Since his first day in
office, 1 September 1999, Mr Moore has called on WTO member governments to do away
with tariffs and quotas on products from the LDCs.
least-developed countries constitute only half of one percent of world trade. Removing
barriers to trade from these countries poses no serious threat to anyone, but it does
provide some of the poorest people on earth with the gift of opportunity that is vital to
their future growth and development, Mr Moore said.
Mr Moore would like to
see Ministers agree to eliminate barriers to LDC products as an opening move of importance
at the Conference, which may launch a new round of trade negotiations which are expected
to last several years.
The notion of removing
barriers to imports from LDCs was previously introduced by former WTO Director-General
Renato Ruggiero in July 1996 at the Group of Eight Summit in Lyon, France. In December of
that year Ministers from Member Governments agreed at the first WTO Ministerial Conference
in Singapore to adopt a Comprehensive and Integrated Plan of Action for LDCs.
One result of that
initiative was a high-level meeting for LDCs in Geneva in October 1997. At that meeting,
Canada, Egypt, the European Union, Mauritius, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States
provided formal notification of their intention to improve access to their markets for the
LDC imports. The meeting also led to the creation of the Integrated Framework for
Trade-Related Technical Assistance for the LDCs.
For the first time,
the Secretariats of the WTO, UNCTAD, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the
United Nations Development Programme and the International Trade Centre, combined forces
to begin efforts aimed at bringing the LDCs in from the sidelines of the multilateral
trading system. The idea of the Integrated Framework is to provide a needs-driven,
coordinated response to the problems that LDCs have faced in taking full advantage of the
global trading system.
To date, more than 40
LDC countries have submitted needs assessments and the six agencies have responded with
co-ordinated responses for action. These needs range from addressing insufficient capacity
for producing competitive products, to improvements in transportation and
telecommunications infrastructure, to assistance in establishing the legal and
institutional framework to better comply with WTO rules and obligations and maximize
benefits that arise from participating in the global trading system.
While the Integrated
Framework has brought the issue of LDC marginalization from the trading system to the
attention of all WTO member governments, many such governments believe that the process
requires a fresh political commitment if it is adequately to address the LDC concerns.
In December 1998, Amb.
Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the 29 LDC governments which
are members of the WTO, proposed a Comprehensive New Plan of Action as a means of
injecting momentum into efforts to assist the LDCs. In this proposal, Amb. Chowdhury
called for the improvement of certain WTO agreements including the agreement on
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and for easier LDC access to
the Dispute Settlement System.
He also called on
Ministers in Seattle to:
- follow through on
commitments made at the second WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva in 1998 to
"continue to improve market-access conditions for products exported by the Least
Developed Countries on as broad and liberal a basis as possible";
- accelerate accession
procedures for LDC candidates for WTO membership;
- push for reductions in
the LDC debt burden;
- work with other
organizations to improve supply-side capacity in LDCs.
Several WTO member
governments have proposed improving market access for LDCs as part of their list of
proposals for the Seattle Ministerial Conference, including the European Union. Other
member governments, including the United States, have taken steps to unilaterally reduce
barriers to imports from these countries.
Mr Moore has welcomed
these efforts and called on Ministers to agree in Seattle to expand upon these and other
programmes of support for the poorest countries. The Director-General is also seeking to
have the WTOs core budget for technical assistance expanded from SF 716,000 to
SF 10 million over the next three years so that developing countries, and
particularly the LDCs, can more effectively participate in the new negotiations.
Currently, about 90% of WTO technical assistance activity is paid for through trust funds
donated by member governments.
that trade and the WTO alone cannot provide all the answers to the deep economic
difficulties of least developed countries, Mr. Moore said through closer coherence with
other international organizations, including the five partner organizations of the
Integrated Framework, the international community can and must make an important
contribution to raising living standards of families in the worlds poorest