18 December 1996
Singapore Ministerial Declaration
Adopted on 13 December 1996
> Role of WTO
> Reg. agreements
> Developing countries
> Work programme > Invest./competition
> Govt. procurement
> Trade facilitation
1. We, the Ministers, have met in Singapore from 9 to 13 December 1996 for the first regular biennial meeting of the WTO at Ministerial level, as called for in Article IV of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, to further strengthen the WTO as a forum for negotiation, the continuing liberalization of trade within a rule-based system, and the multilateral review and assessment of trade policies, and in particular to:
- assess the implementation of our commitments under the WTO Agreements and decisions;
- review the ongoing negotiations and Work Programme;
- examine developments in world trade; and
- address the
challenges of an evolving world economy.
Trade and Economic Growthback to top
2. For nearly
50 years Members have sought to fulfil, first in the GATT and now in the WTO, the
objectives reflected in the preamble to the WTO Agreement of conducting our trade
relations with a view to raising standards of living worldwide. The rise in global trade
facilitated by trade liberalization within the rules-based system has created more and
better-paid jobs in many countries. The achievements of the WTO during its first two years
bear witness to our desire to work together to make the most of the possibilities that the
multilateral system provides to promote sustainable growth and development while
contributing to a more stable and secure climate in international relations.
3. We believe
that the scope and pace of change in the international economy, including the growth in
trade in services and direct investment, and the increasing integration of economies offer
unprecedented opportunities for improved growth, job creation, and development. These
developments require adjustment by economies and societies. They also pose challenges to
the trading system. We commit ourselves to address these challenges.
4. We renew
our commitment to the observance of internationally recognized core labour standards. The
International Labour Organization (ILO) is the competent body to set and deal with these
standards, and we affirm our support for its work in promoting them. We believe that
economic growth and development fostered by increased trade and further trade
liberalization contribute to the promotion of these standards. We reject the use of labour
standards for protectionist purposes, and agree that the comparative advantage of
countries, particularly low-wage developing countries, must in no way be put into
question. In this regard, we note that the WTO and ILO Secretariats will continue their
5. We commit
ourselves to address the problem of marginalization for least-developed countries, and the
risk of it for certain developing countries. We will also continue to work for greater
coherence in international economic policy-making and for improved coordination between
the WTO and other agencies in providing technical assistance.
6. In pursuit of the goal of sustainable growth and development for the common good, we envisage a world where trade flows freely. To this end we renew our commitment to:
- a fair, equitable and more openrule-based system;
- progressive liberalization and elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods;
- progressive liberalization of trade in services;
- rejection of all forms of protectionism;
- elimination of discriminatory treatment in international trade relations;
- integration of developing and least-developed countries and economies in transition into the multilateral system; and
- the maximum
possible level of transparency.
Regional Agreementsback to top
7. We note
that trade relations of WTO Members are being increasingly influenced by regional trade
agreements, which have expanded vastly in number, scope and coverage. Such initiatives can
promote further liberalization and may assist least-developed, developing and transition
economies in integrating into the international trading system. In this context, we note
the importance of existing regional arrangements involving developing and least-developed
countries. The expansion and extent of regional trade agreements make it important to
analyse whether the system of WTO rights and obligations as it relates to regional trade
agreements needs to be further clarified. We reaffirm the primacy of the multilateral
trading system, which includes a framework for the development of regional trade
agreements, and we renew our commitment to ensure that regional trade agreements are
complementary to it and consistent with its rules. In this regard, we welcome the
establishment and endorse the work of the new Committee on Regional Trade Agreements. We
shall continue to work through progressive liberalization in the WTO as we are committed
in the WTO Agreement and Decisions adopted at Marrakesh, and in so doing facilitate
mutually supportive processes of global and regional trade liberalization.
8. It is
important that the 28 applicants now negotiating accession contribute to completing the
accession process by accepting the WTO rules and by offering meaningful market access
commitments. We will work to bring these applicants expeditiously into the WTO system.
Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) offers a means for the settlement of disputes among
Members that is unique in international agreements. We consider its impartial and
transparent operation to be of fundamental importance in assuring the resolution of trade
disputes, and in fostering the implementation and application of the WTO agreements. The
Understanding, with its predictable procedures, including the possibility of appeal of
panel decisions to an Appellate Body and provisions on implementation of recommendations,
has improved Members' means of resolving their differences. We believe that the DSU has
worked effectively during its first two years. We also note the role that severalWTO bodies have played in helping to avoid
disputes. We renew our determinationto abide
by the rules and procedures of the DSU and other WTO agreements in the conduct of our
trade relations and the settlement of disputes. We are confident that longer experience
with the DSU, including the implementation of panel and appellate recommendations, will
further enhance the effectiveness and credibility ofthe
dispute settlement system.
10. We attach
high priority to full and effective implementation of the WTO Agreement in a manner
consistent with the goal of trade liberalization. Implementation thus far has been
generally satisfactory, although some Members have expressed dissatisfaction with certain
aspects. It is clear that further effort in this area is required, as indicated by the
relevant WTO bodies in their reports. Implementation of the specific commitments scheduled
by Members with respect to market access in industrial goods and trade in services appears
to be proceeding smoothly. With respect to industrial market access, monitoring of
implementation would be enhanced by the timely availability of trade and tariff data.
Progress has been made also in advancing the WTO reform programme in agriculture,
including in implementation of agreed market access concessions and domestic subsidy and
export subsidy commitments.
11. Compliance with notification requirements has not been fully satisfactory. Because the WTO system relies on mutual monitoring as a means to assess implementation, those Members which have not submitted notifications in a timely manner, or whose notifications are not complete, should renew their efforts. At the same time, the relevant bodies should take appropriate steps to promote full compliance while considering practical proposals for simplifying the notification process.
legislation is needed to implement WTO rules, Members are mindful of their obligations to
complete their domestic legislative process without further delay. Those Members entitled
to transition periods are urged to take steps as they deem necessary to ensure timely
implementation of obligations as they come into effect. Each Member should carefully
review all its existing or proposed legislation, programmes and measures to ensure their
full compatibility with the WTO obligations, and should carefully consider points made
during review in the relevant WTO bodies regarding the WTO consistency of legislation,
programmes and measures, and make appropriate changes where necessary.
Developing Countriesback to top
integration of developing countries in the multilateral trading system is important for
their economic development and for global trade expansion. In this connection, we recall
that the WTO Agreement embodies provisions conferring differential and more favourable
treatment for developing countries, including special attention to the particular
situation of least-developed countries. We acknowledge the fact that developing country
Members have undertaken significant new commitments, both substantive and procedural, and
we recognize the range and complexity of the efforts that they are making to comply with
them. In order to assist them in these efforts, including those with respect to
notification and legislative requirements, we will improve the availability of technical
assistance under the agreed guidelines. We have also agreed to recommendations relative to
the decision we took at Marrakesh concerning the possible negative effects of the
agricultural reform programme on least-developed and net food-importing developing
14. We remain concerned by the problems of the least-developed countries and have agreed to:
- a Plan of Action, including provision for taking positive measures, for example duty-free access, on an autonomous basis, aimed at improving their overall capacity to respond to the opportunities offered by the trading system;
- seek to give operational content to the Plan of Action, for example, by enhancing conditions for investment and providing predictable and favourable market access conditions for LLDCs' products, to foster the expansion and diversification of their exports to the markets of all developed countries; and in the case of relevant developing countries in the context of the Global System of Trade Preferences; and
- organize a
meeting with UNCTAD and the International Trade Centre as soon as possible in 1997, with
the participation of aid agencies, multilateral financial institutions and least-developed
countries to foster an integrated approach to assisting these countries in enhancing their
confirm our commitment to full and faithful implementation of the provisions
Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC). We stress the importance of the
textile products, as provided for in the ATC, into GATT 1994 under its strengthened
and disciplines because of its systemic significance for the rule-based,
non-discriminatory trading system and its contribution to the increase in
of developing countries. We attach importance to the implementation of this
as to ensure an effective transition to GATT 1994 by way of integration which
progressive in character. The use of safeguard measures in accordance with
should be as sparing as possible. We note concerns regarding the use of other
distortive measures and circumvention. We reiterate the importance of fully
the provisions of the ATC relating to small suppliers, new entrants and least-developed
country Members, as well as those relating to cotton-producing exporting
recognize the importance of wool products for some developing country Members.
that as part of the integration process and with reference to the specific
undertaken by the Members as a result of the Uruguay Round, all Members shall
action as may be necessary to abide by GATT 1994 rules and disciplines so
as to achieve
improved market access for textiles and clothing products. We agree that,
keeping in view
its quasi-judicial nature, the Textiles Monitoring Body (TMB) should achieve
in providing rationale for its findings and recommendations. We expect that
the TMB shall
make findings and recommendations whenever called upon to do so under the
emphasize the responsibility of the Goods Council in overseeing, in accordance
Article IV:5 of the WTO Agreement and Article 8 of the ATC, the functioning
of the ATC,
whose implementation is being supervised by the TMB.
Committee on Trade and Environment has made an important contribution towards fulfilling
its Work Programme. The Committee has been examining and will continue to examine, inter
alia, the scope of the complementarities between trade liberalization, economic
development and environmental protection. Full implementation of the WTO Agreements will
make an important contribution to achieving the objectives of sustainable development. The
work of the Committee has underlined the importance of policy coordination at the national
level in the area of trade and environment. In this connection, the work of the Committee
has been enriched by the participation of environmental as well as trade experts from
Member governments and the further participation of such experts in the Committee's
deliberations would be welcomed. The breadth and complexity of the issues covered by the
Committee's Work Programmeshowsthat further work needs to be undertaken on all
items of its agenda, as contained in its report. We intend to build on the work
accomplished thus far, and therefore direct the Committee to carry out its work, reporting
to the General Council, under its existing terms of reference.
17. The fulfilment of the objectives agreed at Marrakesh for negotiations on the improvement of market access in services - in financial services, movement of natural persons, maritime transport services and basic telecommunications - has proved to be difficult. The results have been below expectations. In three areas, it has been necessary to prolong negotiations beyond the original deadlines. We are determined to obtain a progressively higher level of liberalization in services on a mutually advantageous basis with appropriate flexibility for individual developing country Members, as envisaged in the Agreement, in the continuing negotiations and those scheduled to begin no later than 1 January 2000. In this context, we look forward to full MFN agreements based on improved market access commitments and national treatment. Accordingly, we will:
- achieve a successful conclusion to the negotiations on basic telecommunications in February 1997; and
- resume financial services negotiations in April 1997 with the aim of achieving significantly improved market access commitments with a broader level of participation in the agreed time frame.
With the same broad objectives in mind, we also look forward to a successful conclusion of the negotiations on Maritime Transport Services in the next round of negotiations on services liberalization.
professional services, we shall aim at completing the work on the accountancy sector by
the end of 1997, and will continue to develop multilateral disciplines and guidelines. In
this connection, we encourage the successful completion of international standards in the
accountancy sector by IFAC, IASC, and IOSCO. With respect to GATS rules, we shall
undertake the necessary work with a view to completing the negotiations on safeguards by
the end of 1997. We also note that more analytical work will be needed on emergency
safeguards measures, government procurement in services and subsidies.
ITA and Pharmaceuticalsback to top
note that a number of Members have agreed on a Declaration on Trade in Information
Technology Products, we welcome the initiative taken by a number of WTO Members and other
States or separate customs territories which have applied to accede to the WTO, who have
agreed to tariff elimination for trade in information technology products on an MFN basis
as well as the addition by a number of Members of over 400 products to their lists of
tariff-free products in pharmaceuticals.
Work Programme and Built-in Agendaback to top
19. Bearing in mind that an important aspect of WTO activities is a continuous overseeing of the implementation of various agreements, a periodic examination and updating of the WTO Work Programme is a key to enable the WTO to fulfil its objectives. In this context, we endorse the reportsof the various WTO bodies. A major share of the Work Programme stems from the WTO Agreement and decisions adopted at Marrakesh. As part of these Agreements and decisions we agreed to a number of provisions calling for future negotiations on Agriculture, Services and aspects of TRIPS, or reviews and other work on Anti-Dumping,Customs Valuation,Dispute Settlement Understanding, Import Licensing, Preshipment Inspection, Rules of Origin, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures, Safeguards, Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Textiles and Clothing, Trade Policy Review Mechanism, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and Trade-Related Investment Measures.We agree to a process of analysis and exchange of information, where provided for in the conclusions and recommendations of the relevant WTO bodies, on the Built-in Agenda issues, to allow Members to better understand the issues involved and identify their interests before undertaking the agreed negotiations and reviews. We agreethat:
- the time frames established in the Agreements will be respected in each case;
- the work undertaken shall not prejudge the scope of future negotiations where such negotiations are called for; and
- the work
undertaken shall not prejudice the nature of the activity agreed upon (i.e. negotiation or
Investment and Competitionback to top
20. Having regard to the existing WTO provisions on matters related to investment and competition policy and the built-in agenda in these areas, including under the TRIMs Agreement, and on the understanding that the work undertaken shall not prejudge whether negotiations will be initiated in the future, we also agree to:
- establish a working group to examine the relationship between trade and investment; and
- establish a working group to study issues raised by Members relating to the interaction between trade and competition policy, including anti-competitive practices, in order to identify any areas that may merit further consideration in the WTO framework.
shall draw upon each other's work if necessary and also draw upon and be without prejudice
to the work in UNCTAD and other appropriate intergovernmental fora. As regards UNCTAD, we
welcome the work under way as provided for in the Midrand Declaration and the contribution
it can make to the understanding of issues. In the conduct of the work of the working
groups, we encourage cooperation with the above organizations to make the best use of
available resources and to ensure that the development dimension is taken fully into
account. The General Council will keep the work of each body under review, and will
determine after two years how the work of each body should proceed. It is clearly
understood that future negotiations, if any, regarding multilateral disciplines in these
areas, will take place only after an explicit consensus decision is taken among WTO
Members regarding such negotiations.
21. We further agree to:
- establish a working group to conduct a study on transparency in government procurement practices, taking into account national policies, and, based on this study, to develop elements for inclusion in an appropriate agreement; and
- direct the
Council for Trade in Goods to undertake exploratory and analytical work, drawing on the
work of other relevant international organizations, on the simplification of trade
procedures in order to assess the scope for WTO rules in this area.
22. In the organization of the work referred to in paragraphs 20 and 21, careful attention will be given to minimizing the burdens on delegations, especially those with more limited resources, and to coordinating meetings with those of relevant UNCTAD bodies. The technical cooperation programme of the Secretariat will be available to developing and, in particular, least-developed country Members to facilitate their participation in this work.
23. Noting that the 50th anniversary of the multilateral trading system will occur early in 1998, we instruct the General Council to consider how this historic event can best be commemorated.
Finally, we express our warmest thanks to the Chairman of the Ministerial Conference, Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong, for his personal contribution to the success of this Ministerial Conference. We also want to express our sincere gratitude to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, his colleagues in the Government of Singapore and the people of Singapore for their warm hospitality and the excellent organization they have provided. The fact that this first Ministerial Conference of the WTO has been held at Singapore is an additional manifestation of Singapore's commitment to an open world trading system.
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