World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/38

    10 December 1996



    Original: Spanish


Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by Mr. Victor Rico Frontaura

Minister of International Economic Relations

    I should like first of all, on behalf of my delegation, to express our appreciation and thanks to the Government of Singapore for their warm welcome and the excellent organization and running of this Ministerial Conference.

    I should also like to highlight the hard work done by the Director-General and staff of the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization in preparing so efficiently for this important meeting.

    In the light of the accelerated process of globalization of production and liberalization of trade, the international community has reacted positively by agreeing to establish the World Trade Organization, thus completing the structure of the world economic system.

    Bolivia believes that economic liberalization is of crucial importance to every country's development. It was among the first countries in the Latin American region to implement, in the last decade, an economic policy based on the free market and openness. It is today reaping the rewards of decisions taken over 10 years ago. Bolivia also firmly believes that equitable participation in trade flows and the resulting benefits are necessary to avoid the marginalization of small countries and less-advanced regions.

    We are therefore convinced that globalization should not only promote the expansion and diversification of trade but, above all, should contribute to raising the standard of living of our peoples.

    Accordingly, we have resolutely supported the Agreements resulting from the Uruguay Round, whose commitments must be fully respected in accordance with the time-frames and procedures laid down at Marrakesh.

    We attach special importance to the genuine and effective liberalization of the markets for farm produce and textiles. As a producer and exporter of these products, we believe that any wrong signal indicating a breach of the commitments assumed under the Agreement on Agriculture and the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing would mean a setback in the search for an equitable system of multilateral trade.

    As regards environmental norms and standards, we believe that these should be based on the principles of non-discrimination, transparency, credibility and national treatment. These are principles that should be set within the broader framework of shared responsibility, a notion that is finding ever-greater acceptance in the international community.

    Bolivia is perhaps one of the countries which in recent years have done most to further integration and trade liberalization on the American continent. With the recent signing of the Free Trade Agreement with MERCOSUR, we became the first country in the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) to have free-trade areas with nine of the other 10 countries making up that Association. Just as we are promoting economic integration, with equal conviction we are also fostering free trade at the world level. Therefore, we oppose any interpretation that sets regionalism against multilateralism. Both converge on the same objective and are mutually supportive.

    I should also like to underscore the efforts of the developing countries to comply with the commitments assumed in the Uruguay Round, which in many cases have meant substantial changes in their legal, economic and social structures. Nevertheless, this effort needs to be matched with a high level of cooperation and technical assistance.

    Of the so-called new issues, I should like to deal first of all with investment. Together with other countries in the WTO, we are backing a proposal to create a working group to study useful inputs that would afford us a comprehensive view of the complexity and importance of this subject and its links with trade. We will take an active part in all initiatives to that end.

    With regard to labour standards, we consider it crucial for the international community to further promote workers' rights and minimum standards for workers' protection. Labour legislation in Bolivia is among the most advanced in the region. Nevertheless, we do not believe that the WTO is the appropriate forum for discussing these topics. This does not mean that we are unaware of the linkage between labour and trading systems and other variables in the economy.

    Before concluding, I should like to congratulate you Mr. Chairman, on your expert guidance of our deliberations, which I am sure will arrive at a successful conclusion.