World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/72
11 December 1996
MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE Original: French
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
Allow me first of all to convey to you the great pleasure that I and the members of my delegation feel at being present here to take part in the first WTO Ministerial Conference. I should also like to congratulate you on your election as Chairman and express my warmest gratitude to the Prime Minister of Singapore for the faultless organization of the Conference and for the hospitality and the welcome that my delegation and I have received since we set foot on the soil of your beautiful country.
There was a time, not so long ago, when a journey to Singapore from other distant latitudes was quite an undertaking. Nowadays, it can be done without the slightest difficulty. This shows that globalization is not a hollow word. In this connection, it is striking that our first Conference is taking place in a country that is a symbol of business dynamism and in a region that is already a picture of wealth and power in the coming century.
It is also significant that the process which has brought us here received its impetus in Punta del Este, took on material shape in Marrakesh and is now ready for a further boost in Singapore. All three are cities of the south, and cities in which commerce has always thrived and expanded.
Since Marrakesh, where we celebrated the birth of the WTO, world trade now has an institutional framework in which it can develop and grow, abiding by stable, agreed rules. Accordingly, it has become, more than in the past, the driving force behind globalization and global economic integration.
Admittedly, trade continues to grow in value and volume at rates beyond those of worldwide GDP growth, something that is to be welcomed. Yet this growth is unevenly distributed. A closer scrutiny shows that all the actors in this evolution are not in the same boat. Whereas some regions and countries gain an increasing share of world trade, others see theirs stagnate, or even fall back. An intensification of this trend brings marginalization, with all the risks that it entails for the world's balance.
The marginalization of some countries, particularly the LDCs, and of entire regions such as Africa, means that global economic integration is still a distant goal.
It is incumbent on us to make sure that the substance of this concept is translated into deeds. This, in my delegation's view, is the first challenge our Organization has to take up if it is to meet the expectations placed in it at its inception.
In this regard, the integration of the African countries should be our prime concern. Africa faces countless problems that it has difficulty in coping with. For this reason, serious consideration should be given to upgrading the economies of the countries of this continent, along with targeted measures in the context of renewed multilateral and bilateral cooperation.
In this context, Morocco welcomes the introduction of an integrated global plan of action for the LDCs.
With reference to regional agreements, my delegation believes that they represent a springboard to worldwide liberalization. To deny the geographical, historical and cultural factors on which they are often founded and to see nothing but the purely trade aspect can create tension and instinctive rejection of the multilateral system.
The only way, in our view, to ensure that such agreements are managed within a global system is to make sure that the liberalization embarked on at the multilateral level is pursued and that the benefits are better distributed. It is a process of inescapable convergence that should be managed rationally and efficiently so that it does not lead to the marginalization of countries which still very much depend on preferential agreements.
Since its inception, the WTO has certainly made great headway in the implementation of the commitments entered into and in the establishment and functioning of its monitoring and dispute settlement mechanism.
In Marrakesh, we agreed to hold negotiations in a number of fields, but their fortunes have differed. The fact that some have not been completed within the prescribed time-frame and that others have been brought through to a conclusion without being equal to the objectives should command our attention. Their failure or semi-failure has somewhat weakened the system.
We have also committed ourselves to embarking on negotiations in certain sectors and reviewing the provisions of several agreements.
This very ambitious programme must be respected in order to consolidate liberalization, particularly in the agricultural sector, where we press for the full implementation of commitments. For its part, it should be emphasized that Morocco has already met all of its obligations.
With the Marrakesh Agreements, the world economy entered the age of globalization. Quite obviously, goods are being manufactured, financed and distributed more and more by an international, not national, process. Border measures have thus lost their importance because of the development of international capital markets and business activity. This stepped-up globalization emphasizes the need for cooperation among countries so as to strengthen the coherence of the world economy.
In this context, we regret to find that the question of coherence, which was one of the main affirmations of the Marrakesh Conference, is still only a pious wish. It is therefore essential for efforts to be deployed to build up the framework to ensure coherence in economic policymaking.
We recognize that one of the lessons now, at the close of the century, has been the growing awareness of the close links between foreign direct investment and increased trade flows. The spread of bilateral and regional agreements in this field, which has led to a spectacular rise in direct foreign investment flows, calls for an examination of this issue.
Morocco therefore endorses the idea that the WTO should decide to examine the matter, in cooperation with UNCTAD, bearing in mind, of course, the complementarity between trade and investment.
As to what has been called the "social clause", Morocco considers that any consensus on this issue should take due account of the following elements:
(1) Observance of internationally recognized labour standards;
(2) the competence of the ILO in promoting these standards;
(3) non-recourse to protectionist measures to enforce those standards.
A consequence of trade liberalization fostered by the development of information and communication has been the emergence of a world production and distribution system in which enterprises play a fundamental role. It is this system that should be regulated, notably by adopting both national and international rules on competition to curb any potential pernicious effects.
It can be seen that the path to a genuinely open and equitable world is still long and still strewn with obstacles. The task is nonetheless exhilarating, since we must all contribute, at the dawn of the third millennium, to building a world that is more balanced and more stable, that is free and prosperous but not uniform, a world in which all its rich diversity can flourish.