World Trade                        WT/MIN(96)/ST/131

                                    12 December 1996



                                    Original: French


Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by H.E. Mr. Bakhti Belaib

Minister for Trade

(Speaking as an Observer)

    I would firstly like to thank our host country, the Republic of Singapore, for its hospitality and for accommodating this Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization so well.

    The success of this Ministerial Conference, which has gathered together within these walls almost every country involved in world trade, bears witness to the vitality of this youthful Organization which, though created only two years ago, is already, as the century draws to a close, in the forefront of the institutions forming part of the international economic system.

    My country, Algeria, has lodged its application for membership of the World Trade Organization and this year, 1996, officially submitted its Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime. It expects to submit its replies to the written questions so far received within the next few weeks.

    Our hope is, of course, that the negotiation process will be rapidly concluded, because the final acceptance of our application for membership will be a high point in Algeria's economic liberalization programme of the last few years. Admission to the WTO will reinforce a number of basic principles which have already been implemented in the Algerian economy, such as freedom of trade and industry, openness to foreign investment, progressive privatization of the production of goods and services and the total abolition of all non-tariff barriers to trade.

    The impetus which, particularly in the last few years, has produced significant growth in the volume of world trade is the same as that which led to the success of the Uruguay Round Negotiations, sealed by the Final Act signed in Marrakesh and the creation of the World Trade Organization.

    We must above all maintain this impetus, notably by working to enlarge the number of developing countries benefiting from the growth in world trade. Only in that way will promotion of international trade be able to stimulate sustainable growth in support of economic development on a truly world scale.

    A considerable number of countries, including Algeria, are today knocking at the door of the World Trade Organization.

    Paradoxically, the rapid and encouraging success of the Organization, its indisputable attraction and the great importance of the issues it addresses, now seem to be complicating the task of new applicants for membership.

    Consequently, consideration should be given to simplifying the accession procedures for all applicants, mainly developing countries, so that their integration into world trade does not interfere with their efforts to solve their domestic economic problems.

    Such a measure, however marginal it might appear, can only strengthen, in the future, the credibility and universality of the WTO.

    The holding of this Ministerial Conference is powerful confirmation of the leading role which has fallen to the World Trade Organization on the international scene. May we have every success in our work. Thank you for your kind attention.