General Statement by Mrs. Krisana Chandraprabha, Charge d’affaires of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China at the Opening Session of the Commission on Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities

Seventh Session - Geneva 3-6 February 2003

Mr. Chairman,

Allow me first of all to congratulate you on your well deserved election as Chairman of the 7th session of the Commission on Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities. My congratulations also go to the other members of the Bureau. I am confident that under your wise and effective leadership, the work of the Commission will accomplish its task in a most satisfactory manner.

Mr. Chairman,

The Group of 77 and China places utmost importance on the link between trade and development. Indeed, the UN General Assembly at its Fifty Seventh Session last year, reaffirmed the role of the UNCTAD as focal point within the United Nations for the integrated treatment of trade and development and the interrelated issues in the areas of finance, technology, investment and sustainable development. The Group of 77 and China highly appreciate and commend the secretariat research and analysis of international trade issues including integration into the international trading system, particularly their development dimension, the technical cooperation and capacity building activities, trade-related databases and modelling.

For this reason, our work here during the Commission meeting has special significance as we look to examine the complexities of the different issues, particularly in light of recent summit decisions on sustainable development and the slow progress on the development dimension under the Doha work programme. This is particularly true given the current vulnerability of global markets, new barriers to exports of developing countries coupled with decreased aid and FDI, and the vicious cycle of debt and poverty prevailing especially in the LDCs.

While there have been benefits from liberalisation related to access of more efficient products and services, increased investments and employment and transfer of technology, these benefits have come at increased social costs to developing countries. Reforms often entail costly social adjustment, which may fall heavily on the poor. There is a need to address the design of reform programmes to minimize the social costs, to achieve the gains more rapidly and to put in place social programmes to minimize or offset the negative impact of the reforms on the poor. The pace, sequencing and content of liberalisation has to be carefully examined.

In this connection, the issues to be examined under Item 3: “Export Diversification, market access and competitiveness” remains important to the Group of 77. Efforts must be made to promote export diversification which would contribute towards reducing the economic vulnerability of commodity-dependent developing countries. The aim should be to strengthen the commodity sector into a positive factor that would generate a vicious circle of development. Market access is a pre-condition for diversification, while improvements must also be made in the competitiveness and supply capacities of developing countries. We look forward to seeing how UNCTAD and the international community can assist in these efforts.

On Item 4: Trade in Services and development implications, the key concern of the G-77 and China is that developing countries as a whole have only a limited participation in the fastest growing sector of world trade. The secretariat’s paper on this item states that developed countries in Europe occupy a share of total exports of commercial services that is twice as high as the total for all developing countries. At the same time, developing countries remain important markets for imports of services. This imbalance in services trade must be addressed, and what better place to start than in the current GATS negotiations.

The G-77 and China will seek to ensure that the development promise in the Doha agenda is fully reflected in the GATS negotiations. Overall, as the GATS negotiations advance, the common goals of the G-77 and China continue to include:

- assessment of the impact of services liberalisation;
- concrete measures to build supply capacity and promote increased participation of developing countries in trade in services through commercially meaningful market access commitments, with special priority to LDCs;
- special consideration for the SMEs of developing countries; and
- respect for national policy objectives, level of development and size of economies within the process of liberalisation.

Another key area which will be discussed by the Commission is the linkage between trade and environment, and how it can be addressed effectively within the context of development. We welcome the issues and ideas raised during the Expert Meeting on Environmental Requirements and International Trade held in October last year, and look forward to continuing these discussions under Item 5. For the Group of 77 and China, it is important that environmental requirements do not create unnecessary barriers to exports from developing countries. For this matter, we welcome the idea of a consultative mechanism to collect and analyse information and data on existing mandatory and voluntary environmental requirements and their likely implications for products of key export interest to developing countries. This would help to alert concerned government and businesses to be cognizant of new trends in environmental requirements in international markets and facilitate active participation of developing countries in pre-standard setting stakeholder consultations, and to facilitate pro-active adjustment strategies and measures in developing countries.

We strongly endorse UNCTAD role in relation to post-Doha consensus building and capacity building. The Doha Declaration by putting development at the heart of the Work Programme has further reinforced UNCTAD role and mandate. UNCTAD is uniquely placed to assess the issues which would make a substantial contribution towards the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty. Indeed, the UNCTAD secretariat has made a very important contribution to enhancing the capacities of developing countries to participate effectively in the multilateral trade negotiations on an informed basis, particularly in the follow-up to the Doha work programme, but also in the process of accession to WTO, and in developing regional and sub-regional trade arrangements. We also appreciate the contribution on competition S&D, market access and balanced rules, which would help to strengthen the foundation for the development of the world’s communities.

We encourage our development partners to continue to provide sufficient resources for these technical cooperation and capacity building activities which is based on the needs and demands of the developing countries. We have noted that the Secretariat has achieved an excellent cooperation with WTO and other relevant international organizations, particularly the UN regional commissions in this regard. We would like to encourage the UNCTAD secretariat to continue to do so with a view to achieving synergies and enhancing the effectiveness of technical cooperation activities.

Given the Doha-related deadlines and the preparations required for the Cancun Ministerial Conference in the period ahead, we would like to request the secretariat to intensify its analysis of the main issues involved, particularly their development dimension, and to expand the technical cooperation activities as required.

Thank you.