World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/10

    9 December 1996



    Original: English


Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by the Right Honourable Augusto Fantozzi

Minister of Foreign Trade

    Let me express our gratitude and appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Singapore for hosting in such an efficient manner this Conference of the WTO. It is significant that Singapore is the venue of this first Ministerial Meeting: a city and a State projected into the future for an organization that in the future finds its highest stakes and greatest promise.

    Let me also thank the Secretariat of the WTO and its Director-General for their efforts and the excellent work they have done to lay the ground for a successful outcome of this Conference.

    We are here today not only to assess the results of this first two years of implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreement, but also to confirm our commitment to those objectives of trade liberalization that made "Marrakesh" such an important achievement. In the last few years trade has grown at higher and faster rates than the global output of goods and services. Trade is playing an increasingly important role in promoting growth and development on a worldwide scale. We must make sure that this role is maintained in the future through the workings of a stronger and more efficient multilateral system of rules.

    The commitment to the strengthening of this system represents a permanent feature of our foreign and economic policies. Our economic interests drive us in this direction and Italy reiterates its full support to the multilateral system.

    In my opinion, to achieve this objective the international community should make a greater effort to help the less privileged countries enjoy the benefits of liberalization, which are still limited to a few geographical areas. Moreover, the World Trade Organization should speed up the accession of new countries in such a way as to confirm its truly universal nature.

    The huge work done in Geneva has produced an important draft Declaration. The paper still leaves a few open questions, which however will be soon resolved provided that political goodwill prevails over the Member countries' specific, albeit important, interests.

    The first objective is to make sure that the results of the Uruguay Round are fully and correctly implemented. In this respect, let me refer to the textiles issue - the only one specifically mentioned in the draft Declaration - to stress that the European Union is fulfilling its commitments under the Marrakesh Agreement. Our efforts to keep up with our obligations have been significant. We expect our partners to carry out a similar effort also in terms of a greater opening of their markets.

    We then have to confirm the commitments listed in the built-in agenda - within the framework of the global balance reached at Marrakesh - relating to the forthcoming negotiations. We have to confirm as well the time schedule of the liberalization plans already approved.

    A special importance is attached to the current negotiations in the service sector: in my view, the conclusion of negotiations on telecommunications scheduled for 15 February 1997 will be the best evidence of the willingness of WTO Member countries to proceed with the liberalization plan.

    I also look forward to a successful conclusion of the negotiations on financial services by the end of 1997, this sector being the pivot of trade relations.

    On the trade - environment issue, we would have expected better results. This matter must be urgently confronted while providing fresh impetus to the work of the Committee.

    The workload of the Organization should not prevent us from addressing new international trade problems. If we want to liberalize trade and open up our markets, we will necessarily have to solve them as soon as possible.

    A first concrete result could be achieved through a negotiated agreement on information technology. In our view, such an agreement would be aimed at eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers hindering market access. It should be joined by as many countries as possible and cover all the non-consumer products relating to this sector.

    Moreover, there are a number of other issues that deserve a more detailed analysis in order to show that the WTO pays attention to all the topics related to international trade.

    In this context, let me underline that Italy would welcome an effective role of the WTO in the relationship between trade and investments: investment protection and liberalization are essential to our economic operators, especially to small- and medium-sized enterprises. At the same time, they constitute a fundamental prerequisite to generate an increasing amount of resources to be used to promote economic growth in developing countries, but also in some areas of the industrialized countries.

    I would now like to briefly dwell upon one of the issues recently discussed both at governmental and non-governmental level: the so-called core labour standards.

    Italy pays special attention to this matter. We believe that ensuring the best possible living and working conditions is a universally-acknowledged responsibility. We are confident that closer cooperation between ILO and WTO will contribute to achieving this objective and I am disappointed that the Director-General of ILO has not been invited here. We are also keen on preventing that progress in this field might turn into a source of protectionism, so that all countries would benefit from the positive spin-off that trade liberalization has on economic growth.

    In this regard, I want to confirm Italy's full support to the Action Plan in favour of less developed countries and I hope that the joint meeting with UNCTAD and the International Trade Centre planned for 1997 will produce positive results.

    Before concluding my address, I would like to dedicate a few words to small- and medium-sized enterprises, the true driving force behind international trade. With their activity, they promote a constant exchange of views and working techniques among the various countries involved. This is specially true for Italy, since the worldwide success of our production is largely due to their dynamism and remarkable flexibility.

    I am confident that the WTO will pay greater attention to the problems concerning the international dimension of the activity of these enterprises. The exploratory and analytical work to be undertaken by the Council on Goods in relation to trade facilitation issues could also give priority to SME-related problems.