> Press release: The trade regime has improved but greater predictability is needed
1. This third Trade Policy Review of Bolivia has contributed to an improved understanding of Bolivia's trade and related policies, as well as of the challenges it faces. The Country and Secretariat Reports, the exchanges between Members during the review, and the written responses provided by Bolivia to questions by Members have added to the transparency that is sought within the WTO, provided valuable resource materials for all Members, and offered useful insights for policy formulation in Bolivia. The participation of Vice-Minister Asín, Ambassador Moscoso and their delegation greatly contributed to our work, for which we express our sincere thanks. Our thanks are also due to our discussant, Ambassador Hugueney, for his insightful contribution to our discussions, and to the many Members who have intervened to contribute to the success of this review.
2. Members welcomed Bolivia's recent export-driven growth but were troubled by the stagnation of per capita income since its previous Review in 1999. Moreover, although dynamic, exports were still concentrated in a handful of products and markets. Several Members considered that Bolivia's landlocked situation created significant constraints to development and trade but it was also suggested that there were ways in which these constraints could be eased. Thus, Bolivia was encouraged to increase investment in infrastructure and in human capital. It was also invited to promote competition, including through the adoption of a comprehensive competition law.
3. Members noted Bolivia's political and social instability in recent years. Against the background of already falling foreign investment, they expressed concerns over the uncertainty introduced by the adoption of the new Hydrocarbons Law, and its effects on both domestic and foreign investment. In this connection, Bolivia could provide greater predictability to its investment regime by anchoring it externally through multilateral commitments. In particular, some Members invited Bolivia to make further GATS commitments in specific areas, which currently fall far short of the actual level of liberalization of Bolivia's services sector.
4. Members commended Bolivia for its strong commitment to trade liberalization despite the difficulties it experienced during the period under review. In the long term, this commitment will place Bolivia in a good position to reap the benefits of increased trade and economic growth. Members also praised Bolivia for its active participation in the WTO including in the DDA. Members noted Bolivia's participation in a number of preferential trade agreements, and highlighted the importance of ensuring that these agreements complement the multilateral trading system.
5. There was general praise for Bolivia's efforts to modernize and simplify its trade regime, which was considered on the whole open. Members welcomed Bolivia's efforts to facilitate trade although they also mentioned that customs procedures could be further streamlined. In addition, Bolivia was invited to reduce the gap between applied and bound tariffs. One Member suggested that Bolivia take steps to reduce informal trade, while some others invited it to ensure that SPS measures do not impose unnecessary barriers to trade. Members welcomed Bolivia's efforts to improve IPR protection and encouraged it to complete the process initiated in 2001 to adopt a new law.
6. This brings us to the conclusion of Bolivia's third Trade Policy Review. I thank the Bolivian delegation for the responses provided during the meeting and look forward to receiving answers on outstanding questions. I welcome Bolivia's stated conviction that an open trade and investment regime contributes to economic development and poverty alleviation. This outward orientation together with a coherent approach to address internal problems will be critical for Bolivia to achieve faster, sustainable growth. The external environment is important as well. In this respect, I invite Members to address the trade barriers that affect Bolivia's trade. I also urge Bolivia to enhance its multilateral commitments in the context of the DDA both to help strengthen the multilateral trading system and to provide its trade regime with greater predictability.