World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/4
9 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
Thank you to Singapore. Thank you for your welcome and for the warm hospitality shown in organizing the first Ministerial Conference of the WTO. Thank you also to yourself, Mr. Chairman, for your commitment in this regard.
The WTO has got under way with a satisfactory implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements. This is proof of the increasing commitment of its Members to the multilateral trading system, a commitment that must be upheld and reinforced. This is the best way of countering the calls still being made for unilateral and discriminatory policies.
The independent policies pursued by Argentina have resulted in a more efficient economy, and contributed towards the multilateral process and the growth of global trade. For example, between 1990 and 1995, Argentina's imports rose from US$4 billion to US$22 billion. This amounts to an increase of 450 per cent.
This opening up led us to hope for the same treatment for our exports, but regrettably this has not yet been the case.
Agriculture is a vital sector of Argentina's economy, but only modest progress has been made on market access and there has been little political will to abolish production and trade subsidies.
Owing to this lack of will, we are now seeing strong pressure being exerted to engage once again in a ruinous competition of subsidized exports in the cereals sector, which could once again upset the balance of global markets and hamper the possibilities for growth in food production, which is essential in order to meet unprecedented worldwide demand.
We efficient producers have been, are still, and everything indicates will again be, the first to feel the effects of these policies.
But the harm done to developing countries that are net food importers will not be any less.
Under such circumstances, it is difficult for these countries to feel any incentive to develop their own agricultural production or to adapt their economies in order to have the resources to import food.
Hence our concern at this kind of "apartheid" in the treatment of the agricultural sector in the WTO and at the half-hearted way in which the negotiations on agricultural export credit are progressing, blocked by a few countries wishing to take advantage of the absence of disciplines in this area in order to continue subsidizing their trade.
We wish to state clearly here and now that our acceptance of and compliance with the results of the Uruguay Round do not mean that we are satisfied with the progress made.
Our objective continues to be an agricultural sector that is fully integrated under the rules of the multilateral trading system. For Argentina, no progress made in this sector will suffice until that situation has been reached.
The new international economic situation has brought us a more interdependent world which, supported by know-how and technology, limits national decision-making capacities.
It is thus essential that we should devote our efforts to studying the links between trade and other issues such as the environment, investment, competition policies and government procurement, as well as to the debate on labour standards.
We shall more and more be talking about disciplines and less about customs tariffs.
Integration processes are a positive response to this new economic situation. Provided that they are consistent with WTO disciplines, they constitute a significant contribution to a greater degree of trade liberalization.
One telling example of this is that between 1991 and 1995 MERCOSUR's imports from the rest of the world increased by 120 per cent. Mr. Chairman, this provides one practical example of an open integration system.
MERCOSUR's effectiveness as a mechanism to promote trade and growth is obvious. Over and above the evidence of the figures, it has been one of the major political enterprises undertaken in the Americas. The Agreement's effectiveness, as well as its economic and political importance, are thus indisputable.
In order to expand and strengthen the WTO, it is necessary to bring in as soon as possible the countries that are negotiating accession. In doing so, we must ensure that all Members, whether present or future, understand that the viability of the multilateral system depends on every country respecting its disciplines and making a fair contribution to the common stock of concessions on goods and services.
For Argentina, strengthening the WTO is not simply another option: it is a key element of Argentina's international economic relations. We must therefore reaffirm our commitment to the system.