Statement by H.E. Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President
1. I am very pleased to participate in the
commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of GATT and of the entering into force of the
multilateral trading system. Like many other friendly nations represented here, Brazil
contributed to the establishment of this system and has been actively involved in all
stages of its development.
2. During these first four years after the
conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the Brazilian economy has undergone profound
changes. Stability was attained and we began to tread the path of development with
social justice. In its foreign trade, Brazil made bold strides both regionally and
globally. MERCOSUR was consolidated as an instrument for open integration while Brazil
concurrently and significantly increased its imports from all origins. This increase
illustrates the extent to which our partners have been able to tap the potential of our
market. It also demonstrates the determination of the Brazilian Government to adopt
a long-term perspective for international trade, striving for dynamic equilibrium rather
than momentary commercial surpluses.
3. For these conditions to continue to prevail, it
is, however, necessary for Brazilian goods and services to enjoy, for their part, better
access opportunities to the main markets, as well as non-discriminatory treatment. Brazil
is today among the ten largest economies in the world, with a diversified industrial base
and a competitive agriculture that can further expand over a vast land area. Such an
abundance of productive factors enables us to supply our partners with a variety of
products at various processing stages. The sum of our exports and imports is still
at around 13 per cent of GDP, a figure that underscores the possibilities for further
4. But for this expansion to occur it is imperative
that the world economy continue to grow and, consequently, that there be no backsliding in
the liberalizing trend of international trade. It is imperative to resist the
protectionist demands of those opposed to competition. It is further imperative to
fully preserve the letter and spirit of multilateralism, which is the pillar of the system
we celebrate today.
5. Brazil is concerned at the application of trade
legislation whose compatibility with WTO Agreements is doubtful. Countervailing duties or
anti-dumping measures are often perversely used for protecting obsolete industries.
In developed countries it is not uncommon to discover that, under the guise of trade
defence measures, an efficient governmental bureaucracy has more than compensated for the
deficiency in competitiveness of certain sectors.
6. We are equally concerned about attempts to raise
barriers to the access of our products under the pretext of assuring better environmental
protection. Today Brazilian society displays keen environmental awareness, to which
the Government has responded by adopting wide-range policies. We have been actively
participating in the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment and engaging in debates in an
open and constructive manner.
7. With regard to the issue of a relationship
between trade and labour standards, it would seem to us unjust and senseless, given the
very philosophy that inspires GATT, to seek guarantees for the improvement of working
conditions through punitive trade measures whose only consequence would be to aggravate
the social question. The multilateral treatment of the issue was, in any case,
settled in 1996 by a decision adopted at Ministerial level in Singapore.
8. The social question, which is so complex and
urgent and which affects practically all countries, represents a fundamental challenge for
international cooperation and demands increased and direct action in the appropriate
9. In world agricultural trade, Brazil and many
other countries continue to witness with perplexity the operation of the greatest
protectionist and subsidizing apparatus ever put together for the preservation of the
interests of one sector. More than US$160 billion continues to be spent each year by
developed countries so as to prevent their agriculture from being exposed to competition
rules. And, what is more, so as also to preclude the application of those rules in
third markets. Last April, in Sydney, the Cairns Group reaffirmed what it had agreed
to in Rio de Janeiro in 1997, and recalled the need that the next WTO agriculture
negotiations integrate agriculture into the rules of the multilateral trading
10. We are disturbed at the continuing use of
slogans and concepts of doubtful anthropological or environmental soundness to try to
justify why fair competition between partners for the benefit of consumers and taxpayers
cannot apply to the agricultural sector, as it does to others. I believe this is neither
justifiable nor fair. We developing countries also have to cope with often-harmful
competition from imported products, as well as with the pressures unemployment brings to
bear on the social fabric. Yet, despite the immense disadvantage brought by lower levels
of income, productivity and technological capacity, we are trying to do what we believe is
necessary in order to advance in the direction of trade liberalization. We are also
exposed to questioning from the Legislative Branch of Government and from public opinion.
The persistence of protectionism and of export subsidies to agricultural trade is not just
the greatest anomaly still to be corrected but also the most unfair to developing
countries which are competitive in this sector.
11. Brazil reiterates its adherence to the primacy
of the multilateral trading system and has an optimistic view of the future of this
Organization. We are proud to have been one of the 23 original contracting parties
of the General Agreement in 1947, just as we are proud of our contribution to its
development and ongoing improvement.
12. Among the great advances that were made during
the Uruguay Round, I cannot fail to highlight the new dispute settlement system. The
latter has the fundamental role of guaranteeing a swift and impartial defence of the
rights of all. It should be trustworthy for all countries, averting the possible
temptation on the part of some to try to use force in order to impose their own
interpretation of rules.
13. Having been strengthened by the Uruguay Round,
the system should guard against any attempts at vitiating the true spirit of
14. Sectoral negotiations - quickly concluded among
some Members in order to be extended to others - do not contradict the
most-favoured-nation clause. They nevertheless deviate from the principle contained in the
Preamble of the Marrakesh Agreement that establishes this Organization and which seeks to
ensure that developing countries [?] secure a share in the growth in international
trade. Although such accords may concern dynamic sectors, separate negotiations
become a means of shielding from competition certain obsolete segments, which, as
agriculture itself, remain artificially protected and become marginalized from the central
thrust of the negotiating process.
15. This Organization has before it an agenda which
stems from previously settled agreements and understandings and which establishes a
programme for negotiations in certain specific areas. Brazil would not shirk from
examining the expansion of this agenda (in what is already being called the
Millennium Round), as long as such expansion does not interfere with the
negotiating process already defined for agriculture, nor is intended to incorporate only
specific sectors of interest to some countries.
16. In any case, this exercise should not take place
before the commitments undertaken in the Uruguay Round are implemented, so as not to upset
the balance of the concessions agreed to at that time.
17. This Organization is the guarantor of a system
we wish to see as ever growing in strength and prestige. As an original signatory and an
actively involved party, Brazil will do its part for this to be attained. The
system's strength will depend, however, on the perception by all that the benefits are
equitably shared. It is indispensable that the main trading partners fully adhere to
agreed rules and comply with decisions taken by the Organization at its various
levels. It is likewise essential to show political courage in order to resist
pressures and to work towards world trade as not merely the means for a selective and
exclusive form of globalization.
18. In these 50 years, the multilateral trading
system helped bring about a significant increase in international trade. It thus boosted
production and employment.
19. Reflecting the intense transformations of the
contemporary world, the system - that is, today, the WTO - has acquired a universal
vocation and wider responsibilities. Its main challenge now is to contribute,
through a set of equitable trade rules, towards correcting the disparities in development
and in welfare that continue to afflict the world we live in.
20. We must think big and understand that trade is a
fundamental tool for our countries to attain the greater objectives of peace, development
and social justice. The liberalization we seek only makes sense if it moves us
closer to these goals, and will only reach its fullest justification if it contributes to
overcome inequalities both between and within nations.