GROUP OF 77
STATEMENT OF H.E. Mr. DELMER URBIZO AMBASSADOR AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF HONDURAS, CHAIRMAN OF THE G77 AND CHINA AT UNCTAD TRADE COMMISSION, 11TH SESSION (Geneva, 19–23 March 2007)
Mr. Chairman, the G77 & China wishes to congratulate you and your bureau on your election and express the full support of our group to helping you in reaching a successful outcome from the Trade Commission. We come with the high hope that we could have an outcome that can reflect the consensus we reached at the Mid-term review of UNCTAD XI to have development oriented outcomes, including policy options.
Mr. Secretary General, the G77 & China thank you for your presence today, and your statement which sets the tone for our meeting. Our group would sincerely like to interact with you during the course of the Trade Commission to benefit from your in-depth knowledge and vast experience in international trade issues. As we enter into the final year of the implementation of the Sao Paulo Consensus, we are particularly interested in seeking and providing strategic guidance that can help wrap up unfinished business and live up to the high ambition we set in the area of assuring development gains from international trade and trade negotiations.
Equally significant, we are engaged in UNCTAD XII preparations. Our preparations would benefit from looking back at UNCTAD XI outcomes and progress made and what lessons can be brought forward to UNCTAD XII. We have no doubt that UNCTAD's work on trade in goods, services and commodities remains central to UNCTAD’s development mission, as the G77 & China had reiterated at the Working Party meeting on the 2008-2009 programme budget.
The G77 & China also expresses it appreciation to Mrs. Puri and her Division for the outstanding documentation for the Trade Commission. These provide practical and forward-looking policy analyses that would greatly facilitate out deliberations.
The Trade Commission has an extensive agenda that is reflective of the importance it bears to our countries. Trade in goods, services and commodities are instruments of development and poverty eradication. The potential contribution of trade however is affected by conditions at national and international level. The work of the Trade Commission is to be innovative in generating ideas and giving practical express to them in terms of setting policy guidelines and options for members and the secretariat. It is in this perspective that the G77 & China wishes to present its views on each of the substantive agenda items.
On commodities and development – agenda item 3- , our group notes with satisfaction the analyses in the secretariat’s background document (TD/B/COM.1/82) showing that commodity trade is now a dynamic component of the overall expansion in South’s trade generally and South-South trade. This underlines the potential of further strengthening production and competitiveness of commodities in developing countries to harness the new opportunities.
Commodity sector development is directly linked to poverty eradication in our countries but that also depends on the returns that producers obtain from their commodity production. Hence the importance of strengthening participation of developing country producers, especially SMEs, in global value chains. Providing better market access and minimizing market requirements for commodities becomes even more relevant in the light of the expansion in commodity trade. Removing tariffs affecting commodities, especially tariff escalations, and dealing with SPS requirements remain important measures to be taken by the international community. Strengthening international partnerships in commodities also can be useful in propelling commodities into the centre of development debate. This would include discussions on price volatility, and supply and demand trends. A particular focus is needed by UNCTAD to strengthen work in the area of energy, as discussed at the expert meeting last year on energy.
Turning to market access, entry and competitiveness – agenda item 4 -, the Group of 77 & China notes that tariffs remain an obstacle to exports of developing countries despite important progress in this area in the WTO and within regional trade agreements (RTAs). The Doha agenda ambitions in this respect are important for all countries, bearing in mind the development dimension that has been underlined by developing countries. Developing competition law and policies at national and regional levels to foster competitive is also important, and UNCTAD’s cutting edge work in this area needs to be strengthened.
We note with serious concern, as pointed out in the secretariat’s background document (TD/B/COM.1/83), that 10 years after the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, with the exception of prominent and widely applied NTBs such as anti-dumping and countervailing measures, there has been a sevenfold increase in Government-mandated testing and certification requirements. Such barriers not only prevent entry of products into markets but also prevent product from taking place as they increase the costs and make products uncompetitive. NTBs are also visible and pervasive among RTAs. We thus fully support the work of the SG’s Eminent Persons’ on NTBs and note with satisfaction the establishment of the Multi-agency support team to provide technical material to the Eminent Persons on NTBs. We welcome the designation of the TRAINS database as the locomotive for the work on NTBs and request UNCTAD to strengthen the TRAINS and continue and expand its installation and dissemination to developing countries.
Removing such barriers affecting developing countries participation in new and dynamic sectors of world trade is especially important developing countries. This is one area where we would like UNCTAD to develop further its support both in terms of policy analysis and follow up supply capacity building at national level. We are particularly excited about the UNCTAD-Philips initiative on electronics in Southern Africa and hope that it is concretized, following which we would like to have a detail presentation on the initiative. We thank Philips Corporation for its steadfast support in this initiative. We wish to encourage UNCTAD, and interested corporations, to consider similar initiatives in other dynamic sectors in other parts of Africa and in other developing countries.
Turning to the services economy and services trade –agenda item 5 -, these play an increasingly important role in overall development and in improving welfare of peoples, including access to essential services. However, the potential for services trade remains to be fully realized by developing countries. Thus, it is especially relevant for the Trade Commission to regularly monitor the role of services in development generally and in specific aspects, such as in regional trade agreements which is the current focus of the secretariat’s background document (TD/B/COM.1/85). In fact we would suggest that the establishment of a standing expert group meeting on services may be considered, as a follow-up to the recommendation of the Mid-term Review on having expert group meetings on a multi-year basis and building network of experts.
We welcome the insights into services trade within RTAs provided by the secretariat. It is notable that adequate pacing and sequencing between domestic reform, and regional and multilateral liberalization are also important to exploiting services trade and development opportunities. Support is needed in strengthening the analytical, regulatory and institutional capacities of developing countries to benefit from trade in services. We note the useful support UNCTAD is providing in this regard to SADC and to a number of developing countries. We wish to request that such assistance be strengthened and provided to many more developing countries. Ultimately, it is in the interest of the global trading system that developing countries are integrated into services trade and become active participants.
On trade and environment – agenda item 6 -, we note from the background document (TD/B/COM.1/86) that non-tariff measures, both in mandatory and voluntary form, are becoming a decisive factor for market access, both for agricultural products, manufactures and services exported by developing countries. The G77 & China is therefore very much interested in the sector- and country-focused work on NTBs carried out under UNCTAD's Consultative Task Force on Environmental Requirements and Market Access for Developing Countries. More empirical work and better understanding are required on the interplay between mandatory and private-sector-set standards on environmental, health, and food-safety requirements in key export markets as well as to assist developing countries in pro-active adjustment policies. The Consultative Task Force can in particular play a supplementary role to WTO discussions in the TBT and SPS Committees on private-sector standards, because it can involve in its work all key stakeholders and link its analytical work with capacity-building assistance.
UNCTAD has also been very helpful in supporting developing countries in the WTO negotiations on liberalization of trade in environmental goods and services regarding conceptual and practical issues on how to assure the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment. It is no coincidence that the high quality of this work led WTO members to make UNCTAD a regular ad hoc observer in the WTO negotiations on the subject. Given the interest many developing countries have in accessing technology, know how and environmentally friendly products and services, we want UNCTAD to continue this support.
Furthermore, UNCTAD’s BioFuels and BioTrade Initiatives have carried out, well appreciated, activities on the potential risks and benefits of developing countries engaging in the emerging biofuels market and on the identification of goods and services that can contribute to sound use of biodiversity. These initiatives respond positively to growing concerns about petroleum price fluctuations, energy independence and the adverse environmental and economic effects of climate change including rapid and irreversible biodiversity loss. We call upon our development partners to provide and strengthen financial support to these initiatives so that they could be enhanced and expanded to a wider set of developing countries.
Finally on the activities carried out by the Trade Division, we note with appreciation the DITC Activity Report 2006. It provides a comprehensive survey of the varied development-oriented activities of the Division with which we are extremely pleased. We note the need that more extra-budgetary funding is required to sustain and expanding many ongoing activities, and to launch new ones so as to continuation implementation of the Sao Paulo Consensus. Given the importance our group places on international trade subprogramme of UNCTAD, and the important results attained in this area from the Mid-term Review, we would like the subprogramme to be significantly strengthened in terms of resources to fulfill its work.