World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/101
12 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
At the outset I wish to share the honour and pleasure for having the opportunity to attend this Ministerial Conference.
It is of a great importance for Bulgaria to participate at the first biennial meeting at Ministerial level, only several days after accession to the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization on 1 December this year. The Protocol for Accession of Bulgaria has been ratified by the National Assembly within a very short period after its signing on 2 October 1996 - a proof for the high priority attached to the integration into the multilateral trading system and the firm commitment to abide by its rules and disciplines.
Bulgaria's accession has a long history. The aim of becoming an original WTO Member has not been attained for one or another reason. However, we completed this process in time so that we have the possibility to actively participate as one of the 128 WTO Members at this historic event - the first Ministerial Conference.
Bulgaria is a relatively small country with an economy highly dependent on foreign trade. It is therefore evident that the general policy of trade liberalization could only be in favour of our economy and our people. It is also our understanding that further liberalization of the major markets in the textile and agricultural sectors will additionally boost trade on the basis of economically recognized comparative advantage. The Government of the Republic of Bulgaria considers the accession to the WTO as a major achievement that is set to further reinforce the market-based principles and thus help gradually overcome some still existing market imperfections.
In the course of market access negotiations Bulgaria made a series of commitments leading to further substantial liberalization of the Bulgarian market. Bulgaria committed itself to implement all multilateral agreements, including TRIPS and TRIMS, without transition periods. Bulgaria is a party to the International Dairy Agreement and the International Bovine Meat Agreement, and acceded to the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft. The Bulgarian Government considers initiating in 1997 negotiations for membership in the Agreement on Government Procurement. As an integral element in this process and following the initiative of the Bulgarian Government a draft law on Government Procurement is submitted to the Parliament for consideration.
I wish to assure the WTO Members that our efforts presently are concentrated predominantly on the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the course of our accession negotiations. First, the internal political consensus on the adherence of Bulgaria to the multilateral trade system and respective rules made it possible to have the Protocol of our WTO Accession ratified within a relatively short period of time. On its part, the Government already effected the necessary adjustments to the customs tariff as of 1 December 1996 (the day of our accession to the WTO) and those reflect the tariff reduction commitments undertaken in the course of the accession negotiations. The compliance with the Agreements on Safeguards, Anti-Dumping, Subsidies and Countervailing Measures and Rules of Origin has also been carefully evaluated, and the recommendations expressed by a number of original WTO Members have been incorporated in the respective domestic legislation. The amendments will enter into force two weeks after their publication. The Government has gone even further and today at its regular meeting it is considering amendments to the customs tariff that would provide for further unilateral tariff cuts on imports of some industrial products, and would expand a number of the tariff rate quotas already opened in the agricultural sector.
As a new Member to the Organization we are in the process of constructing and testing of a domestic structure that is to secure timely and accurate implementation of our commitments vis-à-vis the respective WTO Agreements and thus we also envisage to create the necessary domestic administrative basis for on-going negotiations in the respective different areas of future codification and liberalization.
Bulgaria is committed to participate actively in the work of the Organization for further liberalization of international trade as we see no plausible alternative to it.
In conclusion I would like to express on behalf of the Bulgarian Government and on my own behalf our deep appreciation for the constructive dialogue, the spirit of cooperation and flexibility demonstrated on the part of all Members in the course of Bulgaria's accession negotiations.