World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/16

    9 December 1996



MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE                    Original:    English/

Singapore, 9-13 December 1996                         French/



Statement by H.E. Mr. Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz

Minister of Foreign Trade

    More than half a century ago the United Nations Economic and Social Council decided to hold a Conference on Trade and Employment in the capital of my country. The document which resulted from its deliberations, known as the Havana Charter, put forward the idea of an international trade organization, which was the origin of today's World Trade Organization.

    This is not a proper time to analyse the differences between what that organization, which never went into effect, was intended to be and the present-day organization. It suffices to say that many of the topics dealt with then are being once again considered in this Conference: the universal character of the organization, the competition standards and the efficiency of the mechanism for settling disputes, among others.

    If what we want to do is improve the current multilateral trading system, we should ask ourselves on what bases this purpose should be achieved.

    It is imperative to establish provisions to regulate international activities; we prefer their existence to anarchy, to resorting to unilateralism. That is why, as a principle, the established standards must be respected by all, and the mechanisms which have been set up for that purpose, especially that of dispute settlement, must be consistent with their mandate and calling.

    The aforementioned is indispensable within the context of the objective accelerated process of growing interdependence of the world economy, and based on this, the aspirations of the economically and politically strong to impose on the weak their own conceptions and dictate to them their inhumane neoliberal recipes for conducting their economies.

    Attempting to find a solution for the present problems of the world economy by erasing all boundaries and considering national states and the principle of sovereignty as obsolete due to the objective globalization phenomenon is a doctrine which further increases the existing gap between the rich and the poor.

    When we address any of the topics in our agenda, it is evident that there are some who are interested in establishing international standards which tend to perpetuate the differences in development of today's world under the pretext of the existence of equal opportunities which are actually non-existent.

    Thus, for example, developing countries are called upon to rapidly advance in their economic liberalization, while big nations strengthen their border protection, especially those of the non-tariff type.

    Pressure is being exerted to introduce new topics in the Organization's working agenda, some of them having no connection with trade, such as labour standards, at a time when developing countries have not yet been able to assimilate the provisions of the Uruguay Round Agreements. On the other hand, the minimum commitments adopted in relation to these countries are not complied with, as occurs in the textile sector.

    The right of developing countries to receive technical assistance in accordance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights is being put off and no concrete decisions are made to benefit net food importing developing countries.

    Ecological protection regulations, which would exclude the developing countries from the possibilities offered by the international market, are being called for by those who never complied with them and who, besides, were the ones who polluted the planet.

    The great challenges confronting humanity: hunger and poverty, as well as the objective consequences of globalization, must be approached taking into consideration the differences between rights and obligations of the rich and the poor.

    The international trade of most underdeveloped countries is essentially the same today as it has traditionally been, especially as concerns the continuous deterioration of the terms of trade and the stagnation of many of these terms.

    In this context, we consider that the magnitude of development must be present in all the decisions adopted in this Conference and that its work shall be mainly aimed at revising the fulfilment of the agreements reached during the past Uruguay Round and at the start-up of a balanced work plan, deriving from the implicit agenda.

    It behoves to underscore once again that stepping-up the pace of the negotiations in any sector would work against a majority of countries which have not yet completed the assimilation of those agreements.

    Likewise, the so-called new topics shall correspond with the mandate and scope of the Organization and not try to use its contractual character to establish binding multilateral commitments, which ignore specialized international fora.

    Bringing new members into the Organization should be a prioritized task in the coming months, in order to attain true universality, within a framework of plurality, trust and mutual respect for the internal structures of each country.

    Cuba is a socialist State whose economy has undergone deep transformations, which are still under way in order to adjust it to the world we live in, without abandoning our political concepts. Thanks to the measures taken, there has been a systematic growth of exports and imports in the last three years within the context of a general recovery of the economy, despite the criminal and illegal economic, commercial and financial blockade to which Cuba is subjected, in flagrant violation of the principles and regulations of this Organization, as well as the basic postulates of international law. This blockage has been repudiated by the international community, as shown by the results of the recently held voting on this issue in the United Nations General Assembly.

    This economic war, waged against our people by the world's most powerful nation, whose extraterritorial character has been strengthened by the Helms-Burton Act, has been imposed on us for the sole reason of wanting to maintain our independence, sovereignty, self-determination and national dignity.

    Nevertheless, Cuba fulfils and shall continue to fulfil its duties with WTO and to cooperate as always for the success of this Organization.