United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

6 September 1996



General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Item 96 (c) of the provisional agenda*

*    A/51/150.


           Strengthening international organizations in the area of
                              multilateral trade

                        Report of the Secretary-General

                               I.  INTRODUCTION

1.   In its resolution 49/97 of 19 December 1994, the General Assembly
recalled its resolutions 45/201 of 21 December 1990, 46/207 of 20
December 1991, 47/184 of 22 December 1992 and 48/54 of 10 December
1993, took note of the report of the Secretary-General on the
institutional developments related to the strengthening of
international organizations in the area of multilateral trade
(A/49/363) and recognized that there should be constructive and
effective cooperation between the United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), based
on their complementary functions.  It requested the Secretary-General
to report to the Assembly at its fifty-first session on further
institutional developments related to the strengthening of
international organizations in the area of multilateral trade and, in
preparing that report, to solicit the views of all Governments,
competent regional economic integration organizations and the
executive heads of the competent specialized agencies and of other
organizations and programmes of the United Nations system on this

2.   The present report 1/ was prepared in accordance with resolution
49/97 and highlights the following relevant institutional

     (a) A global arrangement for cooperation between the secretariats
of the United Nations and WTO through an exchange of letters signed by
the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General
of WTO on 29 September 1995;

     (b) Activities towards establishing specific arrangements for
cooperation between UNCTAD and WTO; 

     (c) Relevant results of the ninth session of the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development, held at Midrand, South Africa,
from 27 April to 11 May 1996;

     (d) Other institutional developments that may be pertinent in
accordance with resolution 49/97. 

                   TRADE ORGANIZATION

3.   On 29 September 1995, an exchange of identical letters between the
Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of
WTO established a global arrangement for cooperation between the two
organizations.  This arrangement was preceded by the consultations
held within the framework of General Assembly resolution 49/97 and the
decision of 3 April 1995 of the General Council of WTO, which mandated
the Director-General of WTO to conclude such global arrangement based
on the previous United Nations/General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(GATT) relationship.

4.   The above global arrangement contains the following main elements:

     (a) The recognition of the importance of achieving effective
cooperation between the United Nations and WTO, consistent with the
respective status and mandates of the two organizations and the
contractual nature of WTO.  Taking into account the experience in the
relations between the United Nations and GATT, the conclusion was
reached that a flexible framework for cooperation was the most
desirable course of action, liable to further review and adaptation in
the light of developments and emerging requirements;

     (b) The agreement, in the light of the above, that the
arrangements and practices described in the General Assembly document
of 9 March 1976 2/ in respect of the United Nations/GATT relationship
provided a suitable basis to continue to guide relations between the
United Nations and WTO.  These relations will thus include: 

     (i) The provision and exchange of relevant information; 

    (ii)       Reciprocal representation in accordance with the
               decisions of the competent bodies of the respective

   (iii)       Participation of WTO in the Administrative Committee on
               Coordination and its subsidiary bodies; 

    (iv)       Cooperation between secretariats, including in the
               statistical area, and administrative matters;

     (c) The conclusion that specific arrangements for cooperation
between UNCTAD and WTO, in accordance with the relevant decisions of
the General Council of WTO, will be pursued by the two secretariats
within the overall framework set out above, and in the light of
relevant decisions of the Trade and Development Board, as well as
General Assembly resolution 49/97;   

     (d) The agreement to recommend to the responsible
intergovernmental organs that present arrangements governing the
status of the International Trade Centre as a joint body be confirmed
and renewed with WTO, subject to revised budgetary arrangements as
called for by the General Council of WTO.


5.   A new and expanded cooperation between UNCTAD and WTO is under way
in the framework of the above global arrangement for relations between
the United Nations and WTO.  Such cooperation is based, as recognized
in General Assembly resolution 49/97, on their complementary
functions.  This complementarity has been particularly emphasized in
the final document of the ninth session of the Conference, entitled "A
Partnership for Growth and Development", which underscored that
"UNCTAD, having a clear comparative advantage in tackling trade-
related development issues, should continue to facilitate the
integration of developing countries and countries in transition into
the international trading system in a complementary manner with WTO
and to promote development through trade and investment in cooperation
and coordination with ITC, relevant institutions of the United Nations
system and other international organizations." 3/

6.   In January 1996, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD and the
Director-General of WTO agreed:  (a) to hold meetings, chaired jointly
by them, every six months; (b) to improve the working relationship
between the two organizations at all levels in such areas as research,
trade and investment, trade and competition, trade and environment,
and trade and development; and (c) to work for greater complementarity
in technical cooperation - not only between UNCTAD, WTO and the
International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC), but also with other
agencies, whether in the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods
institutions or regional bodies - in order to improve coordination
across the board and to make better use of resources.  They also
stressed their complete agreement on the high priority that must be
given to Africa in the cooperative work of the two organizations.  In
this context, particular attention was given to the implementation of
a joint UNCTAD/WTO/ITC technical cooperation programme for Africa.  It
was also agreed that UNCTAD and WTO would prepare a first ever joint
study on "Strengthening the Participation of Developing Countries in
the World Trade and the Multilateral Trading System", to be submitted
to the Conference at its ninth session. 4/

7.   The seventh (special) meeting of the WTO Committee on Trade and
Development, held on 18 June 1996, was devoted to trade and
development activities of UNCTAD in the light of the results of the
ninth session of the Conference, with the participation of the
Director-General of WTO, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD and the
Executive Director of ITC.  Apart from considering substantive issues
related to the integration and more active participation of developing
countries in the multilateral trading system, this meeting also
demonstrated the strong will of the above organizations for joint
cooperation and a tangible manifestation of complementarity among
them.  The delegations representing WTO members generally welcomed
these developments and emphasized clear demarcation of mandates among
UNCTAD and WTO, the need for building synergies among them,
particularly focusing on problems of the least developed and other
disadvantaged countries and alleviating their marginalization in the
world economy and international trade. 

8.   In June 1996, during their second regular meeting, the executive
heads of UNCTAD and WTO discussed the implementation of the
collaboration on technical cooperation and the possibility of
enlarging this collaboration to other institutions like the Common
Fund for Commodities.  It was also agreed to collaborate in the
implementation of the mandate given by the Conference at its ninth
session, especially in the fields of investment and environment, where
the contribution of UNCTAD could be of particular relevance.  The
participation of the Director-General of WTO in the ninth session of
the Conference was deemed as a concrete expression of the evolving
cooperation between the two organizations. In this context, it was
also agreed that the Director-General of WTO would address the UNCTAD
Trade and Development Board at its next regular session in October
1996. 5/

9.   Specifically, the evolving cooperation between UNCTAD and WTO at
the working level of both secretariats is covering (a) the
implications of the Uruguay Round agreements, particularly as regards
new trading opportunities for developing countries and countries in
transition arising from the implementation process; (b) specific
problems and challenges faced by the least developed and
net-food-importing developing countries; (c) trade in services; (d)
trade and environment; (e) new and emerging issues on the
international trade agenda, in particular trade and investment; (f)
technical cooperation to increase institutional capacities of
developing countries on trade policy issues; and (g) joint
responsibility for the operation of ITC.  


                           A.  Substantive mandates

10.  At the ninth session of the Conference, member States decided that
the main role of UNCTAD in the field of trade in goods and services
should be to help maximize the positive impact of globalization and
liberalization on sustainable development by assisting in the
effective integration of developing countries, particularly the least
developed countries and certain developing countries with structurally
weak and vulnerable economies, into the international trading system
so as to promote their development.  Specific interests of the
economies in transition should also be taken into account.  This work,
which should be undertaken in cooperation with WTO and other relevant
international organizations, will, in particular, focus on: 

     (a) Enabling these countries to respond to the opportunities
arising from the Uruguay Round agreements so as to derive maximum
available benefit by:

     (i) Analysing the impact of the agreements on development; 

    (ii)       Enhancing national capacities, in terms of human
               resources and administrative infrastructures, to enable
               WTO members to adjust effectively to meet their
               obligations and to take advantage of their rights; 

   (iii)       Assisting countries in the process of accession to WTO,
               including by helping them to enhance their understanding
               of WTO rights and obligations, as well as improving the
               transparency of their trade regimes; 

    (iv)       Identifying impediments to trading success, including
               barriers to export expansion and diversification; 

     (v)       Providing a forum for examination of issues related to
               trade preferences, including exploring opportunities
               for maximizing their utilization; 

    (vi)       Facilitating the understanding of the multilateral
               trading system by analysing, from a development
               perspective, issues on the international trade agenda, as
               identified by the Conference or the Trade and Development
               Board, including new and emerging issues; 

   (vii)       Assisting developing countries, in collaboration with the
               World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and WTO,
               to identify opportunities provided by the Agreement on
               Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights,
               including for attracting investment and new technologies;
  (viii)       Contributing, as appropriate, to the work of relevant
               international organizations in the implementation of the
               Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Measures in Favour of
               the Least Developed Countries by assisting the least
               developed countries that are WTO members to take maximum
               advantage of the special and differential measures
               provided for in the Uruguay Round Agreements;

    (ix)       Within the framework of its programme of cooperation with
               WTO, providing analytical information relating to the
               Ministerial Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible
               Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least
               Developed Countries and Net Food-Importing Countries;

     (b) Assisting developing countries to strengthen their capacities
in the services sector, as well as to identify export opportunities by
undertaking directly related sectoral analysis;

     (c) Promoting the integration of trade, environment and
development and continuing the special role of UNCTAD in this field,
in accordance with General Assembly resolution 50/95 of
20 December 1995, paragraph 27, by examining trade and environment
issues, from a development perspective, in close cooperation with the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WTO and as task
manager for the Commission on Sustainable Development by undertaking
the work that the fourth session of the Commission on Sustainable
Development proposed for UNCTAD, including in the field of
competitiveness, market access, eco-labelling, multilateral
environment agreements, positive measures and trade liberalization and
sustainable development.  

11.  New tasks and mandates have also been identified for UNCTAD in its
work related to competition law of particular relevance to development
and issues of particular relevance to commodity-dependent countries. 
Moreover, in other three major areas of future UNCTAD work, i.e.,
globalization and development; investment, enterprise development and
technology; and services infrastructure for development and trade
efficiency, substantive trade-related components were identified.  

12.  The Conference also decided that in the area of international
trade, the  UNCTAD technical cooperation programme should focus, inter
alia, on enhancing institutional and human capacities in order for
developing countries to analyse new and emerging issues and to benefit
from the opportunities arising from participation in the multilateral
trading system and to comply with the obligations in this respect.

                        B.  Institutional implications

13.  The Conference has taken measures to make the intergovernmental
machinery of UNCTAD more efficient and responsive to the needs of a
rapidly changing world economy.  Thus, the intergovernmental machinery
is structured with the above future UNCTAD work programme, which is
focused on a few priority trade and development issues of central
importance on which it can make a substantial impact.  The new
structure of the intergovernmental bodies of UNCTAD is as follows:

     (a) The Trade and Development Board, which is responsible for
ensuring the overall consistency of UNCTAD activities with agreed

     (b) The Board will have three Commissions as its subsidiary
bodies:  the Commission on Trade in Goods and Services, and
Commodities; the Commission on Investment, Technology and Related
Financial Issues; and the Commission on Enterprise, Business
Facilitation and Development;

     (c) Each of the above Commissions may convene expert meetings of
short duration, while the total number of such expert meetings will
not exceed 10 per annum.


14.  On 18 July 1996, the General Council of WTO adopted a complete set
of rules of procedure for sessions of the Ministerial Conference and
meetings of the General Council. 6/  Rule 11 provides that
representatives of international intergovernmental organizations may
attend meetings as observers on the invitation of the Ministerial
Conference in accordance with the special guidelines forming annex 3
to the rules.  The guidelines set several conditions, procedures and
criteria for international intergovernmental organizations wishing to
have an observer status in WTO, such as:  (a) the organizations should
have competence and a direct interest in trade policy matters; (b)
they should indicate the nature of the organization and the reasons
for its interest in being accorded such status; (c) requests for
observer status from organizations will not, however, be considered
for the meetings of the WTO Committee on Budget, Finance and
Administration or of the Dispute Settlement Body (in the case of IMF
and the World Bank, their requests for attendance as observers to the
Dispute Settlement Body will be acted upon in accordance with the
arrangements to be concluded between WTO and these two organizations);
(d) requests for observer status will be considered on a case-by-case
basis by each WTO body to which such a request is addressed, taking
into account such factors as the nature of work of the organization
concerned, the nature of its membership, the number of WTO members in
the organization, reciprocity with respect to access to proceedings,
documents and other aspects of observership, and whether the
organization has been associated in the past with the work of the
contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
1947; (e) in addition to organizations that request, and are granted,
observer status, other organizations may attend meetings of the
Ministerial Conference, the General Council or subsidiary bodies on
the specific invitation of the Ministerial Conference, the General
Council or the subsidiary body concerned; (f) organizations with which
WTO has entered into a formal arrangement for cooperation and
consultation will be accorded observer status in such bodies as may be
determined by that arrangement; (g) organizations accorded observer
status in a particular WTO body will not automatically be accorded
such status in other WTO bodies; (h) representatives of organizations
accorded observer status may be invited to speak at meetings of the
bodies to which they are observers normally after members of that body
have spoken; (i) observer organizations will receive copies of the
main WTO documents series and of other documents series relating to
the work of the subsidiary bodies that they attend as observers; and
(j) if for any one-year period after the date of the grant of observer
status there has been no attendance by the observer organization, such
status will cease (in the case of sessions of the Ministerial
Conference, this period will be two years).  


15.  Since the adoption of General Assembly resolution 49/97 no further
views or reactions from Governments and/or international organizations
have been received.  However, the above institutional developments,
including the results of the ninth session of the Conference, the
establishment of relations between the United Nations and WTO, as well
as the evolving UNCTAD/WTO cooperation, which may be enlarged to
include other relevant international organizations, would suggest that
an appropriate international consensus regarding strengthening
international organizations in the area of multilateral trade has been
achieved.  In this context and taking into account that these
institutional developments are still in their early stages of
implementation, it is important that the General Assembly continue
following developments in this area with a view to support their
implementation, consider further institutional developments and
undertake the required policy recommendations.  Therefore, it may wish
to consider this issue biennially on the basis of the relevant report
of the Secretary-General.


     1/  This report should be read in conjunction with previous
reports of the Secretary-General on strengthening international
organizations in the area of multilateral trade:  A/46/565 of
16 October 1991, A/47/410 of 28 August 1992, A/48/363 of
28 September 1993 and A/49/363 of 6 September 1994.

     2/  See A/AC.179/5 of 9 March 1976.

     3/  See Midrand Declaration and A Partnership For Growth and
Development, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development at its ninth session (TD/377 of 24 May 1996).

     4/  This joint study was circulated as UNCTAD document TD/375 of
6 May 1996.

     5/  See WTO, PRESS/50 of 21 June 1996.

     6/  See WTO document WT/L.161 of 25 July 1996.


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Date last posted: 28 December 1999 17:35:10
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