World Trade    WT/MIN(96)/ST/89

    11 December 1996



    Original: English


Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Statement by H.E. Mr. Davor Stern

Minister of Economy

(Speaking as an Observer)

    Allow me, at the very beginning, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, to express our gratitude for the warm hospitality and excellent organization of this Conference to the Government and people of the Republic of Singapore.

    I would also like to extend our appreciation to the Director-General and to the Secretariat of the WTO for their efforts in preparing this Conference.

    The conclusion of the Uruguay Round has strengthened the multilateral rule-based trading system, institutionalized in the World Trade Organization, which is opening a new perspective for trade to become the main instrument for growth and development on the global scale.

    We believe that international liberalization will no doubt contribute to wide scale economic integration and increase global welfare. Such a new environment assumes even more responsibility for each government to create necessary political and economic conditions for growth and progress.

    However, at the same time, one should be aware that each country needs specific economic and social adjustment, when integrating into the international trading system. Within the WTO, the task of creating new conditions for sustainable development is not an easy one taking into account the difficulties faced by many countries in transition, developing countries and by the least developed countries.

    The Republic of Croatia understands the concerns of many countries when facing new challenges. One of the main challenges and priorities of the Government of Croatia is the process of acceding to World Trade Organization. We started this process in October 1993, by applying to join the GATT system and consequently for membership in the WTO.

    Thus far, Croatia has submitted the Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime, Trade in Services and Intellectual Property Regime. In addition, we have answered over 350 questions from Member countries of the WTO. As a result, the Republic of Croatia is waiting for the second Meeting of the Working Party for our accession to take place in the first quarter of 1997.

    In conjunction with its accession, Croatia intensified the process of legislative adjustment and trade policy according to the rules and agreements of the Uruguay Round. Along these lines, we have liberalized the trade regime, which includes the abolishment of quantitative restrictions and other non-tariff measures. A new tariff law has been recently implemented with an average rate for industrial products of 11 per cent. With regard to services, legislation has been implemented in the banking sector, tourism and the capital market in order to facilitate market access.

    Despite the war, Croatia has maintained a macroeconomic environment with a stable and convertible national currency, annual inflation rate of approximately 3 per cent, constant growth of foreign exchange reserves, and with a private sector accounting for up to 60 per cent of GDP.

    With such an economic environment, accession to the WTO and participation in the international trading system is the next logical step in furthering our growth and development.

    Taking into consideration that 28 countries are currently negotiating accession, we sincerely hope that the accession process will be accelerated so that these countries will become Members prior to the beginning of a new round of multilateral negotiations.

    We are confident that the acceleration and simplification of the accession procedure would generate greater coherency within the WTO and mark a new cornerstone for future liberalization of world trade.

    The Government of Croatia believes that the process of accession is a two-way street. We have no doubts that the new applicants should adhere to all rules and obligations of the WTO legal system. However, each acceding country should be evaluated on an individual basis specific to the level of its economic and social development.

    Although Croatia is not yet Member of the WTO, allow me to say a few words on what we believe that should be the main goal of this highly important gathering. It is our opinion that this Conference should be focused on the further implementation of the existing Agreements from the Uruguay Round, as well as Ministerial decisions from the Marrakesh Conference and eventual modifications for more efficient and meaningful implementation.

    We believe that during our Conference new issues that are of common agreement among all Members should be addressed first in order to gain tangible results, which will strengthen the implementation of existing Agreements and promote a stable foundation for future policies within the World Trade Organization.

    In conclusion, it is our strong belief that this Conference is an important step forward in achieving our common goal of liberalizing and integrating worlds' economies into a global trading system. The results of this Conference will be tangible and successful in fostering global growth and development, on the condition that our goals set here are realistic.

    We are confident that the results of this Conference will be of utmost prosperity and benefit to all countries.