World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/79
11 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
I would like to congratulate the Government and people of Singapore for the excellent arrangements for this important Conference and to thank them for their warm hospitality. My thanks and appreciation are also extended to the Director-General and staff of the WTO for the hard work that has gone into preparing for this event.
With the establishment of the WTO, the international community has both a universal trade organization with a legal status on a par with that of the Bretton Woods institutions and of course a new set of trade rules and codes of conduct. Moreover, there are now more robust dispute settlement rules for resolving inter-State disputes that are a concomitant of expanding trade in our global economy.
We take note with satisfaction that the WTO has utilized its first two years well in consolidating the results of the Uruguay Round and in establishing its organizational structure.
The reports of the Councils and Committees of the WTO before this Conference amply demonstrate the useful work done and the issues that need to be addressed in the coming years.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is taking part in this first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization as an observer. The Kingdom is, however, on its way to becoming a Member of the WTO. We are already well into the process of accession. Two productive meetings of the Working Party on the Accession of the Kingdom have been held this year. We are committed to pursuing the accession on an expeditious basis, and willing to move in a spirit of mutual advantage.
We are also, consistent with our development and diversification needs, prepared to negotiate commercially meaningful schedules of commitments, with the target of joining the WTO before the end of next year. We believe that, with the support of WTO Members, this target is attainable.
Saudi Arabia is a nation with a long-standing tradition in trade. Our trade is global in scope and is a vital component of our economy.
Our widespread trade interests and our tradition of international economic cooperation led us to seek membership in the WTO. Our decision has also been influenced by the fact that this new Organization is becoming truly universal in scope and enjoys an international legal status.
Therefore, we have concluded that it is in Saudi Arabia's best interest, to bring our diverse and expanding trade relations in harmony with a single body of legal rights and obligations, based on the MFN principle, which is administered by the WTO.
We also believe it to be in the interest of WTO Members to facilitate Saudi Arabia's accession. We are one of the largest market-based economies remaining outside the Organization. Our import market can only grow as our economy diversifies. Our current trade policies are open and liberal; our accession will give our WTO partners the security and predictability of market access based on the international treaty rights they will acquire.
Moreover, considering our worldwide trade and economic links, it is natural for Saudi Arabia to promote international cooperation in economic matters and to participate actively in multilateral and regional economic institutions. Saudi Arabia is an active player both as a major creditor and donor in the Bretton Woods institutions. We believe, and our record proves, that our role in the IMF and World Bank has always been a constructive one. Our membership in the WTO would therefore be a logical complement to this role.
Although my delegation is attending this Conference as an observer, our presence here demonstrates our support to the work of the WTO and our desire to contribute to the success of this Conference.
We look forward to participating actively as a full Member in the next conference of the WTO.