Mr. Nicola Yankov
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, let me express my appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this conference.
As an economy in transition, Bulgaria attaches key importance to the preservation of the macroeconomic stability and the creation of growth-friendly environment, trade liberalization and high levels of foreign direct investment being the instruments for ensuring economic growth.
The Bulgarian economy is strongly dependent on foreign trade, which accounts for a high relative share of our GDP. Like most small countries with open economies Bulgaria is interested in further liberalization of the world trade because the reduction and/or elimination of the barriers to trade would increase the possibilities for export. At the same time, an increasing competitive pressure on the Bulgarian production would push it to seek greater efficiency and development, taking into account the competitive advantages of the country.
Together with the EU member countries, the CEFTA member countries and other developed nations, Bulgaria maintains the position that a new comprehensive round of multilateral trade negotiations should be launched within the WTO. The chances to take into consideration the interests of each participant in the negotiations, even of the smallest countries, as well as to negotiate further trade concessions, are greater if many and various issues are tackled in a new round of negotiations.
The globalization process calls for the WTO to develop the focus of its work. Therefore, the multilateral trade system should demonstrate particular responsiveness to the needs and problems of the less advantaged members by revising the dispositions on special and differentiated treatment within the WTO agreements so as to improve on their precision, operation and efficiency. Bulgaria shows understanding for the difficulties of the developing and the least developed countries. Similarly to them, Bulgaria is not able to take full advantage of the instruments provided in the WTO agreements. We are unable to help our industry due to financial constraints. At the same time, our industry experiences difficulties resulting from imports of subsidized products from more developed countries, or is unable to sell its products due to effective antidumping or sanitary and phytosanitary measures imposed by other countries. A number of agreements provide an option for special, relieved treatment of the countries in transition. In practice however, these dispositions are difficult to use in support of economic growth.
Within the WTO a number of countries use rights and privileges as "developing countries", although they often have much better economic indicators than Bulgaria. There is no officially adopted definition of "a developing country" in the WTO and some member countries are of the opinion that belonging to that category is a matter of self-defining. Any further division of the WTO members into unclearly or subjectively defined categories would undermine the nature of the WTO as a rule-based organization. For this reason Bulgaria has been defending the position, which was reiterated many times within the WTO, namely that specific norms for separate categories of countries should be established and new special rights and privileges should be provided on the basis of objective criteria and economic indicators. Such an indicator is the GDP per capita, for example, and the categorization of the World Bank could be applied (whereby the countries are classified as "low", "lower middle", "upper middle" and "high" income countries). Bulgaria's view is that all WTO members fulfilling the objective criteria of categorization should be able to apply the existing rights and privileges granted to the separate categories of countries.
In our opinion a universal, open, non-discriminatory and just multilateral trade system based on rules is capable of giving a significant impetus to the process of development throughout the world, bringing benefits to all countries irrespective of their level of development.
Likewise, Bulgaria considers regional integration as a major tool in improving the system of international trade. Being convinced that regional integration brings about higher degree of liberalization of the international trade Bulgaria has concluded 9 free trade agreements with 31 countries. These are the Association Agreement with the EU (15 member countries), the agreements with the CEFTA countries (6 countries), with the EFTA countries (4 countries), with Israel, Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia, Lithuania and Estonia. Free Trade Agreements are to be concluded with Latvia, Morocco and the Federal Republic of Serbia and Montenegro. Thus Bulgaria has ensured preferential access for the products of those countries to its markets, and for its products to the markets of its traditional trading partners.
Recognizing the fact that international trade liberalization enhances the possibilities for increase of exports, Bulgaria upholds the idea that further substantial trade liberalization is an important element of the strategy for sustainable development of each country.
Statements at the Conference