17 December 2004


Press Release

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

Second Committee

41st Meeting (PM)




DelegatesPass Text on International Trade

And Development by 152 Votes in Favour, 2 Against, 6 Abstentions

The General Assembly would stress the importance of an open, transparent, inclusive and democratic process, and of procedures for the effective functioning of the multilateral trading system that would allow for internal transparency and the effective participation of members, according to a draft resolution approved by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) as it concluded its session today.

Such a democratic process would allow the participants to have their vital interests duly reflected in the outcome of trade negotiations, by the terms of the text approved this afternoon by a recorded 152 votes in favour to 2 against (Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea).  (See annex for details of voting.)

By other terms, the Assembly would emphasize that issues related to trade, debt and finance and transfer of technology duly covered in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha work programme should be addressed as a high priority in accordance with that programme and with the WTO General Council decision of 1 August 2004.  It would also stress the importance of facilitating the accession of all developing countries, particularly the least developed countries (LDCs), that applied for WTO membership, and call for the effective and faithful application of the WTO guidelines on LDC access.

Further by the text on international trade and development (document A/C.2/59/L.25/Rev.1), the Assembly would emphasize that bilateral and regional trade arrangements should complement the goals of the multilateral trading system, and stress the importance of clarifying and improving disciplines and procedures under the existing WTO provisions applying to regional trade agreements.  It would urge the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to provide technical inputs in that respect.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would stress that the adoption or enforcement of measures to protect human, animal or plant life should not be applied in a manner that would constitute arbitrary or unjustified discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade, while recognizing the rights of WTO members to determine their own appropriate level of sanitary and phyto-sanitary protection.  It would recognize the need to facilitate the increased participation of developing countries in the work of relevant international standard-setting organizations, as well as the importance of providing financial and technical assistance and capacity-building efforts to enable them to respond adequately to the introduction of any new measures.

By other terms, the Assembly would call upon developed countries to work towards the objective of duty-free, quota-free market access for all LDC exports.  Recognizing the special problems and needs of landlocked developing countries within a new global framework for transit transport cooperation, the Assembly would also call for the full and effective implementation of the Almaty Programme of Action and stress the need to implement UNCTAD’s 2004 Sao Paulo Consensus.  Further, it would emphasize the importance of addressing the concerns of several developing countries regarding the erosion of preferences and the impact of liberalization on their tariff revenues.

Further by the draft, the Assembly would stress the importance of strengthening the trade, investment and business environment through the adoption of domestic measures and conditions to encourage local, regional and international investment, as well as efforts to prevent and dismantle anti-competitive practices and promote responsibility and accountability among corporate actors at both the international and national levels.  It would also emphasize the importance of developing human, institutional, regulatory and research and development capacities and infrastructures aimed at enhanced supply-side capacity and competitiveness.

The Assembly would, by other terms, stress the importance of enhancing South-South trade and cooperation in the context of an emerging new trade geography complementing North-South trade and cooperation, and take note of the June 2004 decision to launch the third round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries.

Making statements in explanation before the vote were the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United States, New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia) and Japan.

Speaking in explanation after the vote were the representatives of Chile, Costa Rica (on behalf of Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay), the Russian Federation, Argentina and El Salvador.

Several delegate also expressed their appreciation for the progress that the Committee had made during the session and for its future programme of work.  They included the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Cameroon, Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Canada, South Africa and the United States.

Also today, the Committee adopted its programme of work for the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.

In concluding remarks, Committee Chair Marco Balarezo (Peru) expressed his appreciation to the Group of 77 and China for submitting and seeking consensus on the various draft resolutions before the Committee.  The Second Committee was a vital forum for nations to build bridges, share lessons learned and achieve objectives agreed upon at various conferences, he added.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

The representative of Switzerland proposed that the Committee take action on the draft resolution on international trade and development contained in document A/C.2/59/25/Rev.1.

The representative of the United States then requested a vote on that text.

General Statements before Action

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said he would vote in favour of the draft and recalled the value of multilateralism for the international trading system, which would benefit countries at all stages of development.  All countries had a shared interest in the Doha work programme, especially in promoting the interest of developing countries in the world trading system.  It was a good basis to make further progress towards a successful outcome.  The draft recognized the importance of the Doha negotiations, as well as the decision made by World Trade Organization (WTO) members in that context.  A more focused and political resolution would allow the General Assembly to send a clear message to the WTO to the benefit of all its members.

The representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia associated that delegation with the European Union regarding the draft.

The representative of the United States said she would vote against the draft, believing that the way to pursue trade interests was through negotiations among experts at the WTO.  Phrases often had meanings that depended on their context -– a context that could extend through numerous paragraphs and sometimes across several documents.  If one group tried to pull the text apart, it may end up with language that it liked better, but would lose the basis for consensus, which was what had happened in the Committee.  In case after case, one group of nations or another had sought to use Committee negotiations to solicit a General Assembly endorsement of a particular position, even while knowing that other nations were opposed.  That did not help negotiations, either at the United Nations or in the WTO, which was why the United States could not support the draft.

The representative of New Zealand, speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia, said that those countries would abstain from voting.  It was regrettable that consensus could not be reached on the draft, which risked undermining its credibility and broader elements.  However, the three nations were committed to the Doha Development Round and believed that the principal forum for trade negotiations was the WTO.  The General Assembly had a legitimate role in commenting on the progress of negotiations, but should not be interpreting the WTO agreements.

The representative of Japan said he would abstain as consensus had regrettably not been reached and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China had decided not to propose the text.  Issues relating to the WTO negotiations should be discussed only in that framework.  Hopefully, the language in the text would not be cited in any way that would interfere with the WTO negotiations.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 2 against (Palau, United States), with 6 abstentions (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea).  (See annex.)

Explanation of Vote after Action

The representative of Chile, noting that he had supported the text, said his country had great expectations from the Doha Round, in particular the negotiations on agricultural exports and domestic subsidies.  Chile remained committed to the objective of a balanced result from the WTO negotiations, which must be based on the decision adopted by that organization’s General Council on 1 August, which in turn represented a delicate balance aimed at achieving agreement at the next WTO Ministerial Conference.  Technical discussions on trade issues should take place in the context of the WTO.

The representative of Costa Rica, also speaking on behalf of Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay, expressed regret that consensus had not been reached and invited members to continue to participate in future negotiations with a view to complementing the decisions of the WTO and bearing in mind that technical discussions should take place in that forum.

The representative of the Russian Federation said it had been difficult to take part in the voting as decisions on such important issues should be adopted by consensus.  The Russian Federation had voted in favour because most of the paragraphs had been agreed upon after extensive negotiations.  Yet, the provisions relating to WTO negotiations could not apply to the Russian Federation, which had not been part of those negotiations.

The representative of Argentina said his country had voted in favour, on the understanding that the references to the 1 August decision of the WTO General Council constituted a general reference to that decision and did not presuppose renegotiations in any way.

The representative of El Salvador said trade liberalization was an indispensable tool for development and his country was therefore in favour of launching a new round of negotiations on the basis that new challenges to be met must be accompanied by real opportunities.  Hopefully, negotiations on the Doha Round would be based on transparency, and developing and least developed countries would be at the centre of the agenda.  Implementation of the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing would pose challenges to numerous countries, including El Salvador.  As the 1 August decision of the WTO General Council included several deadlines, there was a need to take account of the limitations of developing countries in meeting the goals.


Vote on Trade and Development

The draft resolution on international trade and development (document A/C.2/59/L.25/Rev.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 2 against, with 6 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:  Palau, United States.

Abstain:  Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea.

Absent:  Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Liberia, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

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For information media. Not an official record.