
On the other hand, specific needs and the requirements of the developing and the least developed Members should be taken into account to allow their full participation in the process for further liberalization.
The inclusion of intellectual property protection in the Uruguay Round through the TRIPS Agreement is a major achievement.
Strengthened multilateral disciplines in intellectual property protection and enforcement will ensure smooth operation of market forces and fair competition in the global economy.
We would like to stress the importance of full implementation of the TRIPS Agreement and in particular the need to extend the scope of geographical indications beyond the wines and spirits to foodstuffs, handicraft and agricultural products. Discussions should start in 1997 to enable the TRIPS Council to devote sufficient time and energy to develop a work programme for further negotiations in this field.
Trade and environment
The environment and trade relationship is another issue that deserves our attention. Turkey is fully conscious of the importance of environmental concerns. It welcomes the work that was undertaken by the Committee on Trade and Environment, addressing the relationship between trade and environment.
There is still a need to continue to work on the evaluation of relationship between the multilateral environmental agreements and the multilateral trading system, as well as ensuring transparency.
We would like to underline the need to avoid recourse to unilateral and discriminatory trade measures under the guise of environmental protection and to pay appropriate attention to the special conditions and needs of the developing countries.
Regional trade agreements
We believe that regional arrangements facilitate the integration of the countries of that region with the global economy. We are of the view that full compliance with the provisions of the GATT 1994 would make the regional agreements complementary to the multilateral system.
The establishment of the "Committee on Regional Trade Agreements" and the work undertaken by that Committee is an important indication of the political will of the Member countries to bring the regional agreements before the WTO for examination.
The Committee should continue its work as outlined in its terms of reference to achieve greater transparency and consistency with GATT 1994 rules.
Textiles and clothing, functioning of the TMB
Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) is one of the most important achievements of the Uruguay Round. I believe that full implementation of the ATC will enable the developing countries to increase their export earnings and to achieve sustainable development through participation in international trade.
We are satisfied with the impetus gained during the first stage of implementation of the ATC. We encourage all WTO Members to apply the ATC fully so as to achieve smooth transition and integration of all the textiles and clothing products to the GATT 1994 at the end of the transition period.
We recognize the important job done by the TMB for supervising the implementation of the ATC under difficult circumstances.
We are confident that greater transparency will be provided in the TMB's future work.
Rules of origin
Turkey fully supports the ongoing work in the WTO for the harmonization of non-preferential rules of origin and believes that the document on Integrated Negotiating Text for the Harmonization Work Programme will facilitate the so-called Harmonization Work Programme. We also believe that it contributes to the efficiency of the negotiations and provides a basis for the coherence of the rules that are being established.
Turkey gives importance to the special needs of net food-importing developing countries as well as the least developed ones stemming from the implementation of the Agricultural Reform Programme.
Sanitary and phytosanitary measures
Being aware of the necessity of developing a procedure to monitor the process of international harmonization and the use of international standards, guidelines and recommendations, Turkey endorses the approach set out by the relevant committee.
Furthermore, we reiterate our commitment to the full implementation of the Agreement including its notification and other transparency provisions.
II. NEW ISSUES
Turkey supports the idea of establishing a group to conduct a study and develop a multilateral agreement on government procurement practices.
However, such a multilateral initiative should be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of existing national procurement regimes. It should also permit satisfactory time-limit to countries to adjust their domestic procedures, keeping in mind that a new imitative is a long-term process.
In order to follow up the developments in the area of government procurement, Turkey applied to the Committee on Government Procurement for observer status. It was granted this status as of June 1996.
Trade and investment
Turkey is ready to join a consensus aiming at beginning an examination of the relationship between trade and investment.
However, in the conduct of this work in the WTO, special attention must be paid to development dimension and the priorities of the developing countries.
Another aspect that needs to be considered in the conduct of this work is the outcome of the ongoing negotiations at the OECD on Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). I believe that important progress has been achieved during these negotiations. The results of the MAI could contribute to the work aiming at an examination process of the relationship between trade and investment.
On the other hand, in order to ensure the development dimension of the issue the educative contribution of the UNCTAD to this process is essential.
Trade and competition policy
The need for strengthening the coherence between trade and competition policies today is more evident. In fact, in some of the Uruguay Round Agreements and Understandings there are provisions regulating trade-related competition issues. I believe that in international trade, open and secure market access conditions against anti-competitive practices could be achieved.
I would like to state our readiness to join a consensus within the WTO on the proposal to establish a working group open to all Members to study issues raised by Members relating to trade and competition policies in order to identify any areas that may merit further consideration in the WTO framework.
Trade and labour standards
I believe that the debates on labour standards do not constitute a priority issue of the WTO Agenda. The International Labour Organization is the most appropriate forum for such work.
Turkey supports the new sector specific initiatives like Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and the enlargement of the coverage of zero for zero treatment for certain pharmaceutical products for further tariff liberalization.
Turkey gives high priority to the simplification and harmonization of import and export procedures since complexity of such procedures could constitute a burden to trade. Therefore, we recognize the significance of trade facilitation as an important part in arriving at lower trade barriers and improved market access.
I am convinced that under your guidance, we shall conclude our meeting in Singapore, successfully, and on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the multilateral system we shall look towards the next century with more confidence.