World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/40

    10 December 1996



    Original: Spanish


Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by Mr. René Antonio Leon

Vice-Minister of the Economy

    I would particularly like to thank the Government of Singapore for its excellent work in organizing this first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization and all the people of Singapore for the warm welcome extended to us.

    Thanks to the far-reaching economic reforms which began in June 1989 and a policy aimed at achieving and consolidating peace, El Salvador has ended the armed conflict, restored stability to the economy, revived economic growth and launched a systematic assault on extreme poverty.

    In order to make the economic growth sustainable, we are implementing a development strategy based on constantly increasing productivity and competitiveness, with priority given to investment in training and physical infrastructure, promoting competition and improving the technological base.

    Central American economic integration and the existence of a sound, transparent and reliable multilateral system are crucial to improving our country's ability to reap the benefits of liberalization and globalization. That is why we regard the WTO as a strategic ally in the process of economic and social reform on which we are embarked.

    Despite budgetary constraints and the amount of money, over $2 billion, which the Government has had to spend on financing the Peace Agreements, El Salvador has made every effort to allocate the necessary resources to improve and build up all the institutional infrastructure necessary to administer and fully comply with the Uruguay Round Agreements.

    We are concerned by the excessive use of the safeguard mechanism contained in the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, in particular the constant calls for consultations to restrict exports. We are also concerned by the lack of commercially significant integration of textile products into GATT 1994 by importing countries and the weakness shown by the Monitoring Body in issuing recommendations in cases of dispute. This Conference should confirm the commitment of all Members to faithfully fulfilling their commitments.

    We are opposed to the application of unilateral and extraterritorial trade restrictions which hamper and impede the access of exports to the countries which impose such restrictions.

    Nevertheless, our initial overall assessment of the impact of the WTO's first two years, with a revitalized world trade system now in operation, is a positive one. Today we have more transparent rules and new and better dispute settlement mechanisms which are fundamental to open markets and, most important of all, we have built an organization which is better equipped to ensure that the terms we have negotiated are fulfilled.

    What must we do to go on making progress? First, we must ensure full and timely implementation of the Marrakesh Agreements and fulfilment of all the mandates arising from those agreements, including the finalization of the unfinished negotiations. In particular, we must conclude the negotiations on telecommunications and resume those on financial services. El Salvador is ready to play a more active role in both sets of negotiations.

    Secondly, we should not clutter up our agenda with issues which are outside the WTO's competence.

    We therefore think it inappropriate for the WTO to deal with issues such as workers' rights, since they are better dealt with in other specialized multilateral forums such as the International Labour Organization. In many of the proposals relating to this issue the legitimate objectives of promoting workers' rights appear to be being used to achieve other ends. In practice we have found that workers' rights, which the Government of El Salvador protects, respects and promotes, are being used to conceal other interests which are not related to the welfare of our countries' workers but seek only to block opportunities for access to markets.

    Lastly, in order further to advance the cause of trade liberalization, the WTO should, as soon as possible, start work on competition, trade and investment policies, and innovative proposals such as the Agreement on Information Technology. It should also seek mechanisms to accelerate the liberalization of agricultural and industrial products.

    Yesterday we listened with great attention to the call to join together in creating a vision of the future of the WTO and to set this within a political vision, to meet the challenges in store on the eve of the third millennium. We would like to make it clear that in El Salvador you have a willing ally in this important task.