Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements


BRAZIL   Statement by H.E. Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso,  President  

“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...”

Statement by H.E. Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso,

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 expansion.

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 fora.  

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 system.  

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 multilateralism.

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.