World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/45
10 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
My colleague, the Honourable Minister of Trade and Commerce of Tanzania, Ndugu Abdullah O. Kigoda, has briefly outlined the position of the collective membership of the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the issues before this Conference. Zimbabwe endorses that position, and wishes to underline two aspects. Firstly, the huge workload that the WTO is setting up for itself and for its Members, especially young members like Zimbabwe. In our view, this Conference should be focusing on the substantive review of the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements since the establishment of the WTO in January 1995. The credibility of the WTO system lies in the full implementation of the Uruguay Round results. This implementation process is with respect to the notification obligations, as well as the actual implementation of the substantive commitments. This includes a wide range of subjects, which has put a heavy administrative burden on less-developed countries. We think the WTO has adopted too many agendas. Secondly, the question of the mandate of the WTO. The general view expressed by many speakers, and also in the opening statement by the Honourable Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Goh Chok Tong, is that the WTO should concentrate on its core business of promoting worldwide trade. The issues of labour should be dealt with by the ILO, and those of investment and development by the UNCTAD. Zimbabwe supports these positions.
The Zimbabwe delegation has taken note of the clarion call for liberalization and globalization of trade that has been made by many important speakers at this Conference. But, we have difficulty in perceiving how it will impact on less-developed countries in Africa. In many of these countries poverty has deepened, unemployment has increased, and per capita incomes have fallen over the last decade. Such economies do not have the domestic capacity to take advantage of liberalized trade. Local farms and firms cannot withstand the competition of imports of goods and services, and cannot expand their exports. Many of those least-developed countries which have opened up their economies are now facing the ugly prospect of de-industrialization. The wide economic gap between the industrialized countries of the North, and those of the South, cannot be narrowed or removed by liberalization and globalization measures alone.
The related issue is the primacy of a strong national government in any State that is going to pull itself up by its bootstraps. The successful example of industrializing South-East Asian countries is a strong case in point. Those were pulled out of the cycle of poverty and put on their present path of development and industrialization by strong national governments. Some of the ASEAN countries are now in a position to compete effectively in the new economic situation. But, for African countries that have not yet "taken-off", they will tend to be pushed down rather than be pulled up. The debt burdens will be increased, and the gap between them and industrialized countries will be widened. Admittedly, the process of liberalization and globalization has benefited some States, and will make them richer. But, many more will lose out (mostly in Africa). They should not be forgotten.
The concerns and fears expressed by many delegations have been echoed by many governments in Third World countries. Last month, the leaders of the "Group of Fifteen" (G-15) countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America met in Harare. They condemned the attempts by the WTO to link trade with the so-called new issues at this Conference. They also asserted the sovereignty of their nations which they felt was threatened by the new issues. The OAU has circulated a statement that is highly critical of the strategy and approach of the WTO. However it is necessary for regional and subregional economic organizations in the three continents to cooperate fully among themselves, and to promote integration of their economies as much as possible. The unity of the poor countries helps to increase their domestic capacity, and their ability to stand up to those pressures from the WTO they may consider detrimental to their national and regional interests.
Finally, my delegation would like to comment on the proposals to cut tariffs on information technology products, such as computers, software, semi-conductors and fibre-optic cables by the year 2000. Global trade in information technology amounted to US$500 million in 1995. Telecommunications is a rapidly growing industry in all Third World countries. We support the general idea of lowering tariffs in order to build up the industry, but we must express our strong opposition to malpractices of dumping obsolete equipment in Third World countries, as well as the deliberate intervention of certain big powers in our air waves for the purpose of dissemination of hostile propaganda or undermining our culture.