28 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/EF/3321

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

27th Meeting (AM)


Speakers Underline Vital Need to Conclude Doha Talks as Second Committee Concludes


General Discussion on International Trade, Commodities

 


Emphasizing the vital importance of international trade to the growth and development of least developed countries, delegates in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) underlined today the urgent need to successfully conclude a development-oriented outcome to the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations.


As the Committee continued its discussion of international trade and commodities, Pakistan’s representative described the continuing impasse in the negotiations as a major setback, saying there was “no reason not to unleash the development potential of trade”.  It was essential to move quickly to address the deadlock, he said, warning that failure to conclude the Doha Development Round would weaken the WTO and multilateralism, in addition to further distorting the global trading system.


Agreeing on the importance of trade to developing countries, an official representing the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the integration of developing economies was crucial to development, but cautioned against “one-size-fits-all” free-trade policies.  How fast and how far to reduce protection and policy space for the preservation of infant industries was up to least developed countries, she added, emphasizing that openings in trade must be complemented by properly designed domestic policies.  She also stressed the potential benefits of free trade in boosting employment, saying that open markets could promote greater efficiency and help to develop and spread technological progress.  The long-term gains in efficiency would have positive long-term effects on employment.


Syria’s representative took up the issue of the impact of unilateral economic measures, saying they were neither moral nor legal.  They bred mistrust and made it difficult to maintain a multilateral system in which everyone could participate.  Such measures were arbitrary and exerted political pressure affecting the independence of States, he said.  Underlining the importance of putting an immediate end to unilateral measures and the incitement of other States to follow suit, he urged respect for the sovereignty of States.


Taking up the subject of commodities, the observer for the Common Fund for Commodities called for steps to address the vulnerability of commodity-dependent developing countries, saying that dependence was a symptom of the failure of efforts to launch sustained and diversified economic growth.  Such countries needed practical innovation and the replication of successes to break the circle of commodity dependence, he added.


Representatives of Mexico and Mozambique also delivered statements, as did the Permanent Observer of the Holy See and an official representing the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 31 October, to take up several topics under its agenda item on sustainable development.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its consideration of international trade and development and the issue of commodities under its agenda item “Macroeconomic policy questions”.  For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3320.


Statements


AHMAD NASEEM WARRAICH (Pakistan), underlining the urgent need to successfully conclude the Doha World Trade Organization negotiations, said the continuing impasse was a major setback, particularly for developing countries, and particularly as there was “no reason not to unleash the development potential of trade”.  It was essential to move quickly to address the deadlock through key measures such as liberalizing the agriculture sector, enhancing market access and eliminating non-tariff and market-access barriers, he said.  The application of special and differential treatment for developing countries and a development-oriented Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regime were also of key importance to a development-oriented Doha Round outcome.


He went on to emphasize that it was also essential to avoid protectionist measures, warning that any failure to conclude the Doha Development Round would not only weaken the WTO and multilateralism, but also further distort the global trading system.  Agreeing that commodity-market volatility could have negative implications for development if not properly managed, he stressed the need to look at the commodities agenda from a poverty-reduction and development perspective.  He also underlined the need for sustained investment in commodities production, particularly in agriculture, as a means to address price volatility resulting from imbalances in supply and demand.


RABEE JAWHARA ( Syria), noting that reform of international trade had been undertaken to establish a multilateral system that would not discriminate, emphasized the importance of speeding up the adhesion of all countries to WTO rules by eliminating all barriers to compliance.  Syria was aware of the impact of unilateral economic measures, he said, adding that he had sent a letter to the President of the General Assembly outlining their negative effects on his country’s economy, trade, financial and banking sectors.


Unilateral measures had affected Syrian lives, prosperity and living standards, he said, describing them as neither moral nor legal.  They were disrespectful of national authority and created a feeling of mistrust because they were unilateral.  The measures were making it difficult to maintain a multilateral system in which everyone could participate.  Arbitrary in nature, they exerted political pressure that affected the independence of States, he said, underlining the importance of putting an immediate end to such measures and stopping the incitement of other States to follow suit.  Syria urged respect for the sovereignty of States, he added.


FRANCIS ASSISI CHULLIKATT, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, recalled the pledges made at the 2009 G-20  Summit in Pittsburgh, saying that not only had there been no progress or follow-through on commitments to prevent a re-emergence of protectionism and conclude the Doha Round before the end of 2010, but the prospects for reform looked more remote than ever.  Despite the current economic difficulties, it was important to remember what even a modest lowering of protective tariffs on certain agricultural products could mean for the livelihoods of so many small farmers in developing countries.  Agriculture was important because of the large number of the world’s poor who lived in rural areas and because most trade-protection measures were applied to agricultural production in developed countries, he said, calling for “pro-poor” outcomes to new trading agreements and Aid-for-Trade initiatives.  The Holy See’s concern over inequities in global trade rested on moral foundations, he emphasized.


SARA LUNA (Mexico), expressing concern about the high prices of commodities and their impact on the recovery from the global financial and economic crisis, said world economic trends varied significantly, caused by an increase in demand for products from emerging economies, the recession in developed countries, rising unemployment and climate change.  Taking into account the increasing financial speculation on the food markets, Mexico agreed with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China on the need to create a forum for the exchange of views and recommendations on reducing price volatility, she said.


She went on to say that her country favoured a multilateral trade system that was fair to all, and supported the United Nations development assistance system, which was based on helping least developed countries.  Expressing concern over the fragile and unequal global economic recovery, she said international trade was one of the strategic instruments of development, and called for a constructive conclusion of the Doha Round.  Hoping for an inclusive global economic system that would integrate social and environmental issues, she emphasized the need to strengthen North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, not just to benefit developed countries, but also developing and least developed ones.


ANTÓNIO GUMENDE ( Mozambique), associating himself with the Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of 77 and China, said that disruptions in global market activities had had a substantial and negative impact on his country’s economy.  Mozambique’s concentration on a few commodities had made the country vulnerable to the volatility of the global economy, he said, stressing the importance of developing regional and international partnerships.  He outlined developments in Mozambique in the last couple of years before the financial and economic crisis.


He went on to note that his country now faced an array of challenges, such as limited access to markets and rising production costs.  He stressed the importance of infrastructure, saying it was vital for developing the national economy and trade system.  Emphasizing the need for Aid-for-Trade initiatives to strengthen production, thus bolstering growth, he said it would also help in tackling supply constraints.  Mozambique called for an effective resolution of the Doha Round, he said, underlining the need for full engagement by all stakeholders to ensure that all countries could participate fully in the global economy and have a fair share of international trade.


ALI MCHUMO, Common Fund for Commodities, stressed that commodity-dependent countries must not wait to take advantage of the opportunities emerging in commodity markets.  Context-specific, targeted actions such as keeping operations as close to the primary producers as possible while leaving the door open for the private sector could help unlock such opportunities, he said.


Emphasizing the necessity of addressing the commodity-related vulnerability of developing countries, he said dependence on commodities was a symptom of a failure to launch sustained and diversified economic growth.  It was a particular concern that rising income inequality in countries enjoying commodity-driven growth had led to social inequity and a lack of opportunities for the poor, he said.


Removing such countries from the circle of commodity dependence called for practical innovation and the replication of success, he continued.  Raising agricultural productivity through technology and the effective use of water and other resources would improve market linkages, as would measures to transfer risk and reduce vulnerability.  A more focused mandate and greater efficiency in operations and governance would continue to help commodity-dependent countries take advantage of the growth opportunities offered by global commodity markets, he said.


AMBER BARTH, observer for the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that despite the recovery, employment figures remained disappointing around the world.  Open markets could free countries from the constraints of their local economies, promote greater efficiency and help to develop and spread technological progress, which were key elements in establishing long-term gains.  However, liberalization also caused restructuring, which could lead to company closures and job losses.  That meant liberalization could create as well as destroy jobs, she said.


Long-term efficiency gains were expected to lead to positive overall employment effects, with more jobs and higher wages, she said, adding that labour and social policies should be applied to help keep gains equitable.  Urging a “fresh look” at trade policy in least developed countries, from a development perspective, she said that integrating their economies was crucial to development, but cautioned against “one-size-fits-all” free-trade policies.  It was the choice of least developed countries how fast and how far to reduce protection and policy space for the preservation of infant industries, she said, emphasizing that openings in trade must be complemented by properly designed domestic policies.


RALF BREDEL, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said international trade had become an indispensable engine of growth in the modern globalized economy.  The effective integration of small domestic economies into regional and global markets was needed to increase demand for goods, create jobs and generate income in order to reduce poverty and inequality.  Developing countries needed to build competitive supply capacities to produce and trade, he said, adding that the application of preferential tariffs were not enough.


He went on to emphasize that the United Nations had an important role to play in ensuring that Member States could meet their trade challenges, he said.  Building trade capacity with the aim of helping developing countries and transitional economies increase and diversify their exports was one of the cornerstones of UNIDO’s work, he said, adding that as a committed partner, the agency was committed to implementing the “Enhanced Integrated Framework” and to participating actively in the coordination of collective efforts, especially at the country level.


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