World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/36
10 December 1996
MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE Original: Spanish
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
I should like to express the sincere gratitude of the Government of Chile to the Prime Minister of Singapore, Goh Chok Tong, and his Government, for their warm hospitality and for the efficient organization of this Conference.
The first Ministerial Conference, in Singapore, is an opportunity to assess the achievements of the Organization's first two years. The results over this short period are, by and large, satisfactory. However, we are disturbed by the half-hearted commitment to fulfilling the obligations of the built-in agenda. We Ministers cannot shirk the responsibility of giving renewed impetus to the work of the agenda and restoring the balance of what was agreed on in Marrakesh.
Similarly, we note with concern the problems raised in the implementation of the obligations contained in some agreements of importance to our country, such as the Agriculture Agreement, the Textiles Agreement, TRIMS and the Subsidies Agreement. This has been made worse by shortcomings in transparency that have impeded multilateral surveillance.
We have been frustrated to see the trend in the negotiations in trade in services, in which our country has played an active part. In our opinion, suspending them has weakened the WTO. As for basic telecommunications, Chile considers that the negotiations must be finally and satisfactorily completed in February 1997 in order to strengthen the WTO's credibility. It is a collective responsibility that no Member can escape.
With reference to financial services, it is important to conclude the negotiations on the basis of the significant results achieved in 1995, with full respect for the principles underlying the multilateral trading system.
We take a positive view of the general conclusions reached by the Committee on Trade and Environment. Future work will signify concrete progress. There is no contradiction in promoting the objectives of sustainable development and, at the same time, maintaining the integrity of the multilateral trading system. The Government of Chile reiterates that the best mechanism for tackling global environmental problems is international cooperation and solutions based on multilateral instruments.
As contemplated in the Agreement on Agriculture, the negotiation process for further liberalization of agricultural trade must be resumed from 1 January 1999, for which purpose it is very important to give substance to the decision to initiate a process of analysis and information exchange on this matter in 1997.
We welcome all initiatives to liberalize trade. Consequently, we endorse proposals such as the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). However, we would have preferred to see the same enthusiasm displayed in other areas, such as agriculture or textiles and clothing. What is more, we find we are prevented from implementing this initiative, since it is a sectoral liberalization inconsistent with our policy of a uniform tariff.
In regard to government procurement, negotiations need to be initiated to open up these markets. We deem it important that the principles of non-discrimination, transparency and due process should apply at all levels of a State's administration, including the provincial or State levels in countries with a federal structure.
Chile has continued and furthered its policy of opening up the economy. The first priority is to do so on a multilateral basis and we shall be working enthusiastically on what Mr. Leon Brittan has called the "Millennium Round". Meanwhile, we have continued to open up the economy by bilateral or plurilateral agreements based on open regionalism, in the firm belief that such initiatives strengthen the multilateral system. In addition to the Free Trade Agreements already signed and implemented with Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, we have joined more recently in an agreement with MERCOSUR that forms a market of enormous significance for Chile, and a free trade agreement with Canada which, in addition to goods, includes services and investments and eliminates anti-dumping measures in the bilateral convention. In this same context, we shall be negotiating with our friends in Central America and Panama, in addition to Peru.
Similarly, we are committed to achieving the goal of adopting a free-trade system in APEC by the year 2010 and also in building up to the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Again, it is our expectation that the Framework Agreement we have signed with the European Union will lead to a free-trade based form of association.
The decisions designed to strengthen the complementarity and consistency that should exist between bilateral and regional agreements and the disciplines of the multilateral system are positive. This has been the direction followed by Chile in its trade policy. On this point, the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements must pay special attention to rules of origin in free-trade areas in order to assess and cut down the distortive effects that they create in regard to third parties.
Consistent with the view that a modern and dynamic organization is required, one which covers the various aspects relating to trade, Chile has co-sponsored and supported the appropriate incorporation of new and fundamental dimensions in the WTO work programme. In particular, we are in favour of establishing working parties which, separately, will deal exhaustively with investment and competition policies and their trade relationship, without prejudging their findings, so as to lay the foundations for new multilateral disciplines.
The multilateral trading system can only be effective, spread and grow stronger if it is based on rules of law. To this end, additional efforts must be made to remove any trace of arbitrary discrimination in the system, such as the possibility of applying selective safeguards, anti-dumping duties without appropriate disciplines, exceptions to most-favoured-nation treatment under the Agreement on Services, and the spread of quantitative restrictions, particularly in agriculture. Similarly, recourse to unilateral and extraterritorial measures under some national legislations undermines the protection, certainty and stability afforded by the rules of international law.
Discrimination also exists when there are nations and economies that do not take part de facto or de jure in the multilateral trading system. Accession procedures must be speeded up, but we must also secure effective participation by many Members, particularly the least developed countries. Global welfare and worldwide security mean that, we the other Members must all open up our markets to their exports of goods and services and better coordinate multilateral and bilateral cooperation for such countries.
Chile pursues and has taken further a trade policy that is open and transparent, both for goods and for services, a policy that is complemented by an investment regime with the same features. All of this is consistent with and fully observes the obligations contained in the WTO Agreement and its Annexes, unanimously adopted by the National Congress.
The benefits of this policy, which commands the broad support of all sectors of national life, enable us to reiterate that it is our intention to maintain our active and responsible participation in the World Trade Organization.
Trade policy objectives must be attained with full respect for core labour rights as they have been enshrined in the ILO. We foster the right to organize and to collective bargaining. We believe that no form of forced labour, exploitation of child labour or job discrimination should be used as mechanisms to enhance trade advantages. We must strengthen the positive link between increased trade flows and respect for labour standards. In this regard, we endorse the language proposed in the report on the draft Ministerial Declaration prepared by the Director-General of the WTO.
Lastly, I wish to express sincere recognition of the work done by Renato Ruggiero, Director-General of the WTO, and all of the Secretariat for their continuing efforts, which have made for an efficient start-up of a renewed multilateral trading system.