STATEMENT BY ZAMBIAN AMBASSADOR B.M. BOWA TO THE GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING OF 31 OCTOBER, 2001 ON PREPARATIONS FOR THE FOURTH WTO MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE: RESPONSE TO THE DRAFT DECLARATION AND IMPLEMENTATION-RELATED ISSUES AND CONCERNS.
Mr. Chairman, my delegation strongly supports the statement made by the Coordinator of the LDCS.
Zambia, like other LDCS, has been an active WTO Member and we have made every effort to fulfil and implement our obligations and commitments in the hope of gaining a share in the expected benefits of being a part of the multilateral trading system. This is why we are extremely disappointed by the text before us, not just that our participation has so far not yielded any material benefits but indications are that they may never materialise and we will continue to be perpetually marginalised.
Mr. Chairman, as you are aware, we as LDCS, have done everything, despite our limited capacity and resource constraints, to participate constructively in the process of consultations which have taken place concerning the Draft Ministerial Declaration. Our goal has been to highlight some of the serious problems which LDCs are currently facing, with a view to finding workable solutions.
However, as this text clearly shows, our priorities and needs continue to be largely ignored. Let me emphasize that at no time have we tried to place our point of view above others. Rather, we have been asking for a balanced and equitable text which reflects the interests and needs of the range of the membership and not just a few, as is the case with the current draft before us.
Mr. Chairman, the WTO cannot continue to ignore our views if it is genuinely serious about integrating LDCs into the global economy and putting development at the heart of the WTO’s work. This situation should be of great concern for all Members and it requires a strong commitment across the board for urgent action.
Let me now point out some very specific instances: In the text before us what we have been referring to as the new issues, that is, trade and investment, trade and competition, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation and market access for non-agricultural products are presented as items up for negotiation. But as you are aware, Mr. Chairman, this does not reflect the wish of a significant portion of the membership and is therefore highly problematic. Our position on this has been and continues to be clear - we are simply not in a position to undertake new negotiations in these areas.
Similarly, Mr. Chairman, Zambia associated itself with the proposal put forward by Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe calling for withholding negotiations on industrial tariffs pending a study process, in light of the negative experiences of a range of developing countries in this area so far. Therefore, the option put forward by LDCs and many developing countries to continue or conduct a focussed study process without any commitment to launch negotiations at a later date is a serious one and needs to be included in the draft and then put to the Ministers in Doha for a final decision. To leave out this option would not be an accurate reflection of the positions of the wider membership.
Turning now to the sections on LDCS, technical cooperation and capacity building: at a minimum we would have expected that they would reflect our needs and priorities. Instead, whilst the sections have been physically expanded they do not incorporate our views and are largely ‘empty’ in terms of what they can deliver as tangible benefits to LDCS.
There are many other important elements missing from this section, including:
· the need to build institutional capacity across the national policy framework amongst the spectrum of stakeholders;
· the need to have a consultative/participatory process whereby beneficiaries themselves have input into the design of such programmes, and hence a sense of ownership;
· the need to provide assistance in identifying problems with existing agreements where they act as barriers to economic development and framing solutions accordingly, and to analyse implications of future agreements;
· addressing supply side constraints;
· enhancing participation in rule and decision making and agenda setting in the WTO;
· and assistance should be timely and relate to the length of transition periods for capacity building before obligations become binding.
· In addition, mention of the importance of regular monitoring and evaluation to ensure effectiveness is also missing.
And yet Ministers are asked to endorse the Technical Assistance Strategy.
And although commitment is made to provide duty-free and quota free market access for LDC products, it remains an unbound commitment. Our position has been that bound market access is crucial and that it should be accompanied by simplified Rules of Origin and addressing other NTBs (non tariff barriers) which impede LDC exports—in order to make any such market access meaningful.
Importantly, there needs to be mention of the need for LDCs to have the necessary flexibility in implementation of obligations and policy space for development - something we have been calling for in light of our experiences with liberalisation so far. This includes not expecting reciprocity from LDCs for commitments made by developed countries. Nor should LDCs be required to make commitments inconsistent with their development needs.
The issue of LDC accessions has been outstanding for sometime and requires urgent attention - a commitment to fast track accession countries by the fifth Ministerial would go a long way and there must be recognition that the concessions and commitments made by LDCs will be consistent with their development needs and institutional capacity.
The above points are of crucial importance to us and to the future of the WTO as a fair and equitable rules based system. If our message has fallen on deaf ears up until now, we hope we are loud and clear at this critical juncture. In view of the time constraints to allow changes to be made to the current draft Ministerial Declaration to incorporate our views, we request that the statement by the LDC and African Coordinators, be transmitted to the Fourth Session of the Ministerial Conference.