14 February 2000


14 February 2000

Press Release



Fourteen Statements Also Made in UNCTAD X General Debate

(Received from UN Information Officer.)

BANGKOK, 14 February 2000 -- The heads of the five United Nations regional Commissions described the impact of globalization in their areas of the world, as part of an interactive dialogue held at the start of this afternoon’s meeting of the Tenth United Nations Conference Trade and Development (UNCTAD X), now meeting in Bangkok.

The result of globalization in Africa had either been minimal or negative, and the phenomenal increases in global trade had largely bypassed the continent, K.Y. Amoako, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, told the Conference. Globalization has widened existing inequalities and marginalized developing countries, and the current international system has placed obstacles in their way. Action had to be taken at global, regional and national levels.

Adrianus Mooy, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said globalization’s impact on his region was varied. However, he observed, those States that were fully integrated in the world economy had experienced high growth, but had also suffered most from the recent financial crisis. Those States that were less well integrated had experienced slower growth, but also less damage. The question, he said, was to find the mid-course.

Latin America and the Caribbean had experienced high rates of growth in trade, but much smaller improvements in gross domestic product, Jose A. Ocampo, Executive Secretary of the region’s Economic Commission, explained. High levels of regional integration and free trade and preferential agreements with developed States were important features of the economic landscape of South and Central America.

Europe was experiencing regionalization, rather than globalization of trade and capital movements, Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, told the round-table discussion. Trade in both the export and import sectors was more and more focused on Europe.

Hazem El-Beblawi, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, explained that the Middle East was a geographical, political and cultural notion, but hardly an economic reality. The region seemed to be integrated into the global economy, but this was a distortion derived from oil exports and a high imported food bill. There was very little intra-regional investment, but the States of the region invested between $400 and $600 billion outside the area.

In the Conference’s resumed general debate, Ana Maria Solares Gaiti, Vice Minister for Economic Relations of Bolivia, explained that just as economies had been globalized, so too had economic crises. The international community must be capable of globalizing solutions. In order to do that, it needed a vision of development that allowed competitiveness and efficiency to be combined with delivery of social needs. Action was needed to guide globalization, she said, and no delay could be brooked.

Kingsley T. Wickramaratne, Minister of Internal and International Commerce and Food of Sri Lanka, said globalization was an irreversible process. However globalization was not a sufficient condition for development, as many factors inhibited developing countries’ participation in the international trading system. In order to benefit from the new opportunities, developing countries needed market access, human and financial resources, technology and adequate infrastructure. Less advanced and vulnerable small and commodity-dependent countries did not have such requirements.

Also in the general debate, the Conference heard statements by the Second Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda; the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius; Iraq’s Minister of Trade; the Deputy Prime Minister of Romania; Bhutan’s Minister of Trade and Industry; the Minister of Trade of the Russian Federation; the Minister of Commerce of Nigeria; Nepal’s Minister of Commerce; the Minister of Commerce of Algeria; the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy of Slovakia; the Vice Minister of Commerce and Tourism of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic; and the Minister of Development of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia..

The Conference will meet again at 9 a.m. tomorrow, 15 February, to hear a keynote address from Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, as part of its programme of interactive dialogues. It will then resume its general debate.

Interactive Discussion

YVES BERTHELOT, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE): Globalization is either viewed as a trend or as the political programme of a group of countries, such as the Group of Seven Industrialized Countries. In Europe, we observe a regionalization and not a globalization, both for trade and movements of capital. Trade in both the export and import sectors is more and more focused on Europe. Within the region and the outlying associated countries, only the Russian Federation has not changed the international structure of its trade.

Trade is basically intra-industrial, and enterprises trying to import want to minimize risks that they take. In doing this, they have a tendency to reduce the economic and geographic distance between them and their partners. This generally tends to leave them with countries that are as developed as they are and not far away. Capital movements are also basically concentrated in Europe. The conclusion to be drawn is that while much is said about global governance, it is important to consider regional governance. The political programme in the region is based on neo-classical neo- liberal economic policies developed in the spirit of globalization. The basic problem is the location of sources. Therefore, the belief that location is optimal automatically because of liberalization and privatization is a false one. Without institutions, one cannot manage a market economy. Also, short- term capital movements are very volatile. As a result, European governments are cautious, and sometimes too cautious. Interest rates are therefore too high in countries with economies in transition. This has hampered the initiative of enterprises because they are uncertain about the demands that they will face.

ADRIANUS MOOY, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP): There is wide variety of impacts of globalization in the Asia and Pacific region, but there is a strong correlation between integration and the influence of globalization. East Asia is fully integrated. South-East Asia, at least before the crisis, is well integrated. These countries have high growth rates and good economic performances, but they also bore the brunt of the crisis. South Asia is slowly integrating, and the other States are basically not integrated. South Asia’s performance has been moderate and the others stable, but the countries of these areas were not much affected by the crisis. Integrating fast seems to mean big benefits but also prospects for trouble. Slower integration leads to slower growth, but less risk. The question is, of course, how to find the mid-course.

In Asia and the Pacific, the volume of trade is not merely effected by the region and by policies but also by the pattern of investment. So far the impact of the Uruguay round and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is limited in the ESCAP region, because only 24 States are members of WTO -- less than half those are members of ESCAP. In addition, the products of great interest to countries of the region are still outside the trade regime -- mainly agriculture and textiles.

Foreign direct investment to the region has increased but the source and type of industry influence the effect the investment has on the volume of trade. Investment from Japan and the newly industrialized States goes mainly to labour- intensive industries. These are export industries in the home country, and contribute little to the volume of intra-regional trade. If Japan and developed countries of the region could absorb more of these goods, then obviously intra- regional trade would increase. Investment from North America and Europe is mostly in natural resources, or in manufacturing components for assembling elsewhere. Thus its impact on intra-regional trade is also limited.

JOSE A. OCAMPO, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC): Latin America and the Caribbean have employed two strategies -- opening up markets and strengthening regional ties. Renewal and creation of regional integration agreements and very active free trade agreements can be seen in the region. Mexico has it free trade agreement with the United States and the Central American, Caribbean and Andean States receive a large number of preferences granted by the United States.

Diversification is dynamic in Mexico as a result of its trading with the United States. There is very lively trading within the continent, with a large piece coming from manufactures. These are almost over-represented. We have also seen interesting diversification in the Caribbean and Central American economies, and marked increases in trade with the United States. Imports have also increased, so there are trade imbalances and deficits in some cases. The 9 per cent growth caused a much smaller increase in gross domestic product (GDP).

There has been spectacular foreign direct investment to the region, so that now some $80-90 billion comes into the region. This has had the effect of concentrating production in foreign hands. After the privatization period, there were many takeovers of newly-private companies by large multinationals. There has also been foreign direct investment within the region -- about 3 to 5 per cent of all foreign direct investment. There have been two major crises; the 1994-1995 Tequila crisis and the recent international financial crisis. These have a bearing on the rhythm of regional growth.

KINGSLEY Y. AMOAKO, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA): Globalization needs to be looked at in terms of the major challenge facing Africa -- poverty reduction and eradication. Since the mid- 1990s there has been some growth on the continent. However, to reduce poverty by the year 2015 to the level advocated by the international community, African GDP must grow by 7 per cent per annum. Sustainable development, human capital development, structural diversification of economies, and macro-economic stability are some of the key factors that will push African countries towards economic stability.

Globalization should be seen as the mutual flow of goods and services that will contribute to dramatic change. However, in Africa, the impact of the process has either been minimal or negative and the phenomenal increases in global trade have largely bypassed the continent. Africa’s share of global exports and trade has also declined because the industrialized countries have protected themselves from the continent’s dynamic exports.

The ratio of foreign direct investment to gross domestic product has declined by half in the African countries. The flows coming in are concentrated in few countries such as Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco. The flows are also not going to sectors with the greatest opportunity for technological transfer. Fifty per cent is going to countries with oil and related industries and the rest to States with mining industries.

Globalization has widened existing inequalities and marginalized developing countries. The current international system has also placed obstacles in the way of these countries. In addition, inadequate policies are being applied. The issue is basically one of measures to be taken to address the problems. Action has to be taken at three levels: global, regional and national. Africa is losing its shares in its traditional exports and intra- regional trade and cooperation are not increasing.

HAZEM EL-BEBLAWI, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA): Is the Middle East a region strictly speaking and to what extent is it integrated in the world? There is also very little economic integration in the region. The Middle East is a geographical, political and cultural notion but hardly an economic reality. Intra-regional trade is about 10 per cent. The region is, however, a major exporter of oil. Trade in oil can give a distorted image about intra-regional trade. If oil, which goes mainly to the West, is taken away from the equation, intra-regional trade then accounts for about 30 per cent.

It looks apparently as though the region is integrated in the global economy. But again, that is based on the oil exports and a high imported food bill. In terms of investments within the region, there is very little foreign direct investment. It amounts to 10 per cent of what is being received by developing countries and 1 per cent of GDP. However, the region as a whole is investing $400 to $600 billion outside.

The impact of the financial crisis is also minimal. Not because of the strengths of the region, but merely because the region is marginally integrated in the financial capital markets. Indirectly it was affected by the decline in commodity prices until that was adjusted a few months ago. It was also affected by the depreciation of foreign exchange.

In response to what is being done to improve regional trade, we are working to enhance economic cooperation. There are various schemes, such as a free-trade zone, among others. One member of the region also has a special agreement with Europe.

As to whether regionalism is the building block for globalization, it will help to bring countries together. However, the degree of industrialization is not high enough.

Mr. AMOAKO said that regional integration is strong. The ECA works in concert with the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) and the African Development Bank, and has a joint secretariat to help push regional integration. We have been doing a lot for regional integration, but the challenge is huge. There are problems related to integration in areas where there in one dominant State.

We have been strengthening regional institutions by providing technical assistance to sub-regional organizations, and working with African States to facilitate their integration into the WTO process. Next year we will issue an annual report on the status of regional integration, for which we have developed benchmarks. We will also examine the consistency of national programmes for integration and examine how policies can contribute. Infrastructure development in Africa is critical. The greatest trade barrier in Africa is transport costs. For many years the ECA has been working with bilateral partners and the United Nations to integrate transport. Recently we hosted a meeting of civil aviation ministers, out of which a declaration to liberalize air space was elaborated. Information technology is also critical and we are working with 20 African countries to develop strategies to improve use of information technologies.

Mr. OCAMPO said that ECLAC had played a key role in American integration, and has given rise to a number of agreements. For some time now, regional integration has taken on a life of its own.

The fundamental task of ECLAC is analytical, and it defends some if its ideas on integration in its latest annual report. We argue that open regionalism is not incompatible with globalization but rather is a vital support to it. Globalization has to be complimentary to strong national and regional institutions.

In the trade sector, where diverse flows of trade exist, integration is a useful tool for development. Regional flows also bring small to medium-sized businesses into the world trade. Great importance is attached to financial cooperation at regional levels, including macro-economic integration tools like the reserve fund, and the expansion of the Development Bank. For small countries, the best defence in an unstable financial world is the possibility of various financing mechanisms, for both balance of payments and for development.

Mr. MOOY: A number of regional trading arrangements are based on a product-by-product basis. Others are still at the initial stage. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is also being assisted in trade facilitation. ESCAP is collaborating in special programme for the economies of Asia as well. The Commission is also promoting intra-regional cooperation

Mr. BERTHELOT: We are trying to help the various countries in Europe and the economies in transition to integrate into the world at large. However, every system can only be stable if certain conditions are met: the legitimate authority of those in charge; and the generation of growth that is evenly distributed. One of the main thrusts is assisting economies in transition by focusing on the development of institutions, including market institutions, and recommending macro-economic policies.

The European Union is an important reference point for countries in transition, since the Union protects its members. There are various ways of organizing a market economy and not just one way. There is a need to create instruments that will maintain Europe’s cohesion and give members the concept of ownership.

In discussing whether politics or economics provided the major impetus, Mr. EL-BEBLAWI explained that while regional integration is a public good, the criterion employed by decision makers is not the total benefit to everyone, but rather the accrued benefit to them. In many cases, integration does not benefit these leaders. Democracy is probably a precondition to economic integration. In the Western Asian region, leaders are more concerned with political security than with general economic benefit.

Mr. AMOAKO said that in Africa the political rationale and impetus for regional integration is strong, and has been from independence. For African leaders it has become even more important with globalization and marginalization. Africa is the most subdivided continent, with 53 countries. Economic integration will give a more powerful voice to Africa, both politically and economically.

Mr. MOOY said it is hard to separate the political from the economic; however the Asia-Pacific region had seen regional organizations established for reasons that were primarily political and primarily economic. The ASEAN was started for political reasons, but in 1975 its first summit in Bali spoke of economic matters.

In Western Europe, Mr. BERTHELOT said, the cold war and also the Marshall Plan, which included an obligation on recipient States that they coordinate with their neighbours, helped motivation for regional integration. This became the embryonic negotiating basis for the region. Europe as an integrated entity began slowly with a series of technical matters. Only a great deal later did political motivations arise.

Speaking about systems of regional trade preferences, Mr. AMOAKO said there can be no development without industrialization, and for Africa, economic integration will provide the next step towards development. Africa was the only part of the world that will be forced to industrialize without the preferences others had received in the past. Markets are imperfect, so some form of government intervention will be required.

On the same subject, Mr. OCAMPO said that for Latin America and the Caribbean, preferences would be an important factor in development for the smallest States. They were very dependent on preferences from the United States, Canada and Europe. Unilateral reductions of trade barriers affect everyone. It was important, in speaking of open trade, to realize that tariffs are not the only barriers to trade. Many other barriers apply, particularly regionally. Language barriers could impede trade, for example. More importantly, integration will have to be more consolidated in order to fit the international trends. What is termed “deep integration” will not merely include trade integration but also integration on social and environmental issues.

It was also noted that there was a great deal of captive trade among neighboring countries because of transport costs.

Statements Made in General Debate

MOSES ALI, Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry of Uganda: Least developed countries (LDCs) recognized their primary responsibility for their own development and have therefore undertaken major reforms of their economies and improved macro-economic management. But for these reforms to succeed, a supporting international environment is essential. A major obstacle to Africa’s economic development is the lack of sufficient development finance to invest in human resources development and physical infrastructure, which are essential for sustained development and growth. ODA has fallen to historically low levels precisely at a time when it is most needed and when policy reforms are rendering aid more effective. Greater support for infrastructure development, including road and rail networks, telecommunications capacities, computer systems and port facilities, would leave a tangible mark while generating employment, expertise and revenues. In addition, investment in human resources must be recognized as a driving force for development and long-term competitiveness.

External debt relief and the transfer of new resources, as well as continued domestic policy efforts, are the key to sustained recovery. Technical assistance, as originally envisaged, was designed to close the gap between the industrial and developing countries by accelerating the transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise, thereby building national capacity. It is unfortunate that after four decades of technical assistance, most of the funds earmarked for this purpose are still spent on foreign expertise, even when and where national experts are available.

Concrete measures are required to enhance the capacity of developing countries to participate in and benefit from the global trading system. Development partners should provide bound duty-free and quota-free market access for products originating from LDCs.

RAKASWUR PURRYAG, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Mauritius: The view is sometimes expressed that e- commerce may solve the problems of small island developing States. While it may mitigate the problem of isolation and contribute to the development of service industries, it is not a panacea for solving their development problems. Issues relating to the production of goods and their actual transportation will remain. The problems of small island developing States arise essentially from their specificities. The absence of economies of scale due to the small size of their internal markets results in high unit costs of utilities and transactional costs, including high freight costs, which affect the competitiveness of their export products. These States are also exposed to the trade and income volatility that creates vulnerability.

The provisions of special and differential treatment for developing countries may not be adequate and suitable to meet the exigencies of globalization. Rather, a new dimension on vulnerability affecting the sustainable development of small island developing States should be built into the basic rules of the WTO and its sectoral agreements so as to create a level playing field. Island States should be assisted in their gradual integration into the world economy by continuing to provide them with trade preferences that will help to mitigate some of their constraints and make their products competitive.

The World Bank and UNCTAD have done some very useful work on the problems facing small island developing States, especially in the construction of a generally acceptable index to address their development needs. UNCTAD should expedite its work in this area and develop a suitable index, in collaboration with other institutions, to gauge the developmental needs of island States.

MOHAMED MEHDI SALEH, Minister of Trade of Iraq: It is necessary to contribute to the current debate to defend the interest of all and to move away from the hegemony of the major Powers. Colonialism has returned under a new guise. The fruits of wisdom and social progress should be shared by the whole world. UNCTAD should be the forum for negotiations and exchanges of views on trade, and should make it possible for developing countries to benefit from the multilateral trade system

Economic sanctions are a threat not just to the economies on which they are imposed, but to all developing countries. The United States is obstructing the flow of goods and services by imposing a blockade on Iraq. Iraq has been deprived of over $140 billion in income so far. By imposing this blockade, which was planned before August 1990, the United States is perpetrating a genocide against the people of Iraq, and preventing Iraq from properly developing and integrating into the world economy. Before 1991, Iraq’s economic indicators were high for its region. The blockade and the military aggression have halted all economic and social progress. The United Nations has proven unable to end this heinous massacre. Iraq has second largest oil reserves in the world and is rich in human resources but is now deprived of the elements needed for a decent standard of life and proper employment opportunities. Six thousand infants die per month because of the actions of the United States and the United Kingdom.

These two States are opposed to human rights and democracy and organize terrorism. The unjust blockade should be lifted as Iraq has honoured all its international obligations under Security Council resolutions. Embargoes and sanctions are inhumane and should never be used. KINGSLEY T. WICKRAMARATNE, Minister of Internal and International Commerce and Food of Sri Lanka: Globalization is an irreversible process which is already evolving and rapidly impinging on our everyday life. It is, therefore, one of the main challenges our economies have to face and cope with in the new millennium. The biggest challenge is to level the playing field in world economic relations, create pragmatic partnerships, work in an environment for tackling the grave problems of underdevelopment and poverty and approach liberalization with pragmatism and caution.

Concrete action has to be taken to address the asymmetries and inequities in the existing agreements; the non-fulfillment of commitments and obligations by developed countries; the Special and Differential provisions in the Uruguay Round Agreements that have remained unimplemented; and the difficulties in effective and timely implementation of the commitments by developing countries because of resource and institutional constraints and lack of adequate technical assistance.

Globalization does not by itself ensure development. There are many factors inhibiting the effective participation of developing countries in the international trading system, mainly relating to market access, resource requirements –- both human and financial -– technology and infrastructure. In order to integrate effectively into the world economy and benefit from new opportunities, developing countries should have these conditions in place. What we witness, however, is just the opposite, especially in less advanced, as well as vulnerable small and commodity-dependent countries.

MIHAI BERINDE, Under Secretary of State for Foreign Trade of Romania: To make globalization positive we must rethink development policies. Appropriate national policies, assisted and sustained by appropriate international cooperation, must be drawn up and applied. In a world of increasing interdependence, the actions of the international community are of growing importance. Special efforts must be made to support developing countries and countries with economies in transition, including the granting of increased financial and technical assistance. UNCTAD, as a universal forum for the integration of various approaches to developmental problems, is well placed globally to respond to the challenges of globalization.

UNCTAD’s programme of work for the next four years should continue to focus on the key areas identified in UNCTAD IX. Regarding globalization and sustainable development, the Conference should concentrate on multiplying the positive effects of globalization while alleviating its negative effects. It should also assist in the development of related national and international strategies and policies. UNCTAD’s programmes should assist the WTO in helping the developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The Conference should step up efforts to help these countries increase their export capabilities and expand their markets as well. It should also help them to create climates propitious to international investment.

National efforts to improve communication and harness e-commerce could be enhanced by UNCTAD’s involvement. The organization should also strengthen its activities in the area of technical assistance for developing countries and economies in transition. UNCTAD should strengthen integration between analysis of its work and its deliberations on the one hand, and technical assistance on the other. It is essential to establish closer cooperation between the Conference and other organizations to achieve synergy. Finally, efforts should be intensified to attract civil society and the private sector into the life of the organization. LYONPO KHANDU WANGCHUK, Minister for Trade and Industry of Bhutan: The developing countries are aware of the need for integration in the world economy to enable them to reap globalization’s opportunities. It is therefore critical to foster an enabling international environment through strong cooperative efforts by all countries and institutions in promoting economic growth of these countries. If the multilateral trading system is to be effective in promoting international trade and commerce in a more transparent and predictable basis, it must be sensitive to the needs and aspirations of member countries, particularly the developing ones.

LDCs deserve special attention with respect to trade promotion within the WTO framework. The special and differential preferences committed in their favour must be implemented. In addition, the proposal put forward by the European Commission for “duty-free access” for all LDC products should be considered on a priority basis. These concessions would cost little to developing to industrialized nations, while benefiting the 600 million people in the 48 LDCs. Moreover, as the WTO gradually moves towards universal membership, it is necessary for the organization to review its rules, procedures and conditions, especially in respect of LDC applicants, with a view to making the whole accession process more efficient.

Bhutan is a small LDC that shares many of the problems facing landlocked countries. Our progress and prosperity is tied to the global economic system. Developmental principles and policies will shape our integration into a more transformed global system. We are seeking to become a member of the WTO. In order to facilitate this, a number of measures have been initiated to improve economic growth by introducing more liberal policies and practices that stimulate the development of the private sector.

The main objective of the Third United Nations Conference on LDCS, which will be held in about a year in Brussels, will be to adopt international policies and measures for the sustainable development of these countries into the world economy. UNCTAD must be provided with the required resources to help LDCs to prepare for that Conference at the national level.

ANA MARIA SOLARES GAITI, Vice Minister for Economic Relations of Bolivia: When we understand the magnitude of the interdependence of countries -- which means national efforts to bring order and stability to economies have done little or nothing to ameliorate the effects of the global crisis -- and that globalization can leave us on the side of the global economy, it is encouraging to see UNCTAD. Our aim at this Conference must be to place globalization at the service of development. The course of globalization can be changed and guided by human agency.

Poverty threatens the stability of the world, and eliminating it should be the shared responsibility of all. We have globalized our economies and at the same time globalized our crises. We must be capable of globalizing the solutions. For this we need a vision of development that allows competitiveness and efficiency to be combined with delivery of social needs. There is still time for clear action and concrete results in guiding globalization, but delay cannot be brooked. UNCTAD’s role should be to develop ideas that promote development by promoting trade and integrate developing countries into the international system. A system where the interests of the few are met while those of the many are delayed is not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable when a few States set the rules for the rest to follow. The WTO has not met our expectations and has much to accomplish.

Some countries are better prepared than others, so the rules of the game cannot be applied uniformly. More appropriate treatment must be given to all States possessing clear disadvantages. Bolivia is an example of the need to deal properly with the differing realities of developing countries. Its treatment at the WTO is not consistent with that given to it in debt-alleviation programmes.

M.E. FRADKOV, Minister of Trade of the Russian Federation: There is something crucial that permeates the history of the Conference –- the burning need to find answers to problems hindering the establishment of an economically safe world. Globalization is the objective process of increased global economic interdependence. However, as a process, it is unsteady and unpredictable. Problems can spill over from one country to another as the 1977-1998 crisis had shown.

The international community is still unprepared to respond to globalization’s challenges and it must be aware of managing the process. UNCTAD, on the other hand, was one of the first international organizations to predict the looming financial crisis. Globalization should be turned into a factor uniting the world rather than splintering it. It should also be used to eliminate poverty. A coordinating role in this process may perhaps fall on UNCTAD.

The Russian Federation has become virtually an integral part of the world economic system. This has been proven by the agreement of economic cooperation with the European Union. The Russian Federation insists on an open and predictable trade policy. The benefits of international trade should also be extended to all participants. In addition, the Russian Federation should have equal rights to participate in international trade as it opposes double standards and discrimination.

MUSTAFA BELLO, Minister of Commerce of Nigeria: To ensure that all countries enjoy the benefits of globalization, UNCTAD should provide a forum for the exchange of views on the evolution and management of globalization, as well as the interdependence of trade, finance, investment and technology as they affect the growth and development prospects of developing countries. In view of the importance of oil and the ongoing deregulation of the energy sector of the Nigerian economy, it fully welcomes the emerging consensus to expand the existing UNCTAD mandate in the area of commodities to include technical assistance and policy advice on relevant mechanisms, including financial-risk management instruments to producers and users of oil and gas in developing countries.

Nigeria will lend its support to the success of the work of the WTO, in the context of the emerging campaign for inclusiveness. It urges that the issue of participation and transparency be given priority attention without necessarily sacrificing efficiency and effectiveness.

Nigeria also endorses the continuation of the UNCTAD mandate to assist the developing countries in integrating themselves more fully into the global economy and to derive the benefits therefrom. RAM KRISHNA TAMRAKER, Minister of Commerce of Nepal: With the acceleration of globalization in the early 1990s came the expectation that growth and development would be more rapid, more sustainable and more widely shared. However, the experience has fallen far short of the expectation, with growth over the decade lower than the post-war average, and the income gap between the developed and developing world increasing. Today, the least developed are faced with the threat of further marginalization and exclusion.

Official development assistance remains a critical source of finance for development, and its decline is a major concern. High levels of debt servicing deprive developing countries of the resources needed to build infrastructure and improve capacity. As a consequence, least developed countries are unable to take advantage of opportunities that arise. The debt relief initiatives of the Group of Seven industrialized States should be expanded to allow for total debt relief for the least developed. Better market access is also needed to improve their share of world trade. To facilitate effective participation in global economic support services from land-locked developing countries, a fund should be created for product development, diversification and export promotion in those States.

Globalization must aim at freeing humanity from hunger, poverty and the fear of exploitation. The process will remain incomplete if all countries are not integrated into the framework of the multilateral trading system and the global economy. This is possible only when we understand each other’s constraints and capabilities and evolve a system in which there is a fair and equitable distribution of gains in the multilateral trading system.

MOURAD MEDELCI, Minister of Commerce of Algeria: The question of how trade can serve the objectives of developing countries has never been more relevant than it is today. Globalization has generated new differences that impact the way our countries must now act. Since market forces do not generate growth, it seems essential to have more decisive policies on the part of States. Nevertheless, the present functioning of international capital markets focuses on rapid profiting and thus prevents access to necessary resources.

This situation leaves no alternative but the dramatic marginalization of LDCs. The efforts made by the international community rapidly find their limits and fall short of the needs of developing countries. This is compounded by declining ODA levels at a time when the need for such resources is the greatest. While initiatives taken so far to erase the debt of some 39 African countries must be commended, they are still too limited in their effect and do not address the real burden of foreign debt faced by many developing countries. The process of accession to the WTO must also not be as long and complex as it is today.

The Ministerial Conference in Seattle showed the disproportionate place of the strictly commercial interests of a minority of countries and the weak positions of the majority that were the developing nations. The establishment of open trade flows all over the world is still desirable. The international community must ensure the broadening of trade between countries and guarantee greater participation by all. Above and beyond all the lags in meeting needs, the most untenable position is the deficit regarding jobs. Also, the heavy burden of foreign debt works against efforts to reform economies and promote integration into the world market.

PETER BRNO, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy of Slovakia: The main question today is how to assure the adequate distribution of gains from globalization to all countries -- industrial, transitional, developing and least developed -- alike. The connected problem is how to stop the growing technological and development gap between industrialized and some developing countries. There must be an adequate response to these questions from both developing and developed countries, based on common understanding on how to generate resources or development and ensure a stable political environment for the pursuit of effective and long-term strategies.

One source of funds is international trade. Slovakia supports the integration of all countries into the WTO. The failure of the Seattle conference does not mean the failure of the WTO, and all countries benefit from its existence. The decision of the WTO General Council to continue negotiations in agricultural services and elsewhere is welcome. Future multilateral trade negotiations should include a development dimension, and duty-free access should be given to goods from least developed counties. Official development assistance is another limited source of development funding, and a recommitment by industrialized countries to bring the volume to 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product. Another important consideration is debt relief, which is welcome. Measures in favour of developing countries must be met by adequate responses from them, and improved governance, institution and capacity-building, stable political environments and the rule of law are the basic preconditions.

Foreign direct investment provides a stable and long-term tool for economic development, and its flow to developing States should be encouraged. A WTO-negotiated framework of rules would be welcome. Strengthened South-South cooperation deserves support. While the interaction between the WTO and UNCTAD should be enhanced, UNCTAD is not an appropriate forum for negotiations of multilateral rules, which should remain the prerogative of the WTO. Similarly human rights and social and gender issues should not be included in UNCTAD’s programmes, although they should be taken into account in technical cooperation activities. UNCTAD should focus on the fields of activity set out for it in Midrand, South Africa, at the ninth UNCTAD.

SIAOSAVATH SAVENGSUKSA, Vice Minister of Commerce and Tourism, Lao People’s Democratic Republic: In the two sectors in which developing countries have the great capacity to trade -– agriculture and textiles –- access to world markets is heavily restricted. The world biggest markets for food place heavy restrictions on access by exporters in developing countries. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic has applied to join the WTO because it recognizes that it is essential to integrate its economy into the global market system of trade. It is also aware that only the WTO offers realistic prospects to open global markets for agriculture, garments and other textiles.

It is vital to least developed countries that agreement is reached to begin the next round of global trade negotiations in the WTO. The Lao Government is concerned that the leading industrialized countries may not make every effort to complete as soon as possible the process begun at Seattle to settle the mandate for WTO trade negotiations. UNCTAD programmes to strengthen the infrastructure of least developed economies are very important, as they assist countries to acquire the resilience to manage the economic impact of crises such as the recent Asian economic crisis, but unless developing countries possess the adequate infrastructure, they cannot enjoy the full benefits of globalization. Particular attention should therefore be paid to human resource development and information technology. The role of UNCTAD in mobilizing and coordinating support towards the alleviation of the specific problems of landlocked developing countries must be emphasized continuously.

TRAJKO SLAVESKI, Minister of Development of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Steps should be taken to fully integrate developing countries and countries in transition into the main currents of global economic and social processes. Special efforts should be made to assist LDCs, land-locked countries and countries with specific geographical locations, including those affected by regional conflicts. This will contribute to strengthening the political consensus to tackle global issues arising from permanent technological changes. The strengthening of economic cooperation among countries is an important precondition for political stability worldwide and for the prevention of potential conflicts.

The Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is fully aware of the need to integrate its economy into the global economic process and is determined to further adjust its policies and harmonize its legislation to facilitate the free flow of goods and services and to attract the foreign investment needed for the achievement of higher growth rates. It attaches great importance to its accession to the WTO and hopes that ongoing efforts to continue negotiations would go forward.

UNCTAD should play a role in mobilizing donors’ resources for the enhancement of technical assistance for developing and transitional countries. Its future activities should be focused on defining the priorities of globalization and development, investments and technology transfer, trade in goods and services, as well as on the development of infrastructure and trade efficiency.

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For information media. Not an official record.