World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/75

    11 December 1996




Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by Mr. Ruben Melgarejo Lanzoni

Minister of Foreign Relations

    Mr. President, on behalf of the delegation of Paraguay, I should like to offer you our sincere congratulations on your election to the presidency of this First Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization.

    Allow me at the same time to express our gratitude to the authorities and people of the Republic of Singapore for all their hard work in organizing this Conference and for the hospitality they have shown us.

    The Republic of Paraguay is participating in this First Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization because it is convinced of its importance for continuing progress in multilateral trade relations and because it expects that the conclusions we reach will contribute to the full integration of all the developing countries into the multilateral trading system and the elimination of protectionism and discrimination.

    There is one incontrovertible fact of our times, and that is the end of the old world order created during the cold war. This has generated a new debate on international relations which today are more concerned with the nature of political and economic change, both quantitative and qualitative, and especially the nature of democracy, which has become a paradigm of the new world order.

    Paraguay has also undergone a change for the better during this time. In February 1989, Paraguay suddenly changed the course of its history. It left behind decades of political authoritarianism, central control of the economy and international isolation. In seven years we have consolidated a new system founded on democratic principles, economic freedoms and regional integration. I can affirm that in this short time Paraguay underwent a complete change of political and economic direction.

    Since then, our country has acceded to a growing number of international agreements and joined some highly important political and economic bodies, thereby transforming its image.

    It was this new openness which allowed Paraguay to accede to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), then contribute to the Uruguay Round negotiations which led to the birth of our Organization, and thus become one of its original Members.

    These changes also made it possible for Paraguay to participate actively in the drafting of the Treaty of Asunción establishing the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), which was envisaged by its founders not as a form of protectionism, with the development of a regional market intended as an end in itself, but as an instrument for integration into the process of globalization of world trade.

    Indeed, MERCOSUR is not a fortress isolated from the rest of the world, but a platform which allows its members to enter the globalized economy on more competitive terms, and helps to eliminate the obstacles to manufacturing and trade within and outside the geographical area it covers. In evidence of this, we can point to the fact that since its formation MERCOSUR has significantly increased its imports from outside the region while reducing the levels of tariff protection.

    Paraguay considers that the WTO should take a broad and pragmatic view of regionalism and consider its long-term impact, since multilateralism and regionalism are not incompatible but complementary. In this regard, Article XXIV of the GATT 1994 and the complementary provisions in force in the WTO, such as the Enabling Clause, provide a clear and sufficient basis for examining the compatibility of regional trade agreements with the multilateral trade system.

    When, in April 1994, our governments signed the legal instruments of the Uruguay Round in Marrakesh, they were far from appreciating how complex they would turn out to be in practice. Since then we have made great strides, and in a short time succeeded in giving the new Organization a form and personality, fundamentally different from those of the old GATT.

    The passage of time has also revealed the need to clarify many of the provisions and to make adjustments to enable them to be applied in accordance with the spirit and intent of the negotiations. Undoubtedly, notable progress has been made with implementation, for example the introduction of a sound dispute settlement system, but there have also been significant delays, for example with the proper application of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing.

    That is why the delegation of Paraguay places absolute priority in this Conference on evaluating the fulfilment of the commitments undertaken in the Uruguay Round. Our country has from the outset and at a stroke implemented its commitments to reduce tariffs and totally eliminate any form of subsidy.

    Paraguay does not have quantitative restrictions and does not require import licences. Moreover, foregoing the transitional period to which it is entitled as a developing country, it has place before parliament new legislation on the protection of intellectual property, in line with the commitments undertaken in the TRIPS Agreement .

    Consequently, it has a legitimate interest in seeing those Members who have made commitments to reduce and eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers, particularly those relating to agricultural and textile products, honour those commitments on time and in full.

    An essential prerequisite for success in building a fair, stable and sound trading system under the WTO umbrella is that its Members' conduct be fully consistent with its rules and their commitments.

    Part Four of the General Agreement was established with a view to achieving the fundamental objectives of the multilateral trading system, namely, improved standards of living and progressive development of economies, particularly those of developing countries. However, in the WTO today there is a tendency to forget this important legal instrument which provides for equal treatment of all its Members, developed and developing, thus overlook the evident diversity of opportunities, needs and interests. This situation must be corrected in order to achieve a better balance in the terms of trade and to make effective instruments available to developing economies to support their own efforts to promote export-led earnings growth.

    Paraguay places great importance on defining the work programme of the World Trade Organization on the basis of the Agreements signed in Marrakesh. Accordingly, our country urges developed Members to begin immediately on the preparatory work for the negotiations envisaged in the Agreement on Agriculture. The process of analysis and exchange of information which was agreed in the Committee on Agriculture should begin in 1997, so as to ensure that negotiations are brought to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.

    In the process of liberalization the trade in agricultural products has been unfairly marginalized for more than 40 years and the results achieved so far are inadequate. Therefore, the negotiations should lead to the total elimination or substantial reduction of tariff peaks, export subsidies, domestic support and other barriers which hamper or impede the import of farm goods from developing countries.

    The Government of Paraguay considers that, when the trading environment so requires, the raising of new issues in the WTO should be the result of a process which takes into account the interests of all its Members and does not favour the special interests of some of them. The terms of reference need to be adjusted in the light of the fundamental rule of balance and negotiations must take into account the need for transparency and fairness.

    Our Organization, which originated in a provisional agreement to meet the specific needs of a small number of countries, is today on the way to achieving a universal dimension. For this to become reality, it is essential that we act universally and avoid the tendency to use the WTO as an instrument to satisfy particular interests to the detriment of those that are universal.

    Today, more than ever, the security of the world depends on the ability of the international community to find ways of satisfying the development needs of all its members, without exception. To this end, we must work together to realize the objectives set out in the Ministerial Declaration of Marrakesh, to achieve a multilateral trade system which is fairer and more open, for the benefit and welfare of our peoples.