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Zanzibar 24 July 2001
Least-Developed Countries' Ministerial meeting in preparation for the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha

Speech by Mr. Ablassé OUEDRAOGO Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization

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Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Vice-President,
Honourable Ministers,
Mr. Secretary General of UNCTAD,
Distinguished Participants,

I would like to express my gratitude to the Tanzanian authorities for the warm reception extended to us since our arrival in Zanzibar, and for accepting to host this important pre-Doha Ministerial Meeting.

It is important to underline the satisfaction of the WTO Secretariat for having been associated with this Meeting and for having been able to contribute an Issues Paper on the State of Play towards Doha. I am grateful to the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee in Geneva, Ambassador Ali Mchumo, and the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, for making this possible.

It is, indeed, a great honour and a real pleasure to have this opportunity to address this gathering of Ministers responsible for Trade, representing the 49 Least-Developed Countries, of which 30 are full members of the World Trade Organization.

I am participating in this important Doha preparatory meeting, on behalf of Mr. Mike MOORE, the Director-General of the WTO, who could not travel to ZANZIBAR because of his tight programme of ongoing consultations in Geneva for the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in 108 days from today. He asked me especially to convey to all of you, Honourable Ministers, his best wishes of success in your deliberations and to reassure you of his personal commitment to make the integration of the developing countries and in particular the world's poorest countries into the Multilateral Trading System a priority.

This year is crucial for the Multilateral Trading System; and so are our efforts to assist and support LDCs. It is obvious that the World Trade Organization is entering a crucial phase that will determine, in the coming years, the contribution of the organization to global peace, security, and development, and in particular the integration of LDCs in to the Multilateral Trading System. A decision will be taken in November this year in DOHA as to whether a new round of trade negotiations will be launched.

Least Developed and poverty-stricken countries need to grapple their way out of poverty. Trade is a key engine for growth; however, products of developing countries face many obstacles in entering the markets of rich countries. This is illustrated by the fact that the 49 LDCs, representing 10.5 per cent of the world population, have less than 1 per cent of world exports.

It is also true that open markets can play an important role in lifting millions of people out of absolute poverty. Progress has been made on market access for LDCs, but more needs to be done.

A new round of multilateral trade negotiations would lock in this progress and advance the cause of free-market access for products originating from LDCs.

A new Round, a true development round, will boost growth and help provide the means to reduce poverty. It will certainly offer an opportunity to address the concerns of developing countries about implementing the existing commitments. It is clear that this issue will not receive attention outside a round, nor will countries be able to push for market-access opportunities in the absence of a round.

A new round will also help strengthen the governments to resist protectionist pressures, especially at a time of considerable uncertainty about future growth prospects.

Many Leaders, including the G8 leaders, last week-end in Genoa, argued forcefully for the launch of a new round of free-trade negotiations, considering that open markets and a stronger World Trade Organization are an economic imperative.

The WTO is not the GATT, and no new round can start, and more importantly no new round can conclude, without having the interests of developing and Least-Developed Countries addressed and resolved. To secure and maintain LDCs support, real progress must be made.

Your meeting of today organized soon after the 3rd UN Conference on LDCs in Brussels and prior to the 4th WTO Ministerial in Doha, is very crucial since the common negotiating objectives which you will adopt for Doha, could influence the process underway. This Ministerial Meeting provides LDCs an opportunity for constructive engagement with other trading partners, beyond listing what LDCs would like to have. This is also an opportunity for leadership by LDCs’ Ministers.

Allow me to say a few words on our preparatory process for the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference due to take place in Doha, QATAR, from 9 to 13 November 2001. Once again, the WTO is at a crossroads and key decisions that could have a far-reaching impact on the future of the Multilateral Trading System will be taken in the weeks and months ahead.

During the ECOSOC High-Level Policy Dialogue held in Geneva last week, Mr. MOORE underlined the importance of launching a new Round as soon as possible; and I quote him “At the DOHA Conference, we must leave the WTO stronger and more vibrant, ready to play its part in the international trade relations and the best way to make it advance, is through the launch of a new Round or wider set of negotiations” unquote. Furthermore, Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations stated the case for a new trade round, in particular its potential for significant development dividends.

Recently, senior officials from capitals met in Geneva, and through this initiative the process has been energised. We had the General Council Meeting on 18 and 19 July 2001, which decided to set up a Trust Fund to cover the participation of LDCs delegations to Doha, including the Minister and two officials from each country.

On 30 and 31 July 2001, as you are already aware, we will have, a “Reality Check” at a General Council meeting, and a week beforehand the Chairman of the Council and the Director-General will circulate to delegations an objective report which will set out their evaluation of the current situation in the preparatory process overall, subject by subject.

It is envisaged to provide an assessment of the degree of convergence in each area, the elements on which there appears to be some common understanding, and the key problems. It is clear that this is not to be regarded as a draft declaration, but rather as a draft to identify possible areas where further improvements might be required, as well as areas where a need for further political movement towards convergence might be identified. This process will enable us to go beyond options and brackets in the text.

Between now and November 2001, the WTO Secretariat has made provisions for a certain number of consultations, including contributions to some Ministerial Meetings, among which are the OAU Trade Ministers Meeting to be held in Abuja from 17 to 22 September 2001, and the ACP Trade Ministers Meeting to be scheduled shortly. In addition, through the Third Geneva Week for WTO non-resident Members and regional organizations, to be held from 10 to 14 September 2001, the WTO will provide participants from developing countries and LDCs the status report on the state of play towards Doha. All these efforts are aimed at building consensus among Members.

I must say that the clear consensus that you, Honourable Ministers, have reached so far is to have a balanced agenda for Doha. This agenda is not yet fixed, but its outlines are becoming clear. Setting the agenda for a new round is not just about including issues. It is also about excluding some. We, in the Secretariat, stand in the hands of our owners, the Members. More leadership, more flexibility and generosity must be shown, so that all can be accommodated.

Globalization is a fact, whether we like it or not. We have the task of controlling it and putting it to the service of people. The pursuit of an equitable, liberal and open rules-based multilateral trading system is the contribution by the WTO in support of the Least-Developed Countries to achieve sustainable development. The first responsibility for solving the problems of LDCs rests with LDCs themselves, but the international community has an important role to play, and international institutions such as the WTO, can also make a contribution.

We need your support now and in the upcoming months to ensure that the Doha Ministerial Conference becomes successful and that a new round with “development” at its core is launched for the benefit of Least-Developed Countries.

Thank you.