World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/99
12 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
I would like to add my voice to previous speakers in congratulating you on your election as Chairman of this Conference. History will record that you were the first Chairman of the highest body of our Organization.
I would also, through you, like to pay special tribute to your Government and the people of Singapore for all the hospitality shown to my delegation since our arrival in your magnificent capital and for the perfect organization of this meeting.
Allow me finally to congratulate Mr. Renato Ruggiero, Director-General of the WTO and the Secretariat which he leads with such skill and efficiency.
Two years have gone by since we signed the Marrakesh Agreements which brought the WTO into being.
This meeting is thus the first opportunity for us to assess the determination of its Members to establish, worldwide, a framework for a joint approach to trade problems and to measure the distance covered in relation to the commitments undertaken at Marrakesh.
A commitment, of course, to greater liberalization of international trade, but also a commitment to true solidarity between Members, to take account of their different levels of development.
Cameroon, for its part, reiterates its determination to bring its economy progressively into line with the new liberal context characterized by the globalization of trade.
With respect to trade, the quantitative restrictions formally imposed on imports to protect local industry have been totally eliminated.
Licences and other forms of authorization, for both imports and exports, have been abolished and the administrative procedures for foreign trade have been considerably simplified.
As regards tariffs, the tax and customs reforms adopted on 14 February 1994 in the Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC) introduced a single much-reduced duty rate for each of the four categories of imports.
Where investment is concerned, the Government has embarked on an ambitious programme of privatization and is considerably reducing the incentives offered to investors under the Investment Code, in particular customs concessions.
Multilateral evaluation of the related measures will soon be possible as a result of notifications to be made to the WTO Secretariat.
That will constitute a formal expression not only of the intention of my Government to meet its commitments under the Agreements which have already been concluded, but also its willingness to support any initiative to improve the international trade environment which, of course, took into account the interests of all the Members of our Organization.
In this respect, Cameroon welcomes the transitional measures in favour of developing countries contained in the current agreements.
We also welcome the initiative of the WTO Secretariat in organizing, for the beginning of next year, a meeting with the aid agencies, the Bretton Woods institutions, UNDP and the least developed countries.
This combination will, I hope, make it possible to create the necessary synergies between fund-providers involved in strengthening institutional capacity in the least developed countries, enabling them to reconcile the obligations arising from their accession to the WTO with their macroeconomic circumstances, national legislation and development priorities.
However, the desired strengthening of the institutional capacity of LDCs should be matched by a strengthening of their supply capacity, in particular through the promotion of production and exports, the development of infrastructure and the encouragement of moves towards regional economic integration.
As the Cameroon Head of State, His Excellency Paul Biya, reminded the world at the 51st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in his capacity as President of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), "The economic environment is scarcely in our favour, the risks of our continent being marginalized are growing. Thus, everyday:
- Financial flows to Africa are falling; government development aid, which was already declining, is being subjected to increasingly numerous conditions;
- the debt burden is growing constantly more onerous;
- our products are having difficulty gaining access to the international market;
- there is a general tendency to disinvest in our countries and capital is slow to arrive."
In this connection, I welcome the initiation of the debate on investment.
However, the development dimension must be taken into account as a matter of priority.
This means that developing countries must be closely involved in all stages of the negotiations, particularly the preliminary studies where they would be represented, if only as observers, by their economic integration organizations.
Issues related to competition should be similarly examined.
We must finally take up the challenge of solidarity in developing international trade.
If I may again borrow the words used by the President of the OAU in addressing the 51st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, "All countries are affected by globalization. Today more than ever, the international community is aware of its common destiny and the way we respond to the challenges before us must of necessity reflect that globalization."
It is a challenge that we can take up, provided that together we truly demonstrate the will to do so.