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GENEVA WTO MINISTERIAL 1998: STATEMENT

CÔTE D'IVOIRE
Statement by H.E. Mr. Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister

I am extremely honoured, at this major international cooperation forum, to represent the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, His Excellency Mr. Henri Konan Bedie, who is unable to attend but instructed me to transmit the following message:

“On behalf of the Ivorian people and on my own behalf, I should like to add my voice to those of my counterparts present at this august gathering in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, in order to bring to this historic ceremony the message of Côte d'Ivoire on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the multilateral trading system under the aegis of the GATT/WTO...”

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CÔTE D'IVOIRE
Statement by H.E. Mr. Daniel Kablan Duncan,
Prime Minister

I am extremely honoured, at this major international cooperation forum, to represent the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, His Excellency Mr. Henri Konan Bedie, who is unable to attend but instructed me to transmit the following message:

“On behalf of the Ivorian people and on my own behalf, I should like to add my voice to those of my counterparts present at this august gathering in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, in order to bring to this historic ceremony the message of Côte d'Ivoire on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the multilateral trading system under the aegis of the GATT/WTO.

Permit me first of all to express my warm thanks to the people and Government of the Swiss Confederation, the host country, for the enthusiastic and dignified welcome extended to the Ivorian delegation.

I should like to include in these thanks yourselves and all those who, in whatever way, are placing their knowledge and energies at the service of the WTO for the establishment of a more transparent and fairer trade order.

Finally, allow me to express my special pleasure at the distinguished presence of President Mandela, a great man of faith, conviction and vision, whose international work does credit to the whole of Africa.

As a GATT contracting party since 1963, Côte d'Ivoire, whose economy since the earliest days of independence has been resolutely outward-looking, in accordance with its choice of a liberal economic policy, has progressively abandoned non-tariff barriers to trade in favour of more transparent customs duties.

Thus, today, Côte d'Ivoire has greatly liberalized both its foreign and domestic trade.

It was therefore with total confidence that it took part in the historic meeting in Marrakesh in April 1994, which saw the signing of the Final Act of the longest round of negotiations in the history of the GATT.

Being aware of all the global economic challenges, the Ivorian Parliament, the full and perfect expression of our democracy, committed our country to join the WTO in January 1995 as one of the founder Members. To everbody's satisfaction, the Round contributed to:

-    Substantially reducing the level of bound duties;

-    broadening the range of products to which this improvement applies;

-    extending the GATT rules to trade in services and trade-related intellectual property rights;

-    strengthening the trade dispute settlement body;

-    maximizing trade flows, with the increasingly active participation of a great number of countries in world trade: 132 Members and 30 observer governments, including in particular China and the Russian Federation;

-    increasing investment and its corollary, namely job creation;

-    reducing domestic price subsidies;

-    contributing to the efforts at regional integration as a prelude to participation by our countries in the multilateral trading system.

It is generally recognized that the 50 years of the multilateral trading system under GATT/WTO auspices have been characterized by:

-    The creation of new sources of wealth generated by investment;

-    an annual 10 per cent increase in trade flows, from US$50 thousand million in 1947 to nearly US$6 billion today.

It is estimated that the Uruguay Round Agreements could lead to an increase in global income of approximately US$500 thousand million by the year 2005. This is the benefit which all the WTO Member countries hope to achieve if the Agreements are fully implemented. However, there is a risk that this distribution of resources may not be universally beneficial, judging by the performance of the developing countries' economies. Indeed, as far as Africa is concerned, its share in the global economy has declined steadily, from 5 per cent in 1985 to roughly 2 per cent in 1996, even though the African countries have continued to export raw materials.

Nevertheless, some of the results of the Uruguay Round still cause us concern due to the erosion of trade preferences under the Lomé Convention.

To cite an example, Côte d'Ivoire will see substantial financial resources eroded solely in the pineapples and bananas sector, thereby impoverishing small-scale planters, to whom we attach special importance, unless a bold technical and financial assistance policy helps us to adapt our economy to recent developments in the globalization of trade. This sector yields average annual earnings of CFAF 150 thousand million. This is a large amount, a very large amount for an economy which is only just experiencing economic growth once again after a lengthy crisis lasting from 1980 to 1993.

In addition, there is the problem raised by the use of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter in the manufacture of chocolate. It goes without saying that a large sector of our economy would collapse with the following consequences:

-    A reduction in demand for cocoa beans amounting to almost 200,000 tonnes for the 31 ACP producers;

-    a sharp drop in global prices for cocoa;

-    a threat to jobs in the cocoa-processing industry, and even to the industrialization or modernization of sectors of economic activity in many developing countries.

The immediate social impact of this situation at a time when our countries are resolutely engaged in an unrelenting struggle against poverty could be disastrous for the rural population, which will become increasingly vulnerable.

This is why it is important that the international community should continue to give their support under the plan to reduce the debt of highly-indebted poor countries so as to help us to integrate better into the multilateral trading system.

In this connection, we express our gratitude to organizations such as UNCTAD and the International Trade Centre (ICC), which combine their efforts with those of the WTO to help developing countries so that they are better prepared to enter into the forthcoming negotiations in sectors such as:

-    Agriculture;

-    trade and environment;

-    maritime transport;

-    trade-related investment.

While we recognize the relevance of these issues, we would like to see the successes achieved in the preceding negotiations consolidated before exploring new areas. This is the only way in which countries such as ours can, with equanimity, become integrated in the multilateral trading system's new order.

We place great hopes in the WTO's new joint integrated programme with UNCTAD and the ICC on assistance to developing countries, especially the least-developed countries, in the follow-up to the Uruguay Round Agreements.

These are some of the elements to which the Ivorian delegation wishes to draw your attention on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of our common Organization.

In concluding, I should like to inform you that the Ivorian Government has already set up a National Committee on follow-up to the WTO Agreements, bringing together the private sector and the Government, to monitor implementation of the WTO Agreements and ensure better participation in future negotiations.

I am certain that the appropriate solutions that will be found as a result of the valid issues raised at the Second Ministerial Conference of the WTO will strengthen still further our faith in the globalization of the trading system as a factor for progress and solidarity among nations on the eve of the third millennium, after eight rounds of multilateral negotiations in 50 years.

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