World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/77

    11 December 1996




Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by Mr. Mikhail Marinich

Minister of Foreign Economic Relations

(Speaking as an Observer)

    The delegation of the Republic of Belarus is grateful to you for this opportunity to participate in the WTO Conference, so graciously organized by Singapore. For us, economies in transition, waiting to join your Organization, this forum provides a more profound understanding of the multilateral system of trade and economic relations, regulated by the World Trade Organization.

    The Republic of Belarus is a young independent State that gained its sovereignty in July 1991, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It is situated between Poland, Russia, the Ukraine and the Baltic States. Shortly after the declaration of independence we stated our intent to join the World Trade Organization. Our intent is supported by consistent policies aimed at liberalization of foreign economic activities. As of today, our country has laid its basic legislative foundation in the sphere of foreign trade, adopted laws necessary for regulation of foreign economic activities. These laws have been formulated in accordance with international standards and provide for faster development of foreign trade and inflow of foreign investments,

    We are currently creating a national export control system intended to strengthen international security and to prevent proliferation of mass destruction weapons. The Belarussian Government also attaches great importance to bilateral and multilateral agreements on trade and economic cooperation, avoidance of double taxation, protection of investments, which is another illustration of our aim of integration into the world trade system and observance of WTO principles.

    To put it in a more general vein, the transition from the former system of central planning to a market economy has been the yardstick of Belarus' economic policy. Yet, on this road, we have been coming across a number of obstacles, not to be overcome in an hour.

    The system of trade and payments of the ex-USSR had broken up, and many enterprises practically lost their markets and suppliers of raw materials. Consequently, we had to reform the economy and, simultaneously, work out the legislative system and its basic institutions from scratch.

    Most unfortunately, at the same very time, economies in transition, including the Republic of Belarus, found themselves under pressure of the Uruguay Round's results, which set still more rigid criteria, namely WTO rules and regulations, for new independent States. All of them, including Belarus, feel this pressure in the process of long and dreary negotiations on accession to WTO.

    Since WTO is a universal negotiational forum set up to regulate multilateral world trade, nowadays it should be adapted to solving the problems of development as much as possible. Economies in transition, we believe, should be regarded in this very context. What we need is concrete help, individual approach to every economy in transition, because such a small country as Belarus, not rich at all in resources, can take its historic chance of dynamic growth and development primarily by means of trade. Naturally, full-fledged de jure participation in the international trade system, fathered by WTO, might considerably ease the way to economic growth of these nations. We do not ask for much: simply a more flexible, less strict accession procedures.

    We believe that WTO is the right organization which could assist economies in transition, including Belarus, in quicker articulation of such countries in the world system of international trade. This is not a request for privileges and preferences. This is an appeal to understanding of our objective situation.

    The President and the Government of Belarus are currently conducting systemic reforms. Some political groups in Belarus, including communists, do not approve of these measures. The recent nationwide referendum has reflected people's support of the policy led by the President and the Government. The plebescite has been participated by 84 per cent of the population. More than 80 per cent of them have voiced their support of the President. The nation has upheld the policy aimed at acceleration of reforms, consolidation of the Customs Union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Kirghiztan, strengthening of trade and economic relations with our neighbours: the Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and other countries. Belarus wants peace and mutual understanding. We have no nationality-related problems in our country. Yet we do have economic problems that are difficult to tackle because of the need to implement the Chernobyl relief programme. Ten years ago a tragic accident happened at the Chernobyl power plant, which is situated on the territory of the Ukraine. As a result, more than 70 per cent of the entire radioactive fallout went to the territory of Belarus. It keeps having its severe impact not only on the moral and psychological situation, but on the economy as well.

    Over the recent period, the Belarus Government has been allocating some 20 per cent of the State budget for the relief measures, like housing of the affected population in intact regions, medical care, remediation of territories, etc. We believe that these facts should be remembered when one regards Belarus.

    There is still one more important thing I would like to single out: there can be no recourse to the communist past in my country. Belarussians are full of enthusiasm to protect their country's sovereignty and erect an independent State, named the Republic of Belarus.

    This is why countries like Belarus are not after any kind of privileges or preferences. We simply need equal conditions of access to world markets, according to common rules of the World Trade Organization, without discrimination or restrictions.

    I am referring to these points because Belarus has already faced point blank the problem of anti-dumping set against its two basic export products: potash fertilizers and chemical fibres. The methods of anti-dumping dispute settlements used by EU executive bodies arbitrarily label Belarus and other new independent States as countries with state-owned trade and "non-market" economy (despite the free market developments in Belarus and even the large-scale agreement, concluded between the Republic of Belarus and EU in 1995, which stipulated the transitional status of Belarus).

    No one wishes to find out why it happened. Can a new, fledgling independent country, not yet existing on some maps, but already with existing anti-dumping sanctions, be blamed?

    Did it have necessary facilities to regulate foreign trade operations? Evidently not. Unfortunately, the objective as well as the historical factor, which accompanies the creation of a new country is disregarded. Consequently, the Republic of Belarus is deprived of the European market to sell its exportable products.

    Naturally, this is a severe blow for the still maturing economy of Belarus. It in no way consolidates its independence and sovereignty. It simply pulls a trump for political groups in the country which oppose the reforms.

    We request the European Union, WTO, to restore justice in relation to Belarus and to expedite cancellation of restrictions imposed by the European Union on trading in potash fertilizers and chemical fibres.

    In conclusion, I would like to confirm that the Republic of Belarus submitted its Memorandum of Accession to WTO in December 1995 with only one intention - to join WTO and work in accordance with the common rules of trade, on just conditions, with considerations given to specific features of different countries (regions), participating in international trade. We hope that the declaration to be adopted will take note of the requests coming from non-member countries.