We join previous speakers in expressing our appreciation to the Senior Officials and the Secretariat for the report before us and express our support for the sentiments contained therein. We also express solidarity with Jamaica and other fraternal countries in the Caribbean who are affected by Hurricane Sandy.
In its preamble, the Marrakesh Agreement that established the WTO promised to build new agreements on the basis of the principle of sustainable development.
The Doha round was the first round that agreed at the outset in its mandate to build new agreements on the basis of the internationally recognized principles of equity, balance and development. The built-in agenda of the Uruguay Round on agriculture failed to gain traction amongst members. It was therefore recognized that the only way to encourage developed countries to make the necessary reforms in agriculture would be through trade-offs on other issues of interest to them such as NAMA and Services. The Doha round chose the more inclusive multilateral route to negotiations – rather than the plurilateral method of previous GATT rounds. In the Doha mandate we also agreed to recognize the plight of the LDCs and promised to create new opportunities for them to export into world markets in areas that they can compete. It is for these reasons that the Doha round became known as the Doha Development Agenda.
In order to help us find a way out of the current impasse in the Doha round “new approaches” should be explored. We are in favour of seeking new approaches but not in favour of so-called “new approaches” suggested by some that are merely “old wine in new bottles”. We are not in favour of bringing back the old approach of request and offer and plurilaterals that was driven by the main players in the GATT. We are in favour of an approach to negotiations that is multilateral, that seeks to create balance within and between issues, and that recognizes the different levels of development of developing countries. This is what we agreed to in the Doha discussions. Any approach that is not based on the principles of equity, balance, development, inclusiveness and transparency will not gain the support of the majority of members and the world at large.
South Africa is engaged in advancing a fair and balanced Trade Facilitation Agreement in the WTO. We recognize the need to upgrade our customs infrastructure, procedures and processes. Within the framework of SADC, indeed the AU we are already working to achieve this. However, we also recognize that the wide disparities in the existing levels of development and modernization of customs infrastructure between developed and developing countries will require the developing countries and particularly countries in the ACP region will bear the brunt of the implementation burdens that result from such an Agreement. Therefore appropriate and necessary capacity must be provided to help these countries.
Whilst an upgrading of customs infrastructure, processes and procedures is clearly of interest to most developing countries, an agreement on Trade Facilitation cannot be self-balancing, as it will impose significant implementation burdens on them. It is for this reason that to ensure a fair and balanced outcome for any “short-term” deliverables in the Doha round, other priority issues of importance to developing countries must be part of this outcome.
On “new issues” in the WTO
We do not believe that it would be feasible or fair to move ahead with these issues before we have succeeded in addressing issues that affect the majority of members and that have been on the agenda for decades, such as trade distorting subsidies in agriculture.
Finally, on the issue of LDC accession, we are fully commitment to facilitate the accession of LDCs in the WTO and the international trading system, we wish to place on record our view that LDCs should be accorded the necessary policy space that they require to build their infant industries and advance their economic development. These guidelines should thus be implemented with this objective in mind and guidelines should be implemented with due regard to the specific development situation and needs of each LDC and not be applied in a “one-size-fits all” approach. In addition the LDC Guidelines should not prejudice the negotiating rights nor constrain the negotiating space of LDCs, SVEs and other Developing countries in the Current Doha Round negotiations.
A more open trading system that is seen to be fair, inclusive, development friendly and transparent will gain the support of all. South Africa remains committed to work tirelessly towards this goal.
I thank you.