World Trade                        WT/MIN(96)/ST/14

                                    9 December 1996




Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by Dr. Herminio Blanco Mendoza

Minister of Foreign Trade and Industrial Development

    It is a great honour for me to participate on behalf of Mexico in this, the first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization.

    Much has happened in the nigh-on two years since this Organization began its work. World trade, driven by the liberalization agreed in the Uruguay Round, continues to be one of the main engines of economic growth.

    WTO's new dispute settlement mechanism, one of the most important results of the Uruguay Round, has successfully passed its first tests. Judging by the initial results, we are achieving the intended objective of greater certainty and fairness in the application of multilateral trade rules.

    In my country, the entry into force of our Uruguay Round commitments in January 1995 coincided with the worst economic crisis in the history of modern Mexico. In those difficult times, not only did Mexico not flinch from fulfilling its multilateral obligations, but its prompt implementation of those obligations proved a powerful ally in dealing with the crisis and achieving a rapid return to the path of sustained and stable growth.

    In common with the majority of Members, Mexico believes that this Conference should focus its attention on ensuring the implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements and the early resumption and conclusion of the suspended negotiations on services, in particular telecommunications, financial services and professional services, and on discussing of the work programme to enable us to build a better organization which will continue to promote the welfare of our peoples by expanding trade and investment flows.

    However, what we decide in relation to the so-called new issues will have a powerful impact on the future of the WTO and international trade. Whatever we decide must be consistent with the WTO's raison d'être: the promotion of world trade. There are five subjects in particular which I would like briefly to focus on: (a) the relationship between trade and the environment; (b) the relationship between trade and competition policies; (c) trade and labour standards; (d) multilateralism and regionalism; and (e) the progressive liberalization of international trade.

(a)    The relationship between trade and the environment

    One of the relatively new issues in the WTO's work programme is the relationship between trade and the environment. Mexico, in common with the countries gathered here today, has a great interest in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development. Economic analysis and the available empirical evidence suggest that the best contribution that the WTO can make to improving the environment is to help achieve high economic growth rates through the liberalization of trade. Accordingly, Mexico considers that using trade measures to achieve environmental objectives is not only inefficient but also dangerous, since it would certainly give rise to their use for protectionist purposes.

(b)    Trade and competition policies

    The reduction in tariffs and the elimination of non-tariff barriers as a result of eight multilateral trade rounds have been reflected in an unprecedented expansion in world trade. Today, however, there is a risk of the benefits of this liberalization being reduced by the abuse of anti-dumping legislation. That legislation, supposedly intended to prevent unfair trading practices, is increasingly being used to replace the trade protection which it took so much hard negotiation to eliminate. Mexico can therefore agree to the initiation within the WTO of a work programme to study the relationship between trade and competition which would include in its terms of reference an analysis of the replacement of anti-dumping measures by competition policies which ensure access to markets under stable, sure and enduring conditions.

(c)    Labour standards and trade

    On the issue of labour standards, Mexico is convinced that the only appropriate forum to deal with this issue is the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has the benefit of the accumulated experience of decades of participation by workers' and employers' associations. That is where we must work to ensure that countries which have not yet done so ratify the outstanding conventions. The best way that the WTO can help to raise people's living standards around the world is by promoting economic development through increased international trade. Raising the issue of labour in the WTO could provide an excuse for using trade measures for protectionist purposes.

(d)    Regionalism and multilateralism

    The relationship between regionalism and the multilateral trade system is becoming more and more relevant as the number and scope of regional initiatives grow. Mexico is convinced, from its own experience, that regionalism is a very important partner in achieving greater global liberalization, and that the multilateral trade system should be as ambitious as the regional agreements.

    The fundamental objective of the WTO is a global free trade system. In our opinion, the recent creation of the Committee on Regional Trade Agreements should not only ensure that the agreements meet the corresponding obligations under the WTO, but should help us to work towards a system like the one that I have just mentioned. If trade is to flow freely, multilateralism must be as ambitious as regionalism.

(e)    Progressive liberalization of international trade

    Recognizing the importance of continuing the process of economic liberalization, my country firmly believes that it is appropriate to include negotiation of all tariffs on industrial products in the "hidden agenda" and, if the other Members of the WTO are prepared to do so, Mexico could also accelerate its tariff reductions agreed in the Uruguay Round. In this connection, Mexico supports the negotiation of an agreement on information technology products, always provided that there is flexibility in defining the range of products and the timescale for tariff reduction and that the great majority of WTO Members participate.

    Lastly, I should like to pay tribute to the magnificent work done, over more than a year, by the Government and people of Singapore and personally by our Amphitryon, Singapore's Minister of Trade, Yeo Cheow Tong, in organizing this first Ministerial Conference.