World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/55
10 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
It gives me great pleasure to participate in the First Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. May I first of all express my personal thanks and gratitude, and that of my delegation, to the Government and the people of Singapore for their generous hospitality and for extending to us a warm welcome.
My thanks are also due to the Director-General of the WTO for his untiring efforts in preparing this Conference.
The United Arab Emirates joined the WTO in the belief that it provides an agreed system of rules and an effective forum for liberalization and expansion of world trade.
We are happy to work along with other Member countries in strengthening the WTO to fulfil its important role in providing a more open, fair and equitable trading system.
It is heartening to note that the WTO has embarked upon its ambitious journey to the satisfaction of the international community.
The first two years of work has laid the foundations for solid achievements. The comprehensive documentation before the Conference is a testimony to the extensive work done by the Councils and Committees of the WTO in consolidating the results of the Uruguay Round negotiations. We particularly appreciate the work of the Dispute Settlement Body and the Appellate Body.
Though the implementation of many WTO Agreements has been satisfactory, there also have been cases where it was less than satisfactory. The UAE is specially concerned about the unsatisfactory implementation of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. There has been no meaningful integration of textiles and clothing into GATT during the first two years.
The United Arab Emirates, with a relatively small administration, has found notification requirements to be burdensome. There is urgent need to simplify the notification process. We therefore appreciate the efforts made recently by the Secretariat in simplifying this process.
This Conference should take stock of the work done in the first two years of the WTO and agree on a work programme for the coming years.
We feel that in the next two years the Organization should concentrate on the implementation of the WTO Agreements and on completing the unfinished business of the Uruguay Round. There is also a substantial built-in agenda, in the form of reviews and negotiations on different subjects. This should receive priority attention in the period ahead, so that already agreed time-frames are respected.
This brings me to the new issues. The UAE, like many new Member countries, experiences some difficulties in following all the activities which take place within the WTO, in addition to the fact that adapting domestic laws and regulations, establishing new legislations require immense time and human resources. In this regard, we believe that the Conference should avoid the temptation of overloading the work programme of the WTO.
The UAE is not of the opinion that there should be any linkage between trade and labour standards. While my country gives the greatest importance to the social aspect of the issue, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and not the WTO, is the appropriate body to deal with such issue.
On the issue of trade and investment, UNCTAD, in accordance with its mandate, and directed by its last Ministerial Meeting, is expected to undertake a study on this issue. We suggest, in this respect, that the WTO wait for the outcome of this study before deciding on the initiation of any discussion on the issue of the relation between trade and investment.
Two member countries of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia and Oman, are in the process of joining the WTO. The UAE supports their early accession and would urge expeditious completion of the accession process.
The World Trade Organization has opened a new chapter in international economic cooperation. It should carry on and consolidate its work to contribute to the development and prosperity of all countries.