World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/46
10 December 1996
MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE Original: English
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
Small trading countries such as Ghana welcomed the signing of the WTO Agreement, particularly because it also signalled an end to exclusivity of the rich and ushered in a new sense of belonging and partnership amongst trading countries, big and small. There was, nonetheless, some apprehension and uneasiness within the ranks of small trading countries over the likely imbalances which they could suffer under this new system of cooperation amongst unequal trading partners. Two years on, the full weight of the WTO agenda has not only substantiated many of our fears, but has also exposed our small countries to the deficiencies deriving from severely limited resources and inadequate representation and participation. The implementation process has proved to be more complex than was envisaged, while the level of understanding expected from the big trading partners has not been forthcoming. Small trading countries are yet to see any clear signs of real commitment to the ideals of true partnership, mutual concern and cooperation as expressed in Marrakesh and indications of positive change in our share of world production and trade. Nonetheless, we will not allow these harsh realities to dampen our commitment, and we reaffirm our resolve to uphold the ideals of the WTO and commit ourselves to the built-in agenda.
The WTO needs to establish itself as a credible institution capable of meeting the aspirations of all its Members. Consequently, it must fully recognize the real differences amongst Member countries in term of resources, trade volumes and levels of development, while endeavouring to keep its agenda in tune with the dynamics of international trade and globalization.
My delegation is of the view that the strength of the WTO will derive more and more from its global nature as well as its ability to hold all countries, big and small, together in the pursuit of the common goal of the greater well-being of the peoples of all nations. We therefore welcome the efforts of various countries to join the WTO. We hope that all interested countries will be encouraged and assisted without recourse to any extraneous conditions or requirements. The WTO should continue to move towards the creation of a truly global institution by way of country coverage and participation in its activities.
My delegation, like the delegations of other developing countries, is already sufficiently occupied with the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements including the built-in agenda. We need to be allowed time to absorb and adjust to the WTO system without being rushed headlong into new negotiations. We wish to be allowed time to prepare sufficiently before active WTO engagement in additional issues.
My delegation considers that this Ministerial Meeting should focus on the review of the new international trading system and the search for concrete and effective measures to further the full implementation of the WTO Agreements to which we have all committed ourselves. Our concern to limit the WTO agenda at this stage should be seen in this light and should not be misconstrued to mean lack of will or of interest.
My delegation welcomes various technical assistance programmes which are being implemented for the benefit of the least developed countries in transition. We also welcome work that is being pursued to define more focused and result-achieving programmes to address the institutional and manpower needs of developing countries. The WTO Secretariat, UNCTAD, ITC and WIPO are making reasonable progress in this direction and we urge increased support. We, however, remain convinced that a more comprehensive approach with the collaboration of the multilateral financial institutions will provide further impetus in meeting the larger concerns of how to bring debt-strapped and low-income countries to a position where they can share in the benefits of the open-trading system. The current cooperative work of the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank within the context of coherence should, therefore be further encouraged.
In conclusion, the WTO can only survive if it gives equal attention to the concerns of all without discrimination. Together, therefore, we must endeavour to find concrete ways to integrate all developing countries into the WTO decision-making process and, consequently, into the new world trading system.