World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/39
10 December 1996
MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE Original: English
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
At the onset, I would like to associate my delegation with the previous speakers who have expressed their appreciation for the warm hospitality shown by the Singaporean authorities and the impeccable arrangements made for this Conference. The presence here of so many Ministers and Senior Officials at this first Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization, demonstrates our confidence, our hopes and expectations.
Mr. Chairman, your election and that of your Vice-Chairmen, each from different regions, and with economies at different stages of development, assure us that there will be balance and proper orientation to the outcome of our deliberations.
For nearly 50 years and despite the provisional nature of the regulatory framework, namely the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the international trading system has served countries well. That however is not the complete picture. There are still hundreds of millions who are not benefiting from the decades of growth in trade and investment fostered by progressive liberalization and the more recent thrust towards the globalization of production.
We must therefore maintain our commitment to continue our efforts, within the World Trade Organization (WTO), towards a more even distribution of the benefits of trade and investment, greater coherence in international economic policy-making, and effective coordination between our Organization and other international development and financial institutions.
I speak for a small open trading nation which relies as much on trade in goods as on tradeable services; as much on intellectual capital as on foreign direct investment. For three decades as a GATT contracting party, Jamaica has engaged in successive negotiating rounds of trade liberalization, as an integral part of our integration into the world economy. There is also improved access to the Jamaican market as a result of autonomous adjustment measures.
Our mixed economy is powered by centuries of trade flows influenced by traditional relationships where trade followed the flag. Our present trade policy builds on these traditional relationships taking into account comparative advantage and competitiveness.
Jamaica like its partners in the Caribbean Community, the USA/Caribbean Basin Initiative and the Canadian/CARICOM CARIBCAN arrangement, sees as much value in these regional trading arrangements as we see in the rights and obligations of the WTO Agreement. Like our partners, we also attach importance to the wider ACP/European Union Lomé Convention. These Agreements, all recognized by the WTO confer a balance of benefits for members at different stages of development.
As groups of countries, seeking to improve the welfare of our peoples through linking our economies in regional arrangements, we have been prepared to do so in ways compatible with the rights and obligations of the multilateral trading system.
We live in competitive and challenging times. We recognize the impatience of transnational industries. This impatience often manifests itself in anti-competitive actions at the expense of smaller or emerging industries. Consequently we must rely on and have trust in a multilateral rules-based system which regulates and sets a code of conduct for market competition. These rules and codes must be drafted in ways that are fair to the large and the small, developed and developing. They must be respected by all.
During the Uruguay Round negotiations Members recognized certain implications which their decision would have on certain developing countries. Commitments entered into with regard to net food-importing countries in particular, require more than best endeavours. At the World Food Summit a mere month ago in Rome, over 183 governments, supported by major international organizations and non-governmental bodies reaffirmed their commitment to achieve food security. In this regard, the WTO has a major role to play.
Our Organization also must continue to support the capacity-building efforts of developing countries. As part of its technical cooperation activities, WTO must continue to work with countries to build national expertise so that they are better able to comply with substantive and procedural commitments and so benefit from Agreements made.
The Agreement on Textiles and Clothing is the result of lengthy and painstaking negotiations which sought to address the interests and concerns of all Member States, particularly exporters, including small suppliers for whom the textiles and clothing industry plays a major role. The balance of interest carefully built into the Agreement must be preserved.
We have crafted a Declaration which will convey to the citizens of the world our intention to make the WTO a universal forum for negotiating greater opportunities for trade in goods and services, for the gains from capital investment, both physical and human. Jamaica looks forward to the accession of China and other countries seeking membership in the WTO. These countries should recognize that they have an interest in opening their markets not only to the large trading nations, but also to the majority of the membership of the WTO, whose production and trade may not individually be significant in global terms.
The WTO's dispute settlement system - as the central element for providing security and predictability in the multilateral trading system should be kept under careful review so as to ensure that all parties to disputes have equal opportunities to present and defend their interests and that procedures are fair and transparent. If the mechanism is used as a blunt instrument, it will quickly fall into disrepute at best. At worse it will be a cudgel for judicial coercion of the smaller trading partners.
I must address an issue which has been increasingly discussed in the run-up to this Ministerial Conference. I refer, of course to core labour standards. In Jamaica, economic development is people focused. Our labour movement is not indifferent to this debate and has consulted with Government. Jamaica is a party to more than 25 ILO Conventions including the core standards. Core standards are categorized as a human rights issue at the work place and objectives of governments should be to assist countries through technical cooperation to implement them. Jamaica believes that this matter should be studied further within the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has a mechanism which allows government, labour and employers to interact. The ILO can draw on the expertise of the WTO and other organizations as appropriate.
If we do not lift our sights beyond that which is familiar and easily understood, we run the risk of falling behind. We know that if the WTO as an Organization and now a permanent body, is not reflective of: the diversity of its membership, its expertise and its experience, its coverage of issues in the global economy and most importantly differential and more favourable treatment for developing countries it is likely to be considered a retreat for the consumerist rich instead of the industrious poor.
It will be a challenge to the Director-General and to our representatives in Geneva to ensure that they are not so carried away by policy prescriptions that we lose sight of the process whereby those policies are implemented. Without efficient management, the already burdensome number of meetings, particularly for the small delegations will be a major obstacle in the balanced implementation of the WTO Agreement. The inability of some Members to be represented at meetings in Geneva is also a matter for consideration.
In summary, the Jamaican delegation wishes to underscore a commitment to trade expansion through trade liberalization as well as a commitment to the management of the regulatory system.
However, good sense dictates that we eschew Utopian dreams of a rush to a globally-free system, lest that deflects us from the reality of patient, careful and balanced negotiations on further removal of trade barriers - an agenda which is already built into our work.
As always, Jamaica stands ready to assist the future work of the WTO to share experiences and to learn from the experiences of other Member States.