World Trade WT/MIN(96)/ST/68
11 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996
May I first of all thank the Government of Singapore for the hospitality they have extended to us at this first Ministerial Conference.
Ecuador joined the World Trade Organization in January 1996, after a long process of negotiation. Membership in the WTO is part and parcel of the policy of openness and closer ties with external markets which Ecuador has been following in recent years. The intense short-term economic pressures experienced last year, for instance, did not induce Ecuador to resort to protectionist expedients, which is evidence of its respect for free trade conducted on a transparent and equitable basis in conformity with multilateral rules whose application and observance should be the constant concern of all the countries that today make up the WTO.
My country believes that the WTO must play a pivotal role in attaining the objective of increased well-being and faster economic growth in all regions of the world. Free trade boosts employment, attracts investment, promotes technological development and leads to industrial upgrading and overall progress. Free trade can increase earnings in traditionally depressed, localized sectors, and specifically in agriculture.
The achievements of these past two years following the conclusion of the Uruguay Round have been generally positive. Much of the buoyancy of world trade is the result of the removal of tariff barriers negotiated in that Round. For developing countries, and Ecuador in particular, it is of fundamental importance that the commitments agreed should be respected and that there should be no disguised forms of protectionism, linked to labour standards or to environmental protection, for example.
Free trade can be developed further, provided that we promote agreements based on equity rather than the pursuit of unlimited protection that only serves the interests of some countries considered in isolation.
Economic globalization means cooperation rather than confrontation. The world of the future calls for consensus. The polarization of interests can exacerbate conflicts and, in the case of the international trade of goods and services, this could have very negative consequences.
As we approach the twenty-first century, we the developing countries demand that priority be given to economic and social development. Here, the goal must be increased trade, within a system that is constantly being improved and made more equitable.
Against this background, I shall outline my country's position on several issues that will be decisive for the future progress of the WTO and for the attainment of its objectives.
Firstly, Ecuador considers necessary the fulfilment of all the commitments assumed by Member countries with the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. It also believes that a greater effort is needed as regards market access for products from developing countries and the elimination of farm subsidies and grants in developed countries, if we genuinely intend to follow open and universal policies.
Secondly, Ecuador believes that only the scrupulous observance of such commitments can pave the way for the opening of a new round of negotiations on tariff reductions, which would also address the reduction of non-tariff restrictions. Above all, however, the new round should focus its attention on facilitating compliance with transparent disciplines and procedures that would underpin trade liberalization, in those areas where it is still possible to apply unjustified protectionist measures and regimes for not very obvious reasons.
Thirdly, Ecuador is of the opinion that one of the most important advances in WTO law has taken place in regard to dispute settlement, which is of vital importance to developing countries. This is one of the achievements that should be jealously preserved, in order to boost the confidence of Members in the Organization and its rules, thereby making a decisive contribution to the attainment of its fundamental goals.
Fourthly, Ecuador does not believe that labour issues should be dealt with in this forum. These are issues that are not within the purview of the WTO. They risk polarizing positions rather than fostering consensus and could interfere with the work of the competent organization, the International Labour Organization.
It would also seem appropriate to examine the reasons for the change, in such a short space of time, in the perception that it was the developing nations - and not the developed ones - which were being affected, via international trade, by the existence of differing labour standards. This does not mean that Ecuador in any way supports the exploitation of workers. Ecuador has very strict regulations which would apply in any such cases. This proposal is predicated upon the need to keep the WTO's attention focused on those matters that genuinely come within its purview, without any distractions that might cause it to lose sight of its sole objective of promoting and consolidating freer trade, where much still remains to be done.
Fifthly, it bears repeating that the changes introduced by many developing countries in recent years could risk paralysis or even failure if markets are not opened further and if the multilateral principles and agreements reached in different sectors are not respected. Member countries must note that the improved macroeconomic performance being pursued by many developing countries could be seriously undermined if the flow of their exports is obstructed in any way.
Likewise, Ecuador believes that although there are matters of very great interest to particular developed countries which have been given priority at this meeting, no time should be lost in launching an in-depth study of the problems which we, the developing countries, have been facing for some time now.
As regards the problems arising from the linkage between international trade and the environment, Ecuador is of the opinion that this area should be given priority in the immediate future. It is difficult for developing countries to strike a balance between trade, growth and environment, though in the case of Ecuador we do make a constant effort. What does need to be made clear, however, is that considerations of environmental protection should not be used as a pretext for applying unjustified restrictions within the markets of the developed countries.
Finally, Ecuador believes that special consideration should be given to the need to make progress in examining the relationship between integration schemes and multilateral rules and conclude improved and more suitable agreements in the areas of services, telecommunications and investment.
Ecuador further believes that the lasting success of the WTO will largely depend on its ability to ensure that all its Members are beneficiaries under the new world economic system, and to make every effort to achieve equality of opportunity. In this context, cooperation in favour of developing countries is of paramount importance.
That is the major task that we must continue shouldering.