World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/70

    11 December 1996




Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by H.E. Mr. A. Baltas

Deputy Minister

Ministry of National Economy

    I would like to begin by thanking the Government of Singapore for welcoming us so warmly to this gathering of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and by offering our congratulations on the organization of this first Ministerial Conference. I would also like to thank the Director-General and the Secretariat of the WTO for their efforts in ensuring the success of this Conference.

    The transition from GATT to WTO and the implementation of the Marrakesh Agreements have made it possible to build up a new momentum towards the development of a multilateral trading system which is both more integrated and, above all, based on more effective cooperation at the global level. However, as the century draws to a close, the economic and trading environment continues to inspire a certain amount of concern. The surge in the development of technologies, offering new prospects for economic development, has been accompanied by a genuine revolution in production, in the use of resources, which has had its impact on social relations. Consequently, each party must assume its responsibility at the national and international levels in accordance with its needs and its capacity.

    At the national level, efforts should be directed towards introducing the adjustments needed to maintain or, if necessary, restore economic balances, a prerequisite for economic expansion and more effective participation in the global market.

    At the international level, in a world which is becoming more and more interdependent, these efforts could come to naught if they are not supported by a healthy international economic environment and an efficient multilateral trading system benefiting all participants.

    Since the Marrakesh Agreements mark an important step forward in strengthening the multilateral system, we consider that the primary objective of the WTO Ministerial Conference should be to assess the implementation of the WTO Agreements.

    The commitments contained in the agenda incorporated in the WTO Agreements are not renegotiable. In this connection, I would like to mention the textiles sector, on which a specific paragraph has been included, wrongly, in the draft Declaration, and to stress that the European Union has scrupulously respected its commitments.

    With respect to agriculture, it goes without saying that we are also in favour of the strict application of the Agreement. Any attempt to push matters beyond what has already been agreed would be risky, and we do not think that it is in the interest of the WTO to endanger the balance which was so painstakingly established at the end of the Uruguay Round.

    Regarding services, we must focus above all on the successful conclusion of the sectoral negotiations which have not yet been completed in the fields of telecommunications, financial services and professional services, sticking to the established timetables. At the same time, it is essential that we should continue our work on the rules of the Agreement on Trade in Services and achieve concrete results in that area. This would help to prepare the ground for continuing the process in the framework of future negotiations in all areas of services.

    As regards trade and the environment, we attach great importance to the work being done by the WTO. The aim of our discussions in that area should be to draw up binding and transparent rules, particularly with respect to trade measures in international agreements concerning the environment.

    In view of the growing interaction between trade and investment and in the absence of overall rules on the liberalization and protection of foreign investments, it would be useful to have further discussions on that subject. The purpose of such discussions would be to clarify the different positions and establish a sufficiently broad consensus among members in order to be able to define our objectives.

    On the subject of trade and competition, we consider that since the globalization of markets raises important issues that deserve particular attention, WTO Members should initiate discussions aimed at promoting a better understanding of what the rules of competition can achieve, bearing in mind the progress already made at the international level within UNCTAD and the OECD.

    As regards trade and core social standards, we must examine the link between those standards and trade policy. However, it is essential that we reassure the low-wage countries that the discussion of these questions will not undermine their comparative advantages. We are all willing to recognize the essential role of the ILO in the field of core social standards and the need to ensure that those standards do not lead to disguised protectionism. That being the case, we are all the more convinced that close cooperation between the ILO and the WTO will help us to attain our objectives.

    We are entirely in favour of pursuing the multilateral process of liberalization of international markets, which is the primary objective of the WTO. That process will produce concrete results by concluding the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). In our view, the Agreement must be balanced, must cover tariff and non-tariff measures, and must provide for the participation of the greatest possible number of countries.

    Another priority of the Singapore Conference is to invite WTO Members to show the political will needed to speed up the admission of such primary trading partners as China and the Russian Federation, as well as other countries that are not yet members. These admissions will help to strengthen the multilateral trading system and to reduce potential tensions at the international level.

    One of the great successes of the Uruguay Round was to unite the industrialized countries and the developing countries in a common understanding on the advantages of the liberalization of international trade according to internationally agreed rules. We give high priority to assuring the least developed countries that they will not be marginalized and taking steps to integrate them into the international trading system. In that connection, my country fully supports the Plan of Action for the least developed countries, and we hope that the joint UNCTAD/ITC meeting planned for next year will produce positive results for those countries.