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GB.268/WP/SDL/1/3, Corr. and Add.1
268th Session
Geneva, March 1997

Working Party on the Social Dimensions of the Liberalization of International Trade WP/WP/SDL


Continuation of discussions concerning the
programme of work and mandate of the Working Party

(c) Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization
(Singapore, 9-13 December 1996)

1. The Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization is the highest WTO authority, which is responsible for the functions of the WTO. It meets at least once every two years, and was held, for the first time since the WTO was created, in Singapore from 9 to 13 December 1996.

2. As the communication sent to the Director-General at the beginning of December 1996 that he would be invited to address the Conference was not confirmed by the competent authorities (the WTO General Council), the Office was represented at the conference as an observer, without the right to speak. This, however, lent particular eloquence to its enforced silence.

3. One of the main topics at the conference, if not the main topic -- even though it was not listed on the agenda -- concerned whether and how a reference would be made in the final documents of the conference to labour standards, and in particular to the internationally recognized fundamental labour standards. This involved two issues: first, whether the topic should be addressed in the official final Declaration or left to the Chairman's closing remarks (as it was in Marrakesh). The first option was preferred: paragraph 4 in the final Declaration, which covers this issue, is hence of particular significance, as it represents the official point of view of the WTO as expressed by ministers of trade. The second issue was the question of terminology. This was the subject of long negotiations, and paragraph 4 of the final Declaration is hence the outcome of a difficult compromise, particularly as regards the question of possible follow-up on this issue within the WTO. This paragraph reads as follows:

Core labour standards

4. For the information of the Working Party and to place this paragraph in its overall context, the final Declaration is reproduced in Appendix I. Those interested may also wish to consult the WTO site on the Internet, which has a section devoted to the conference.(1)

5. In parallel with negotiations on this issue and other points of the Declaration, which took place in small groups, the ministers of trade of WTO Members and representatives of designated international organizations spoke in turn in the plenary sittings. A great number of their statements referred to the ILO, either to indicate the primary role of the ILO in the promotion of international labour standards or to regret the absence of the Director-General, and in some cases both. The Office therefore considers it appropriate to provide the Working Party with a compilation (Appendix II) of the relevant parts of these statements which refer specifically to labour standards and to the ILO, leaving aside the rest for obvious reasons of economy. The full text of these statements can however be consulted through the ILO secretariat and on the Internet.This compilation also includes, at the end, relevant extracts from the concluding speech by the Chairman of the Ministerial Conference, Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong, who made a number of comments on paragraph 4 of the final Declaration.

Geneva, 6 March 1997.

Appendix I

World Trade Organization
18 December 1996
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996


Adopted on 13 December 1996


1. We, the Ministers, have met in Singapore from 9 to 13 December 1996 for the first regular biennial meeting of the WTO at Ministerial level, as called for in Article IV of the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, to further strengthen the WTO as a forum for negotiation, the continuing liberalization of trade within a rule-based system, and the multilateral review and assessment of trade policies, and in particular to:

Trade and Economic Growth

2. For nearly 50 years Members have sought to fulfil, first in the GATT and now in the WTO, the objectives reflected in the preamble to the WTO Agreement of conducting our trade relations with a view to raising standards of living worldwide. The rise in global trade facilitated by trade liberalization within the rules-based system has created more and better-paid jobs in many countries. The achievements of the WTO during its first two years bear witness to our desire to work together to make the most of the possibilities that the multilateral system provides to promote sustainable growth and development while contributing to a more stable and secure climate in international relations.

Integration of Economies; Opportunities and Challenges

3. We believe that the scope and pace of change in the international economy, including the growth in trade in services and direct investment, and the increasing integration of economies offer unprecedented opportunities for improved growth, job creation, and development. These developments require adjustment by economies and societies. They also pose challenges to the trading system. We commit ourselves to address these challenges.

Core Labour Standards

4. We renew our commitment to the observance of internationally recognized core labour standards. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the competent body to set and deal with these standards, and we affirm our support for its work in promoting them. We believe that economic growth and development fostered by increased trade and further trade liberalization contribute to the promotion of these standards. We reject the use of labour standards for protectionist purposes, and agree that the comparative advantage of countries, particularly low-wage developing countries, must in no way be put into question. In this regard, we note that the WTO and ILO Secretariats will continue their existing collaboration.


5. We commit ourselves to address the problem of marginalization for least-developed countries, and the risk of it for certain developing countries. We will also continue to work for greater coherence in international economic policy-making and for improved coordination between the WTO and other agencies in providing technical assistance.

Role of WTO

6. In pursuit of the goal of sustainable growth and development for the common good, we envisage a world where trade flows freely. To this end we renew our commitment to:

Regional Agreements

7. We note that trade relations of WTO Members are being increasingly influenced by regional trade agreements, which have expanded vastly in number, scope and coverage. Such initiatives can promote further liberalization and may assist least-developed, developing and transition economies in integrating into the international trading system. In this context, we note the importance of existing regional arrangements involving developing and least-developed countries. The expansion and extent of regional trade agreements make it important to analyse whether the system of WTO rights and obligations as it relates to regional trade agreements needs to be further clarified. We reaffirm the primacy of the multilateral trading system, which includes a framework for the development of regional trade agreements, and we renew our commitment to ensure that regional trade agreements are complementary to it and consistent with its rules. In this regard, we welcome the establishment and endorse the work of the new Committee on Regional Trade Agreements. We shall continue to work through progressive liberalization in the WTO as we are committed in the WTO Agreement and Decisions adopted at Marrakesh, and in so doing facilitate mutually supportive processes of global and regional trade liberalization.


8. It is important that the 28 applicants now negotiating accession contribute to completing the accession process by accepting the WTO rules and by offering meaningful market access commitments. We will work to bring these applicants expeditiously into the WTO system.

Dispute Settlement

9. The Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU) offers a means for the settlement of disputes among Members that is unique in international agreements. We consider its impartial and transparent operation to be of fundamental importance in assuring the resolution of trade disputes, and in fostering the implementation and application of the WTO agreements. The Understanding, with its predictable procedures, including the possibility of appeal of panel decisions to an Appellate Body and provisions on implementation of recommendations, has improved Members' means of resolving their differences. We believe that the DSU has worked effectively during its first two years. We also note the role that several WTO bodies have played in helping to avoid disputes. We renew our determination to abide by the rules and procedures of the DSU and other WTO agreements in the conduct of our trade relations and the settlement of disputes. We are confident that longer experience with the DSU, including the implementation of panel and appellate recommendations, will further enhance the effectiveness and credibility of the dispute settlement system.


10. We attach high priority to full and effective implementation of the WTO Agreement in a manner consistent with the goal of trade liberalization. Implementation thus far has been generally satisfactory, although some Members have expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects. It is clear that further effort in this area is required, as indicated by the relevant WTO bodies in their reports. Implementation of the specific commitments scheduled by Members with respect to market access in industrial goods and trade in services appears to be proceeding smoothly. With respect to industrial market access, monitoring of implementation would be enhanced by the timely availability of trade and tariff data. Progress has been made also in advancing the WTO reform programme in agriculture, including in implementation of agreed market access concessions and domestic subsidy and export subsidy commitments.

Notifications and Legislation

11. Compliance with notification requirements has not been fully satisfactory. Because the WTO system relies on mutual monitoring as a means to assess implementation, those Members which have not submitted notifications in a timely manner, or whose notifications are not complete, should renew their efforts. At the same time, the relevant bodies should take appropriate steps to promote full compliance while considering practical proposals for simplifying the notification process.

12. Where legislation is needed to implement WTO rules, Members are mindful of their obligations to complete their domestic legislative process without further delay. Those Members entitled to transition periods are urged to take steps as they deem necessary to ensure timely implementation of obligations as they come into effect. Each Member should carefully review all its existing or proposed legislation, programmes and measures to ensure their full compatibility with the WTO obligations, and should carefully consider points made during review in the relevant WTO bodies regarding the WTO consistency of legislation, programmes and measures, and make appropriate changes where necessary.

Developing Countries

13. The integration of developing countries in the multilateral trading system is important for their economic development and for global trade expansion. In this connection, we recall that the WTO Agreement embodies provisions conferring differential and more favourable treatment for developing countries, including special attention to the particular situation of least-developed countries. We acknowledge the fact that developing country Members have undertaken significant new commitments, both substantive and procedural, and we recognize the range and complexity of the efforts that they are making to comply with them. In order to assist them in these efforts, including those with respect to notification and legislative requirements, we will improve the availability of technical assistance under the agreed guidelines. We have also agreed to recommendations relative to the decision we took at Marrakesh concerning the possible negative effects of the agricultural reform programme on least-developed and net food-importing developing countries.

Least-Developed Countries

14. We remain concerned by the problems of the least-developed countries and have agreed to:

Textiles and Clothing

15. We confirm our commitment to full and faithful implementation of the provisions of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC). We stress the importance of the integration of textile products, as provided for in the ATC, into GATT 1994 under its strengthened rules and disciplines because of its systemic significance for the rule-based, non-discriminatory trading system and its contribution to the increase in export earnings of developing countries. We attach importance to the implementation of this Agreement so as to ensure an effective transition to GATT 1994 by way of integration which is progressive in character. The use of safeguard measures in accordance with ATC provisions should be as sparing as possible. We note concerns regarding the use of other trade distortive measures and circumvention. We reiterate the importance of fully implementing the provisions of the ATC relating to small suppliers, new entrants and least-developed country Members, as well as those relating to cotton-producing exporting Members. We recognize the importance of wool products for some developing country Members. We reaffirm that as part of the integration process and with reference to the specific commitments undertaken by the Members as a result of the Uruguay Round, all Members shall take such action as may be necessary to abide by GATT 1994 rules and disciplines so as to achieve improved market access for textiles and clothing products. We agree that, keeping in view its quasi-judicial nature, the Textiles Monitoring Body (TMB) should achieve transparency in providing rationale for its findings and recommendations. We expect that the TMB shall make findings and recommendations whenever called upon to do so under the Agreement. We emphasize the responsibility of the Goods Council in overseeing, in accordance with Article IV:5 of the WTO Agreement and Article 8 of the ATC, the functioning of the ATC, whose implementation is being supervised by the TMB.

Trade and Environment

16. The Committee on Trade and Environment has made an important contribution towards fulfilling its Work Programme. The Committee has been examining and will continue to examine, inter alia, the scope of the complementarities between trade liberalization, economic development and environmental protection. Full implementation of the WTO Agreements will make an important contribution to achieving the objectives of sustainable development. The work of the Committee has underlined the importance of policy coordination at the national level in the area of trade and environment. In this connection, the work of the Committee has been enriched by the participation of environmental as well as trade experts from Member governments and the further participation of such experts in the Committee's deliberations would be welcomed. The breadth and complexity of the issues covered by the Committee's Work Programme shows that further work needs to be undertaken on all items of its agenda, as contained in its report. We intend to build on the work accomplished thus far, and therefore direct the Committee to carry out its work, reporting to the General Council, under its existing terms of reference.

Services Negotiations

17. The fulfilment of the objectives agreed at Marrakesh for negotiations on the improvement of market access in services - in financial services, movement of natural persons, maritime transport services and basic telecommunications - has proved to be difficult. The results have been below expectations. In three areas, it has been necessary to prolong negotiations beyond the original deadlines. We are determined to obtain a progressively higher level of liberalization in services on a mutually advantageous basis with appropriate flexibility for individual developing country Members, as envisaged in the Agreement, in the continuing negotiations and those scheduled to begin no later than 1 January 2000. In this context, we look forward to full MFN agreements based on improved market access commitments and national treatment. Accordingly, we will:

With the same broad objectives in mind, we also look forward to a successful conclusion of the negotiations on Maritime Transport Services in the next round of negotiations on services liberalization.

In professional services, we shall aim at completing the work on the accountancy sector by the end of 1997, and will continue to develop multilateral disciplines and guidelines. In this connection, we encourage the successful completion of international standards in the accountancy sector by IFAC, IASC, and IOSCO. With respect to GATS rules, we shall undertake the necessary work with a view to completing the negotiations on safeguards by the end of 1997. We also note that more analytical work will be needed on emergency safeguards measures, government procurement in services and subsidies.

ITA and Pharmaceuticals

18. Taking note that a number of Members have agreed on a Declaration on Trade in Information Technology Products, we welcome the initiative taken by a number of WTO Members and other States or separate customs territories which have applied to accede to the WTO, who have agreed to tariff elimination for trade in information technology products on an MFN basis as well as the addition by a number of Members of over 400 products to their lists of tariff-free products in pharmaceuticals.

Work Programme and Built-in Agenda

19. Bearing in mind that an important aspect of WTO activities is a continuous overseeing of the implementation of various agreements, a periodic examination and updating of the WTO Work Programme is a key to enable the WTO to fulfil its objectives. In this context, we endorse the reports of the various WTO bodies. A major share of the Work Programme stems from the WTO Agreement and decisions adopted at Marrakesh. As part of these Agreements and decisions we agreed to a number of provisions calling for future negotiations on Agriculture, Services and aspects of TRIPS, or reviews and other work on Anti-Dumping, Customs Valuation, Dispute Settlement Understanding, Import Licensing, Preshipment Inspection, Rules of Origin, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures, Safeguards, Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Textiles and Clothing, Trade Policy Review Mechanism, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and Trade-Related Investment Measures. We agree to a process of analysis and exchange of information, where provided for in the conclusions and recommendations of the relevant WTO bodies, on the Built-in Agenda issues, to allow Members to better understand the issues involved and identify their interests before undertaking the agreed negotiations and reviews. We agree that:

Investment and Competition

20. Having regard to the existing WTO provisions on matters related to investment and competition policy and the built-in agenda in these areas, including under the TRIMs Agreement, and on the understanding that the work undertaken shall not prejudge whether negotiations will be initiated in the future, we also agree to:

These groups shall draw upon each other's work if necessary and also draw upon and be without prejudice to the work in UNCTAD and other appropriate intergovernmental fora. As regards UNCTAD, we welcome the work under way as provided for in the Midrand Declaration and the contribution it can make to the understanding of issues. In the conduct of the work of the working groups, we encourage cooperation with the above organizations to make the best use of available resources and to ensure that the development dimension is taken fully into account. The General Council will keep the work of each body under review, and will determine after two years how the work of each body should proceed. It is clearly understood that future negotiations, if any, regarding multilateral disciplines in these areas, will take place only after an explicit consensus decision is taken among WTO Members regarding such negotiations.

Transparency in Government Procurement

21. We further agree to:

Trade Facilitation

22. In the organization of the work referred to in paragraphs 20 and 21, careful attention will be given to minimizing the burdens on delegations, especially those with more limited resources, and to coordinating meetings with those of relevant UNCTAD bodies. The technical cooperation programme of the Secretariat will be available to developing and, in particular, least-developed country Members to facilitate their participation in this work.

23. Noting that the 50th anniversary of the multilateral trading system will occur early in 1998, we instruct the General Council to consider how this historic event can best be commemorated.

* * *

Finally, we express our warmest thanks to the Chairman of the Ministerial Conference, Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong, for his personal contribution to the success of this Ministerial Conference. We also want to express our sincere gratitude to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, his colleagues in the Government of Singapore and the people of Singapore for their warm hospitality and the excellent organization they have provided. The fact that this first Ministerial Conference of the WTO has been held at Singapore is an additional manifestation of Singapore's commitment to an open world trading system.

Appendix II

Extracts from statements made at the Ministerial Conference
of the World Trade Organization
Singapore, 9-13 December 1996

Extracts taken from statements delivered at the Ministerial Conference that referred to labour standards and/or the ILO are reproduced below. Not being complete texts, they should be read in the context of the full statements, which may be consulted through the ILO secretariat. They may also be accessed on the Internet at The WTO's Internet page on the Singapore Conference is at All translations and designations are those of the WTO.

In addition to the statements that contained specific references to labour standards and/or the ILO, a number of countries referred more obliquely to whether the so-called "new" issues should be addressed at the Meeting (these included labour standards and foreign direct investment, among other items), or they generally addressed topics such as the need for cooperation between international organizations and/or avoidance of unilateral trade measures with extraterritorial effect. The statements made, for example, by Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine and Uruguay, fall into this group. Since these countries' statements contained no specific reference to the ILO or labour standards, extracts from them do not appear below.

Naturally, given the purpose of the Conference, all the government statements concentrated on technical trade matters. However, in addition, a number of the statements contained reflections on trade liberalization in relation to other questions of economic development and social progress as faced in their countries (see for example the full statements of Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Morocco, Namibia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Togo and Zambia, to cite only a few). Also pertinent in this context are the statements by inter-governmental organizations invited to speak at the Conference.(3)


H.E. Mr. G.J. Campbell
Minister of International Economic Relations

... The new international economic situation has brought us a more interdependent world which, supported by know-how and technology, limits national decision-making capacities.

It is thus essential that we should devote our efforts to studying the links between trade and other issues such as the environment, investment, competition policies and government procurement, as well as to the debate on labour standards.

We shall more and more be talking about disciplines and less about customs tariffs ...

... For Argentina, strengthening the WTO is not simply another option: it is a key element of Argentina's international economic relations. We must therefore reaffirm our commitment to the system.

* * *


The Honourable Tim Fischer, M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade

... This meeting .. needs to produce a clear, forward-looking work programme of practical relevance to business and the economic aspirations of our societies, especially the creation of secure jobs ...

... But we need to be clear about which new issues are core WTO business. For Australia, the test of what is WTO business is whether an issue is potentially trade liberalizing.

On this test we, like most WTO Members, do not support a working role for the WTO on labour standards or human rights. This is something for the ILO. [...]

* * *


Mr. Hannes Farnleitner
Austrian Federal Minister for Economic Affairs
Head of the Austrian Delegation

... Those sectors of our economy which were liberalized (against their will) already in the fifties are now the most competitive ones, providing employment and high income. On the other hand the sectors sheltered as long as possible, for example, food processing and certain services like telecom, are now in structural troubles. That is why we think that free market access to foreign competitors was and is the best means to dynamize economies.

Increasing international competition not only promotes structural change but causes of course a lot of complaints, be it from producers, members and organizations of the workforce and increasingly from certain groups of consumers.

In Austria we had and have a very intensive discussion on so-called new issues. Our political parties and the House of Parliament are very sensitive to items like trade and investment, trade and competition, trade and environment and trade and core labour standards.

The Standing Committee of the Austrian Parliament passed last week a Resolution, which obliges me by law to suggest and insist, that this Conference should set up a working committee on core labour standards as defined by the ILO and to ask for a mandate to continue and to intensify the work in the Committee for Trade and Environment. From my own experience as an economist I know that the realization of these core standards will not influence negatively the existing comparative advantages of developing countries.

Increasingly organized groups of consumers are focusing their efforts on voluntary positive labelling. In Austria as in other countries products produced under certain best practices are preferred by consumers while others are refused: first effects can be seen already. If this development will continue we may see a new non-tariff barrier emerge.

Therefore an open dialogue on sensitive new items may remove obstacles to further enhancement of international trade and to meet the increasing criticism towards globalization. Some, at least in Europe, regard the so-called "social model" of Europe as the most endangered species. [...]

* * *


Mr. Ali Saleh Al-Saleh
Minister of Commerce

... Prosperity for all, in the new century, depends on collective responsibility ...

... We have a great deal of work before us. However, I do think that all of us here today should work together to seek common ground. We should take into account the interests of all Member countries in order to reach a compromise in the new areas especially in labour measures, government procurement and the Multilateral Investment Agreement (MIA). [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Philippe Maystadt
Deputy Prime Minister and
Minister of Finance and Foreign Trade

... Lastly, and above all, the WTO, strengthened as a result of this Conference, must clearly emphasize that trade is not an end in itself but, to cite the words of the preamble to the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, a means of "raising standards of living" and "ensuring full employment".

The people of Belgium, through their Parliament, which made this a condition for ratification of the Uruguay Round Agreements, wish to see the WTO make an active contribution to the promotion of the basic labour standards enshrined in international law, in close collaboration with the International Labour Organization and without jeopardizing the comparative advantages of developing countries.

The Belgian Government naturally regrets that Mr. Hansenne, Director-General of the ILO, was not invited to our meeting. We would not understand it if the WTO refused to establish some form of cooperation with the International Labour Organization in order progressively to ensure that these basic standards are respected.

This action will take time (the countries concerned must be given a reasonable amount of time to adapt their labour practices and conditions) and must be set within a multilateral framework (there should be no unilateral measures). It must take the form of incentives rather than sanctions and be accompanied by increased assistance to the least-developed countries.

My Government well understands the reticence of several of our emerging and developing country partners to discuss these issues in the WTO. I am certainly not unresponsive to some of their arguments, particularly their feeling that some "social" statements are in fact inspired by protectionist inclinations. This is not our case, however, and I am convinced that better mutual understanding of our values and concepts in this area can only come from multilateral discussion that takes due account of the interests, characteristics and problems of all concerned.

These concerns can be met in a number of ways, but it is my view that the creation of satisfactory mechanisms for cooperation between the WTO and the ILO would undoubtedly be a positive step.

By discussing these issues together, we will take an important step forward along the path towards our shared objective, namely, to improve the well-being of our peoples.

* * *


Mr. Victor Rico Frontaura
Minister of International Economic Relations

... We are therefore convinced that globalization should not only promote the expansion and diversification of trade but, above all, should contribute to raising the standard of living of our peoples.

... I should also like to underscore the efforts of the developing countries to comply with the commitments assumed in the Uruguay Round, which in many cases have meant substantial changes in their legal, economic and social structures. Nevertheless, this effort needs to be matched with a high level of cooperation and technical assistance ...

With regard to labour standards, we consider it crucial for the international community to further promote workers' rights and minimum standards for workers' protection. Labour legislation in Bolivia is among the most advanced in the region. Nevertheless, we do not believe that the WTO is the appropriate forum for discussing these topics. This does not mean that we are unaware of the linkage between labour and trading systems and other variables in the economy. [...]

* * *


The Honourable K.G. Kgoroba
Minister of Commerce and Industry

... The new issues on the agenda for this Conference therefore are of concern to Botswana. Many of these issues take the negotiations into areas in which many of the contracting parties have little experience. They are also technically difficult and politically sensitive. I am referring to proposals in respect of trade and labour standards, trade and investment, competition policy and government procurement. These issues have serious implications for developing economies. It would therefore be prudent for the WTO and contracting parties to leave these rather difficult and sensitive issues to be studied and discussed by the appropriate international organizations. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Luiz Felipe Lampreia
Minister for External Relations

... Brazil has no difficulty whatsoever with the question of observance of core labour standards. We have subscribed to a substantial number of International Labour Organization conventions that deal with these issues. The Brazilian Government has developed a firm and consistent record in the observance of fundamental human rights and particularly in the area of labour standards. In Brazil there are no limitations or impediments to the free negotiation between employers and employees nor to the creation of labour unions. Our legislation does not tolerate forced labour or child exploitation, and isolated cases have been investigated and punished. Nonetheless, we fail to see how a rules-oriented organization such as the WTO could tackle the issue of ensuring the observance of labour standards. Brazil wishes to stress its serious concern with the possibility that the protection of core labour standards, which is in itself an ultimate goal to be pursued by all, be utilized as a "scapegoat" to deal with the problem of structural unemployment in the developed economies.

We believe that the International Labour Organization is the appropriate locus to address the issue of observance of core labour standards and that any statement on this issue by this Ministerial Conference should not envisage any follow-up of this issue within the WTO ...

... Our own experience has shown that regional trade agreements can reinforce and be beneficial to the multilateral trade system ... From the political viewpoint, MERCOSUR represents only part of a process where other democratic components are present such as respect for human rights, protection of the environment and initiatives related to peace and security. We will strengthen and deepen MERCOSUR while keeping it fully compatible with the WTO, which is the baseline and the mainstay of the multilateral trading system.

* * *

Brunei Darussalam

The Honourable Abdul Rahman Taib
Minister of Industry and Primary Resources

... Turning to new issues, there are still a number of areas which pose some problems to us. In approaching this question, we always maintain that the level of ambition must coincide with the political and economic reality. We agree with the general assertion that the WTO must be dynamic and relevant to today's world. But, the danger of overloading its agenda and overstretching its resources at this early stage cannot be ignored.

On labour standards, its linkages and relevance to trade and the WTO have been questioned. We therefore feel that the issue is best dealt with in other fora such as the ILO. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Frédérk Nzabampema
Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism

... The Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization is one of the greatest agreements on multilateral cooperation of the close of the twentieth century. Its implementation will lead to substantial growth in international trade, will generate new income and will create new jobs ...

... Turning to other issues, any consensus on the question of labour standards should take into account the following points: recognition of the importance of protecting and promoting labour standards; recognition of the competence of the International Labour Organization in this area and a commitment to refrain from resorting to protectionist measures in applying labour standards. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Arthur C. Eggleton,
Minister for International Trade

... Economic integration, the result of increased flows of trade and investment, is driven by individuals seeking to improve their circumstances.

There is a perception that somehow increasing trade flows may be harmful -- that it leads to job losses, not job creation. While the ILO is the primary forum for dealing with core labour standards, we, in the WTO, need to respond to these concerns by showing that increased adherence to a rules-based system together with further trade liberalization leads to greater economic growth which benefits us all.

The choice before us is clear: we can refuse to adapt, and lose the primacy of this Organization and the opportunity it offers for a rational, stable framework for a better standard of living through trade. Or, we can accept that we are living in a global village, and make it easier for our citizens to participate in the global marketplace. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Alvaro Garcia
Minister of Economic Affairs

... Consistent with the view that a modern and dynamic organization is required, one which covers the various aspects relating to trade, Chile has co-sponsored and supported the appropriate incorporation of new and fundamental dimensions in the WTO work programme ...

... The multilateral trading system can only be effective, spread and grow stronger if it is based on rules of law ...

... Trade policy objectives must be attained with full respect for core labour rights as they have been enshrined in the ILO. We foster the right to organize and to collective bargaining. We believe that no form of forced labour, exploitation of child labour or job discrimination should be used as mechanisms to enhance trade advantages. We must strengthen the positive link between increased trade flows and respect for labour standards. In this regard, we endorse the language proposed in the report on the draft Ministerial Declaration prepared by the Director-General of the WTO. [...]

* * *


H.E. Dr. Felipe Jaramillo
Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade

... The subject of labour standards and their possible inclusion by the WTO in its work programme has been particularly controversial. Many of us have been unable to find legal or institutional grounds for their inclusion in the WTO's disciplines and trade regulations.

Quite apart from the fact that they could give rise to attitudes that could hinder trade and generate new forms of protectionism, with a resulting decrease in our capacity to generate employment, Colombia does not think that it is realistic to link labour rights with trade liberalization programmes.

The one relationship which is deserving of attention is the link between trade and development. To the extent that the most developed countries open up their markets in a commercially significant way to the developing countries, the latter will be able to build up their resources, improve their standard of living, and hence endeavour to reform the labour environment and promote greater social justice at home.

While Colombia is aware of the need to preserve and improve the rights and living conditions of workers, it considers that the examination and discussion of the subject falls outside the scope of the WTO. It should be dealt with exclusively by the International Labour Organization as the Specialized Agency responsible for labour rights ...

... The globalization and liberalization of trade have generated new opportunities and increased hope for the development of peoples, increased wealth and improved living conditions.

Disparity continues to be great, and our duty as the engineers of change is to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor so that prosperity can be more fairly distributed. [...]

* * *

Costa Rica

H.E. Mr. José Rossi
Minister of Foreign Trade

... We believe that the WTO's work can go still further. For this reason, we have backed the introduction of some issues which have not yet found their place in the Organization. The Government of Costa Rica has co-sponsored a proposal to initiate work on investment and trade ...

... My Government also endorses the introduction of the three other "new issues" that have been included in the final paragraph of the draft Ministerial Declaration [including core labour standards].

* * *

Côte d'Ivoire

H.E. Mr. Anet N'Zi Nanan Koliabo
Ambassador to Belgium, Benelux and the European Union

... Moreover, Côte d'Ivoire has persistently done its utmost to apply the provisions agreed in international fora ...

... The satisfactory results of the macroeconomic aggregates have enabled us to make significant headway in the social sectors, particularly in the areas of health, education and employment ...

... Côte d'Ivoire has always been able to adapt its labour codes to the recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which rehabilitate the private sector, guaranteeing the rights of salaried employees.

The Members of the WTO should adopt a more constructive approach to this issue. In condemning the inhuman conditions in which people are called upon to work in certain countries, it is essential to avoid cancelling the comparative advantages of the developing countries in that area and turning labour standards into market protection measures. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz
Minister of Foreign Trade

More than half a century ago the United Nations Economic and Social Council decided to hold a Conference on Trade and Employment in the capital of my country. The document which resulted from its deliberations, known as the Havana Charter, put forward the idea of an international trade organization, which was the origin of today's World Trade Organization.

This is not a proper time to analyse the differences between what that organization, which never went into effect, was intended to be and the present-day organization. It suffices to say that many of the topics dealt with then are being once again considered in this Conference ...

When we address any of the topics in our agenda, it is evident that there are some who are interested in establishing international standards which tend to perpetuate the differences in development of today's world under the pretext of the existence of equal opportunities which are actually non-existent ...

... Pressure is being exerted to introduce new topics in the Organization's working agenda, some of them having no connection with trade, such as labour standards, at a time when developing countries have not yet been able to assimilate the provisions of the Uruguay Round Agreements. On the other hand, the minimum commitments adopted in relation to these countries are not complied with, as occurs in the textile sector ...

... [T]he so-called new topics shall correspond with the mandate and scope of the Organization and not try to use its contractual character to establish binding multilateral commitments, which ignore specialized international fora. [...]

* * *

Czech Republic

H.E. Mr. Vladimír Dlouhý
Minister of Industry and Trade

... The Czech Republic has repeatedly advocated that the best way the WTO and its Members may contribute to raising standards around the world in areas like environment and working conditions is to promote democracy and prosperity through open and free trade and through increased adherence to the existing rules and disciplines. This is certainly true for both environmental and core labour standards ...

The Czech Republic is committed to enhancing core labour standards worldwide and is opposed to abuses of fundamental human rights such as forced labour and exploitation of child labour. It is our strong view, however, that the enforcement of the labour standards is the responsibility of the International Labour Organization. The WTO is ill-suited to deal with this matter. It is a commercial contract ensuring trade liberalization and not labour standards. If there is any link between trade and working conditions, it is that possible trade restrictions are likely to bring about lower, not higher, living standards of targeted countries. The WTO should not tolerate any form of trade sanctions designed to impose particular labour standards by forcing additional mandatory costs on those WTO Members which, due to their past development, enjoy comparative advantages stemming from the cost-effective labour. [...]

* * *


Mr. Poul Nielson
Minister for Development Cooperation

... The world is changing, and the issues facing international trade are changing as a result. In the interest of trade liberalization the WTO has to keep up with these changes.

I am going to highlight two topics on which the WTO must focus in the future in order to maintain its pivotal role.

First: trade and developing countries ... My point is that the issue must be at the centre of the WTO's attention. I pledge my Government's strong support for efforts aiming in this direction. This Conference will take a step along that path. But much remains to be done. Market access and technical assistance are among the instruments at our disposal.

... The second topic I want to highlight is the consumer. The consumer is becoming increasingly powerful in international trade. That trend will continue. Let me give you an example: earlier this year a major European company was interested in investing in a factory in a different part of the world to supply that geographic region. A decision on the location of the factory had been made. The company had to change its mind. Why? Because consumers in Europe threatened a boycott of the products of the company. Consumers felt that the country which was to be the export base for the region did not respect fundamental labour rights. The consumer forced the company to make the investment in a different country.

If the consumer feels that the WTO takes no interest in his main concerns, the WTO and the aim of liberalization of trade will lose public support. That is a key reason why Denmark - one of the staunchest supporters of the multilateral trading system - urges the WTO to move ahead on environment and fundamental labour rights ...

... Trade liberalization is a necessary condition for promoting economic growth and better living standards. In this way the WTO contributes to promoting fundamental labour rights. However, for the reasons I have already mentioned the WTO has to do more. It is my conviction that the WTO should set up a working party to analyse the link between trade and fundamental labour rights. I would emphasize that as a nation dependent on free trade we would refuse any discussion of comparative advantages. For the same reason we would reject the notion of sanctions. [...]

* * *

Dominican Republic

Mr. Luis Manuel Bonetti
Minister of Industry and Commerce

... The Dominican Republic, a founder Member of the GATT, was quick to accept the principle of multilateralism, whose disciplines are necessary if the impressive expansion of international trade, driven by the phenomenon of globalization, is not to be detrimental to human development and justice in economic relations between countries at different stages of development.

We are, however, concerned that major farming and manufacturing sectors, in which a significant proportion of our people still work, are being left behind. We must therefore act decisively to make the structural changes needed to enable us to adapt to the process of globalization, while at the same time minimizing the impact of the inevitable social upheavals which will follow in their wake ...

... The social cost of these reforms is being increased by the negative effect of the distortions of free trade which still persist in international markets. These can be traced to those developed countries which, despite calling for open markets, are slow to implement their own commitments, and demolish remaining protectionist barriers ...

... We would like to repeat what we have already said on a number of occasions, namely that we consider that the competent forum for dealing with matters concerned with workers' rights is the International Labour Organization (ILO). Without denying the importance of the rights of workers and their claims to social benefits, we see no point in linking workers' rights with the defence of commercial interests ...

... This is the path that our delegation would wish to take, together with you all, for the sake of greater legitimacy, economic democracy and the social justice for which we stand.

* * *


H.E. Mr. Ruben Flores
Deputy-Minister of Foreign Trade

... The achievements of these past two years following the conclusion of the Uruguay Round have been generally positive. Much of the buoyancy of world trade is the result of the removal of tariff barriers negotiated in that Round. For developing countries, and Ecuador in particular, it is of fundamental importance that the commitments agreed should be respected and that there should be no disguised forms of protectionism, linked to labour standards or to environmental protection, for example ...

... Economic globalization means cooperation rather than confrontation. The world of the future calls for consensus. The polarization of interests can exacerbate conflicts and, in the case of the international trade of goods and services, this could have very negative consequences.

As we approach the twenty-first century, we the developing countries demand that priority be given to economic and social development ...

... Fourthly, Ecuador does not believe that labour issues should be dealt with in this forum. These are issues that are not within the purview of the WTO. They risk polarizing positions rather than fostering consensus and could interfere with the work of the competent organization, the International Labour Organization.

It would also seem appropriate to examine the reasons for the change, in such a short space of time, in the perception that it was the developing nations - and not the developed ones - which were being affected, via international trade, by the existence of differing labour standards. This does not mean that Ecuador in any way supports the exploitation of workers. Ecuador has very strict regulations which would apply in any such cases. This proposal is predicated upon the need to keep the WTO's attention focused on those matters that genuinely come within its purview, without any distractions that might cause it to lose sight of its sole objective of promoting and consolidating freer trade, where much still remains to be done. [...]

* * *


H.E. Dr. Ahmed Goueli
Minister of Trade and Supply

... As concerns the question of the relationship between trade and labour standards, we recognize the importance of the issue of core labour standards. However, we believe that this issue clearly falls within the mandate and specific competence of the International Labour Organization, and we stress its fundamental and essential role in this respect. [...]

* * *

El Salvador

Mr. René Antonio Leon
Vice-Minister of the Economy

... Secondly, we should not clutter up our agenda with issues which are outside the WTO's competence.

We therefore think it inappropriate for the WTO to deal with issues such as workers' rights, since they are better dealt with in other specialized multilateral forums such as the International Labour Organization. In many of the proposals relating to this issue the legitimate objectives of promoting workers' rights appear to be being used to achieve other ends. In practice we have found that workers' rights, which the Government of El Salvador protects, respects and promotes, are being used to conceal other interests which are not related to the welfare of our countries' workers but seek only to block opportunities for access to markets. [...]

* * *


Mr. Ole Norrback
Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade

... The trade agenda is expanding together with the changing world. At the same time the linkage between political, social, ecological and economic issues is becoming closer. All this has implications for the multilateral trading system which is guarded by the WTO...

... Globalization of the world economy is proceeding rapidly. In order to maintain its credibility and dynamism the WTO should prove capable of addressing questions that are relevant to consumers, business and governments. This means that it must consider a range of new issues which are emerging ...

... Another new issue is labour standards, which is a very complex and controversial one. We are all committed to enhancing core labour standards. Recognizing the primary role of the ILO, Finland strongly supports a dialogue on the issue. WTO could examine in cooperation with the ILO areas where to contribute to the promotion of labour standards. The starting point should be the understanding that trade liberalization can contribute to the improvement of labour conditions ...

... The WTO needs to produce a political vision for the future. Our goal should be a universal trading system ... We also have to do our utmost to integrate all developing countries into the multilateral trading system. This requires concrete, positive measures especially in favour of the least developed countries. [...]

* * *


Mr. Yves Galland
Minister for Finance and Foreign Trade

... The commitment of each and every one of us to multilateralism obviously implies our rejection of unilateralism and hence all forms of extraterritorial legislation ...

... Finally, France believes the process of globalization will falter unless it has public support.

We are all convinced that globalization constitutes an opportunity for our businesses and our economies in so far as it stimulates innovation, growth and job creation everywhere.

Nevertheless, globalization is also a source of concern to the public, because it juxtaposes countries with differing levels of development and widely-varying standards of living and environmental standards and imposes adjustments which can often be very painful.

Globalization is therefore a fragile asset, whose legitimacy we must always be prepared to justify, lest we provoke protectionist reaction.

This is why we cannot avoid the question of basic social standards. On this and other issues, what we have in common is much more important than that which divides us: I believe we are all agreed that the ILO has a fundamental role to play in this area. We are all agreed that this issue should in no way lead to concealed protectionism. We are all agreed that trade liberalization will help to promote basic social standards, as proved by the industrial and social history of the developed countries.

In these circumstances and on that basis, we should begin, at the WTO and here in Singapore, a process of reflection on the crucial and indisputable issues. Here, too, we are all agreed that forced labour should not exist. We are all agreed that child slavery, a subject and terminology which appear in a report issued by the European Parliament, is intolerable. We are all agreed that child labour should be ended as soon as possible. France and the European Union, along with all those who are firmly committed to that goal, wish to assist this movement by participating in a concerted approach to educational and training reform.

On these questions, it is true that differences in approach exist between us. It was most unfortunate that we were not unanimous about inviting Mr. Hansenne, Director-General of the ILO, with his wealth of experience and competence, to come to address us.

Indeed, in all these areas, the WTO provides a framework within which all countries, developed and developing, may state their positions and, I stress this point, do so on good terms with the ILO, about whose role and competence there can be no question.

How could we explain to the world that the World Trade Organization was not qualified to deal with these basic issues relating to human rights in the workplace? ...

... An active development policy also entails further opening of the markets of the developed and middle-income countries to the least developed countries ...

... As always, France stands ready to fight for solidarity, which is diametrically opposed to protectionism.

* * *


Mr. Günter Rexrodt
Federal Minister of Economics

... This first WTO Conference should also set the course for the grand design of the multilateral system in the next millennium. The most important issues are: investment; competition; environment; and labour standards ...

... I come now to a highly sensitive political issue.

Social issues deal with the political order of nations and with their societal values as a whole. Such fundamentally complex concepts cannot be dealt with by trade policy measures which are precisely defined in a legal sense but limited in scope. We must not bring into the WTO a confrontation about cultural and social values. This would destroy the credibility of the system including the highly valuable dispute settlement instrument. The dispute settlement instrument has to be applied to real trade disputes and not to foreign or social policy issues.

No doubt infringements on fundamental human and workers' rights are intolerable and have to be addressed in all relevant fora, primarily by the International Labour Organization.

We are willing to support a concrete dialogue between WTO and ILO for further clarification of the relative responsibilities of the organizations.

Some basic principles have to be observed:

The draft Ministerial Declaration strikes a good balance between the difference views on this sensitive issue. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. A. Baltas
Deputy Minister
Ministry of National Economy

... However, as the century draws to a close, the economic and trading environment continues to inspire a certain amount of concern. The surge in the development of technologies, offering new prospects for economic development, has been accompanied by a genuine revolution in production, in the use of resources, which has had its impact on social relations. Consequently, each party must assume its responsibility at the national and international levels in accordance with its needs and its capacity ...

... As regards trade and core social standards, we must examine the link between those standards and trade policy. However, it is essential that we reassure the low-wage countries that the discussion of these questions will not undermine their comparative advantages. We are all willing to recognize the essential role of the ILO in the field of core social standards and the need to ensure that those standards do not lead to disguised protectionism. That being the case, we are all the more convinced that close cooperation between the ILO and the WTO will help us to attain our objectives. [...]

* * *


H.E. Dr. Juan Mauricio Wurmser
Minister of Economy

... A source of serious concern for developing countries lies in the initiatives to link trade to unrelated issues as a way of imposing conditions on market access, thereby invalidating the advances in removing non-tariff barriers, when some of those issues fall within the jurisdiction of other forums.

In particular, I wish to refer to the labour standards issue. Guatemala is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a member of the International Labour Organization. As a nation, we have undertaken to secure participation by the labour sector in the benefits of economic growth fostered by increased trade. However, we consider that this issue should be discussed in the only qualified forum, which is the International Labour Organization. We definitely reject any initiative to tie the labour issue to trade or to utilize labour standards as arguments for negotiation and for trade pressures. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Michael Shree Chan
Senior Minister of Trade, Tourism and Industry

... Our challenge and focus at this time, therefore, ought to facilitate mechanisms that will promote the effective and beneficial participation of the smaller economies.

I recall the commitment given by the developed countries some 20 years ago that they will contribute an average of 0.7 per cent of each developed country's respective GDP as development assistance to the developing countries, and wish to note that this commitment has not materialized with the exception of one Scandinavian country.

I wish to urge the developed nations to honour such commitment and to see the need for development in the South as a necessity in order to give the capacity to increase our trading relationship with the North and in so doing maximise the benefits that may accrue from free trade.

Many small developing countries, like Guyana, have undertaken comprehensive structural adjustment programmes in collaboration with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), to make their economies more compatible with a freer and fairer multilateral economic system ...

... For Guyana, it has not been an easy process to mobilize the national political support for the programme. Besides, the adjustment process brought with it, immediately, certain debilitating consequences for the weaker sections of the population ...

... Guyana, like the rest of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), is a country which has traditionally emphasized the pivotal role of labour and the protection of the environment in its development process. We have more than a fair track record in these matters.

We believe in the right of workers to belong to trade unions and to be engaged in the collective bargaining process. This to my mind is a reasonable undertaking in a civilized society and it explains why we have not hesitated to ratify and honour various conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO). [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Sergio Nuñez
Vice-Minister of Trade and Economics

... Honduras is a country which respects human rights and the rights of workers, and we join the other countries which have stated that the ILO should be the only body authorized to deal with social and labour issues. We believe that the tripartite structure of the ILO offers the best solution for dealing with such issues and that they should not be discussed within the WTO, since they could be used as a pretext for introducing protectionist trade measures against countries which enjoy comparative advantages.

In conclusion, the results of this Ministerial Conference should show due regard for the principles which gave birth to the Organization, according to which its fundamental objectives are, inter alia, to "raise standards of living, to ensure full employment and a growing volume of real income" in the participating countries.

* * *

Hong Kong

Statement by Miss Denise Yue Chung-Yee
Secretary for Trade and Industry

... It is now being argued by some that the WTO should actively promote the observance of so-called "core" labour standards. Much as Hong Kong supports protection and promotion of labour rights, I can see no role for the WTO in the promotion of labour standards. The ILO is clearly the right forum. It is my belief that the WTO can best contribute to improved living standards and employment by concentrating on its twin tasks of trade liberalization and trade rule-making. It is, however, important that these two tasks must go in tandem. On the trade liberalization front, we have made gradual progress and I have spoken of the ultimate goal. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Szaboles Fazakas
Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism

... My Government is fully committed to the adherence of the core labour standards. We are of the firm conviction that this is an extremely important political and human rights issue. Hungary is thus prepared to provide all support to the International Labour Organization to effectively tackle this problem area.

* * *


Dr. B.B. Ramaiah
Minister of Commerce

... In the services area, we are concerned that negotiations on movement of natural persons which came to an end in July 1995 did not yield particularly meaningful results, from our perspective. In many cases, the movement of natural persons was linked to commercial presence. Where the commitments were undertaken independent of commercial presence, a number of conditions, like the economic needs test, were attached, thus significantly reducing their value. It is no exaggeration to say that in some cases access to skilled persons from India have, in fact, been made more restrictive during the last two years. This is a matter we intend pursuing ...

... While considering the question of WTO's basic competence and propriety in taking on board any new issue, I would strongly urge the Committee of WTO Members to remember that international trade is the means of exchange of goods and services produced within a country with goods and services produced in other countries. Trade should not encroach on the production system itself in one or another country. Any attempt by the WTO to overstep the legitimate boundaries of trade and invade the jurisdiction of domestic production systems is bound to create serious problems and raise basic questions about WTO's competence and credibility. We strongly feel that the WTO should not lose its basic focus on trade ...

... Moreover, the production system involves the interplay of several factors such as land, labour, capital, entrepreneurship and technology. Can one seek, in good conscience and equity, the selective liberalization of just one factor of production, namely, capital, while maintaining restrictive regimes on other equally important factors such as labour and technology? ...

... The introduction of basic rights and interests of workers, also called "core labour standards", on the future agenda of the WTO has been opposed by many countries. India has a long history of commitment and adherence to the ILO conventions which deal with such rights and interests. We do not see any purpose in bringing this subject into the WTO except possibly to use trade measures to enforce labour standards, if not now, then at a future date. We are of the opinion that trade measures should not be used to address non-trade objectives, however laudable they may be. It is also our considered view that the International Labour Organization is clearly the institution that has the exclusive mandate, competence and responsibility to deal with the subject. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Tungky Ariwibowo
Minister of Industry and Trade

Over the past decade, many developing countries have unilaterally liberalized their economies and voluntarily moved towards open market as a means of generating economic growth. For those countries, exposure to global markets, while certainly opening up many opportunities, also poses challenges both economic and political. Not only must businesses adapt to the new economic climate, but institutions must also be adjusted and developed. For some countries and for some cultures, it may even be the case that the system of values must change. This is certainly a process that cannot take place overnight, but requires time. This fact must be properly understood if developing countries are to participate effectively and equitably in the multilateral trading system.

... We also recognize that the increasing interdependence and dynamism of the world economy has unavoidably led to the broadening of the international trade agenda ... With regard to several other new issues, which are being proposed in this Conference, such as the relationship between trade and labour standards, the issue of trade and investment and that of government procurement, I would like to make the position of my Government clear. While we attach great importance to the uplifting of the standards of our labour, we continue to believe that the ILO, is the most appropriate forum to discuss the issue and not the WTO. In our view, to link labour standards and trade will easily run the risk of creating a new form of protectionism which does not help in meeting the ultimate objective of the WTO. [...]

* * *


The Right Honourable Augusto Fantozzi
Minister of Foreign Trade

... I would now like to briefly dwell upon one of the issues recently discussed both at governmental and non-governmental level: the so-called core labour standards.

Italy pays special attention to this matter. We believe that ensuring the best possible living and working conditions is a universally-acknowledged responsibility. We are confident that closer cooperation between ILO and WTO will contribute to achieving this objective and I am disappointed that the Director-General of ILO has not been invited here. We are also keen on preventing that progress in this field might turn into a source of protectionism, so that all countries would benefit from the positive spin-off that trade liberalization has on economic growth.

In this regard, I want to confirm Italy's full support to the Action Plan in favour of less developed countries and I hope that the joint meeting with UNCTAD and the International Trade Centre planned for 1997 will produce positive results. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Seymour Mullings
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

... We must therefore maintain our commitment to continue our efforts, within the World Trade Organization (WTO), towards a more even distribution of the benefits of trade and investment, greater coherence in international economic policy-making, and effective coordination between our Organization and other international development and financial institutions ...

... We have crafted a Declaration which will convey to the citizens of the world our intention to make the WTO a universal forum for negotiating greater opportunities for trade in goods and services, for the gains from capital investment, both physical and human ...

... I must address an issue which has been increasingly discussed in the run-up to this Ministerial Conference. I refer, of course to core labour standards. In Jamaica, economic development is people focused. Our labour movement is not indifferent to this debate and has consulted with Government. Jamaica is a party to more than 25 ILO Conventions including the core standards. Core standards are categorized as a human rights issue at the work place and objectives of governments should be to assist countries through technical cooperation to implement them. Jamaica believes that this matter should be studied further within the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has a mechanism which allows government, labour and employers to interact. The ILO can draw on the expertise of the WTO and other organizations as appropriate.

If we do not lift our sights beyond that which is familiar and easily understood, we run the risk of falling behind. We know that if the WTO as an Organization and now a permanent body, is not reflective of: the diversity of its membership, its expertise and its experience, its coverage of issues in the global economy and most importantly differential and more favourable treatment for developing countries it is likely to be considered a retreat for the consumerist rich instead of the industrious poor. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Joel F.K. Barmasai M.P.
Assistant Minister for Commerce and Industry

... The obligation on Member States to ensure adherence to core labour standards is unquestionable. As evidence of our commitment to social justice, my Government has ratified a number of ILO Conventions.

The arguments for linking trade and labour standards are not convincing. Hence, any proposal to enforce labour standards through the machinery of the WTO is unacceptable to my country.

We wish to re-emphasize that issues of labour standards should be left to the ILO to handle, but without any linkage to trade. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Lira A. Motete
Minister of Trade and Industry

... We in Lesotho recognize that one of the most important ingredients of development of Lesotho's economy is an export-led strategy. The development of our manufacturing sector into being internationally competitive not only in terms of generating export earnings but also in curbing the alarming unemployment situation is the key to our success ...

... With regard to fair labour rights, Lesotho has a tripartite arrangement that involves the Labour Unions, the Association of Employers and Government to address labour matters. We have a new labour code fair to all key players. However, we feel that the issue of labour standards can best be handled by the International Labour Organization.

* * *


H.E. Mr. Roland Marxer
Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the WTO at Geneva

... The link between trade and social standards is another issue which needs, according to our point of view, to be examined in the context of the increasing global economic interdependence. International cohesion, cooperation and integration require a vision embracing the values on which our societies rest, including a commitment to human rights. [...]

* * *


H.E. Dr. Georges Wohlfart
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Cooperation

... The establishment of a fair and predictable multilateral system which guarantees free circulation of goods and services while respecting the fundamental principles set out in the Marrakesh Agreements will inevitably mean broadening the scope of our discussions.

The changes which the developments in international trade have brought about for our economies are considerable. Globalization requires constant adaptation. Our public opinion is extremely sensitive. It is in the interests of the liberalization process not to exclude certain issues from our discussions. We do not want to make social standards a factor that divides North and South. We do, however, wish to find mutually acceptable solutions which prevent any recourse to protectionism while making the development of international trade a source of welfare and social progress for all.

The subject of social standards should be raised, in the first instance, in the International Labour Organization. Like the current President of the European Union, we too regret that the Director-General of that Organization was not able to take part in our discussions. We should at least define the arrangements for cooperation between the ILO and the WTO. [...]

* * *


Mr. Vítor Rodrigues Pessoa
Secretary for Economic Coordination

... Expectation that the evaluation of peoples' living standards worldwide be considered the major objective of the international trade system, leading to closer relations between countries. Therefore, such objective should have a realistic impact on the various countries' working conditions across the board.

In this field, Asian economies are particularly concerned over an eventual direct application to developing countries of labour standards from their developed counterparts. Sustained development of the former would be in danger of jeopardy, with current comparative advantages still being lost in the short run.

The Government of Macau believes it to be rather unrealistic at this time to impose abrupt changes in working conditions in manufacturing sectors of developing countries, without putting employment at risk.

Hence, Macau states here and now its willingness to subscribe a declaration whereby a stable and realistic consensus should be endorsed to, and made under the auspices of, the International Labour Organization, in its capacity as the United Nations specialized agency for promotion of labour and employment-related matters. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Jaona Ravaloson
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Madagascar to the UN at Geneva

... My delegation therefore calls upon all partners of the least developed countries to advocate coherence and coordination in the formulation of policies to help those countries in every international organization, and in particular, in the international funding agencies. Such action should be all the easier now that an agreement has been signed between the WTO and IMF and plans are in place for an agreement with the World Bank. Nevertheless, constant vigilance and unflagging political will be called for on the part of the different decision-making bodies, to ensure that the resounding promises and declarations of good intentions made at one time or another do not remain a dead letter ...

... [W]e must avoid anything that in any way resembles protectionism, and include on the WTO agenda everything that could further liberalize trade and open up markets.

... Thus, as regards labour standards, my Government endorses the policy statement on the social clause issued by the International Organization of Employers meeting last June in Geneva. This stated that "the International Labour Organization (ILO) is the international organization with the mandate to seek to improve worldwide working conditions through standard-setting, technical cooperation, dialogue and example". Accordingly, any action by the WTO in this domain should be taken only in close association and coordination with and under the leadership of the ILO, so as to avoid placing further constraints on developing countries and hampering their emergence. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Francis Mbilizi
Deputy-Secretary of Commerce and Industry

... Malawi will continue to request more assistance from the WTO and other cooperating international institutions, notably UNCTAD, ITC, UNDP, the World Bank and the IMF, in order for her to cope with the new situations, with priority focus on measures for increased productivity and competitiveness ...

... Proposals have been made by some delegations that studies be undertaken in order to identify linkages between trade and core labour standards. My country believes that the issue of core labour standards should continue to be handled by the International Labour Organization (ILO). We do not see any justifiable reasons for bringing the issue of labour standards into the WTO. We need to acknowledge that economies of the WTO Member States have weak and strong points. Some have cheap labour depending on the cost of living. Such countries should not be penalized. The issue of core labour standards should not be used as a protectionist measure by some countries, otherwise this will defeat the role of the WTO in facilitating international trade. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Dato' Seri Rafidah Aziz
Minister of International Trade and Industry

... During the course of this Singapore Ministerial Meeting, it is clear that new issues have taken centre stage, and debate has been dominated by how WTO should treat such issues, at the expense of weightage that should be given to the review process and the existing work programmes of the WTO.

Discussion and debate on the issue of labour standards have proven to be a divisive factor. For Malaysia, we reject any attempt to link labour standards and other social clauses to trade and trade action, and we also reject any move to discuss and deliberate labour standards and other social clauses in the WTO.

Malaysia accepts the fact that countries must observe internationally recognized core labour standards, but issues pertaining to labour and labour standards must be dealt with in the ILO, the only competent body to do so.

Malaysia also rejects the use of trade measures to enforce labour standards, and reaffirms the stand that the comparative and competitive advantage of low-wage countries should not be put into question ...

... The WTO cannot be regarded as a multipurpose organization that can be called upon to debate and address the range of social issues affecting Members, and the various social ills of the world. These issues are best and appropriately dealt with by other competent organizations.

The WTO should focus on trade and the promotion of world trade. The ensuing economic growth resulting from enhanced trade of WTO Members would assist to alleviate the social and socio-economic problems, including contributing towards better working conditions for their workforce.

* * *


H.E. Mr. Abdul Gayoom Abdulla Yameen
Minister of Trade, Industries and Labour

... My Government cannot agree that trade and labour should form part of the WTO's new work programme. Taking trade measures in support of social standards would, we fear, introduce a new form of protectionism against the LDCs. We are familiar with unilateral trade sanctions invoked in the context of labour rights. Let ILO set the labour standards. With regard to the Director-General's proposal to commence a work programme on the relationship between trade and investments, we welcome the commissioning of the study provided that it is undertaken without any preconditions or obligations on WTO Members. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Leo Brincat
Minister for Commerce

... Two of the most important issues under active discussion in the framework of the WTO are the issues of trade and the environment, and of core labour standards ...

... With regard to the issue of the core labour standards my delegation has some preference for this issue to be discussed, primarily, within the framework of the ILO, which has, over the last 50years, established itself as the supreme world body dealing with labour issues.

After listening carefully to the discussion held in committee yesterday, my delegation feels that there is a widespread opinion among delegations that further studies, possibly involving both the WTO and the ILO, need to be undertake before a consensus can be reached on this very important question.

My delegation feels that it would be very difficult to make further progress on this issue at this meeting, and my delegation would be prepared to join in what seems to be an emerging consensus, that further studies be held on this issue with the participation of both the WTO and the ILO. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Rajkeshwar Purryag
Minister of Economic Planning, Information and Telecommunications

... The run-up to this first Ministerial Conference has not been without difficulties. The varying levels of development of WTO Members and the various economic interests at play in a rule-based body like the WTO make such a situation almost unavoidable.

We recognize that the Uruguay Round has resulted in greater trade liberalization and a strengthening of the multilateral trading system. All Members of the WTO are aware that the process of liberalization should benefit all of us. However, developing nations have in general benefited very little from globalization so far. This is a matter of concern as the very foundation of political and social development in our countries rests on sustained economic growth and a rise in the standard of living ...

... These initiatives require the mobilization of adequate financial resources if they are to be successfully implemented and give the expected results. The international community must, therefore, harmonize its approach and pool resources for the realization of these initiatives ...

... We have yet to complete the unfinished business and to address the issues pertaining to the built-in agenda of the Uruguay Round. You will agree that in such circumstances it would be difficult to give due consideration to the host of new issues being proposed by Members, the more so when it is felt that many of these can best be addressed in other appropriate recognized fora. A case in point is the issue of labour standards which should be dealt with under the aegis of the ILO. My country, which has a long tradition of industrial democracy, has always complied with the rules of the ILO. High labour standards are maintained through a continuous process of tripartite negotiations. Mr.Chairman, you may wish to note that my delegation comprises representatives of both the trade unions and the private sector. [...]

* * *


Dr. Herminio Blanco Mendoza
Minister of Foreign Trade and Industrial Development

... There are five subjects in particular which I would like briefly to focus on: (a) the relationship between trade and the environment; (b) the relationship between trade and competition policies; (c) trade and labour standards; (d) multilateralism and regionalism; and (e) the progressive liberalization of international trade ...


(c) Labour standards and trade

On the issue of labour standards, Mexico is convinced that the only appropriate forum to deal with this issue is the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has the benefit of the accumulated experience of decades of participation by workers' and employers' associations. That is where we must work to ensure that countries which have not yet done so ratify the outstanding conventions. The best way that the WTO can help to raise people's living standards around the world is by promoting economic development through increased international trade. Raising the issue of labour in the WTO could provide an excuse for using trade measures for protectionist purposes. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Driss Jettou
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Handicrafts

... As to what has been called the "social clause", Morocco considers that any consensus on this issue should take due account of the following elements: (1) Observance of internationally recognized labour standards; (2) the competence of the ILO in promoting these standards; (3) non-recourse to protectionist measures to enforce those standards. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Oldermiro J.M. Baloi
Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism

...Equitable growth for all through, among others, the establishment of level playing fields will be essential for the success of the WTO. LDCs continue to be economically weak and are faced with the danger of further marginalization. Positive steps need to be actioned to alleviate the challenges faced by the LDCs ... In this regard, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate the joint initiative of the ITC/UNCTAD/WTO, as well as other international organizations and agencies that are assisting us in preparing for the future ...

We are glad that during these two years, the WTO's performance has justified its creation but we fully oppose any attempt of expanding its scope at other existing organizations expenses.

In fact, we wonder what is, if any, the far-reaching objective of putting the WTO, even disguisedly, addressing investment and labour standards, to mention only some of the issues, that are dealt with by UNCTAD and ILO, respectively. Although it is true that these and other issues are interrelated with trade, why do not we leave them to all concerned organizations which would address them in a consistent manner through coordination.

* * *


H.E. Lieutenant-General Tun Kyi
Minister for Commerce

... As we all know, negotiation is a process of give and take. We are living in the world of different cultures, social and political situations, and industrial and economic development. Bearing that in mind, efforts should be made to get consensus on the remaining issues ...

... Any attempt to link labour standards with trade will have negative effects on promoting free trade. In other words a link between labour standards and trade will be detrimental to the effective functioning of WTO. In our view, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is the most appropriate forum to look into these issues.

* * *


The Honourable Hidipo Hamutenya
Minister of Trade and Industry

... We must therefore take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment and readiness to move forward with reduction of trade restrictions which still stifle international commerce in agriculture, services and movement of natural persons ...

... Equally, we value the rights of our workers and are committed to the observance of labour standards as a signatory to the ILO Conventions. However, the Namibian delegation, like many other delegations who spoke earlier, holds the same view that the appropriate forum to deal with this matter is the ILO. In our country there is a clear division of labour regarding the trade and labour issues. The Ministry of Trade and Industry deals with trade matters while the Ministry of Labour deals with labour matters. The latter Ministry has the necessary expertise and the institutional mechanism to deal with labour issues. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Fateh Singh Tharu
Minister of Commerce
(Speaking as an Observer)

... I appreciate the generosity of the WTO in encouraging the LDCs to join WTO, but our capacity to do so is hampered by our lack of expertise, limited export-base opportunities, complexities of WTO rules and the gap between requirement and legislation. Therefore the immediate need for Nepal regarding her accession into the WTO is the availment of technical and financial support from the international and/or intergovernmental agencies. In some instances we feel defeated regarding the provisions of environment, competitive policy and social issues. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mrs. Anneke Van Dok-Van Weele
Minister for Foreign Trade

... Core labour standards also rank high on the international agenda nowadays. These standards are crucially important to the well-being of all workers in the world. Better instruments to promote the observance of these standards should be developed. Strengthening the ILO's position and responsibilities in this regard is fundamental. Does this mean that there is no task for this Conference? No, it does not. The WTO cannot simply forget about those who produce the trade flows it endeavours to expand. Avoiding an ongoing dialogue on this sensitive issue does not help to gain a better understanding of each other's views and to dispel fears about hidden agendas.

I firmly believe that export-driven economic growth opens new opportunities for social progress. Observing core labour standards does not weaken a country's competitive advantage in international trade. On the contrary, it is much more likely to strengthen it. There is, therefore, no valid reason why governments should not do their utmost to ensure that core labour standards are observed. At the same time, however, we should realise that developing countries cannot accomplish this without further market access and assistance.

This brings me to a final challenge; the need to promote the full participation of developing countries in the WTO system so that they too can reap the fruits of membership ...

... Finally, a word about the relationship of the WTO with the outside world, the ordinary citizen, businessman, farmer, worker and the unemployed, whose continuing support we need. We must make a major effort to be an open and transparent organization. We should explain better to our societies at large, why free trade can make such an important contribution for more economic growth and prosperity worldwide. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Pablo Pereira
Minister of the Economy and Development

... We have chosen a model which, far from promoting protectionism, adheres strictly to WTO rules and disciplines and bolsters the multilateral trading system ...

... We note with satisfaction the ever-increasing recognition within this institution of the special characteristics and problems of the small economies.

In this regard, the comparative advantages of the developing world, including labour costs, should not and cannot justify, in any circumstances, the imposition by the trading powers of conditions of any kind that have the effect of blocking market access. [...]

* * *


Mrs. Kari Nordheim-Larsen
Minister for Development Cooperation

... Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth. History is consistent on the positive role of trade in developing nations' economic welfare. Hence, we must safeguard and enhance trade. However, trade bears no guarantee for people's welfare, nor for sustainable use of resources or the protection of the environment.

In the preamble to the WTO Agreement, sustainable development is the objective against which the contribution of trade must be measured ...

... A particular challenge is to integrate the least developed Member countries. We must deploy all efforts to reverse their marginalization and make them benefit from participating in the multilateral trading system. Some valuable initiatives have been taken in the WTO and need to be followed up. One is the WTO Fund for Technical Assistance to the LDCs. As the sole contributor to that fund, I hereby extend an invitation to other countries to join us ...

... Globalization of the world economy also implies that the WTO - and the role of trade - become more exposed to public scrutiny. Norway welcomes that challenge. But, is also implies that the WTO needs to be politically responsive to issues of political importance to Member countries. A more responsive approach in this regard could defuse potentially damaging trade conflicts.

Whether trade and labour standards should be on the international agenda is hardly the issue. We already have an international policy debate. By raising the issue of trade and core labour standards in a WTO framework, Norway wants to secure a multilateral and structured approach which includes all Member countries.

I propose that WTO seeks to establish a better common understanding of the relationships involved. The available evidence suggests that there is a positive and mutually reinforcing relationship between improved core labour standards and trade liberalization. In order to pursue an open, multilateral dialogue on this issue I advocate the establishment of an appropriate body for that purpose. [...]

* * *


Dr. Muhammad Zubair Khan
Minister of Commerce and Head of Delegation

... It is our considered view that it will prove counter-productive to overload the WTO's agenda with the so-called "new issues", such as investment and competition policy. We recognize that some of our partners are impatient to continue liberalization, lest the tide be reversed. But they must acknowledge that, given the controversy and division over the new issues, given the growing concerns regarding the "social costs" of globalization, given the difficulties of the developing countries in fulfilling even existing commitments, it would be prudent to proceed at a calculated and realistic pace towards the goal of complete liberalization of the world economy ...

I wish to say a few words about an issue which clearly does not belong within the WTO -- the observance of core labour standards. I say so because some of our partners have raised this issue so insistently during the preparations for this Conference.

Let me say, at the outset, that Pakistan is committed to improving the observance of the so-called core labour standards. We have ratified five of the six relevant ILO Conventions. We have instituted the necessary legislation and we are taking administrative action to implement it. All possible efforts are being made to remove the hidden pockets of violations of the norms stipulated in the ILO Conventions. It must be appreciated that revelations of such violations from time to time are not indicative of any lack of commitment on our part. They are a reflection of the difficulties arising from underdevelopment - from poverty, hunger, illiteracy.

Our resistance to inject the issue of labour rights into the WTO stems from the fact that there is no proven relationship between trade and observance of core labour standards. A discussion of this issue in the WTO will merely encourage protectionist lobbies in the developed countries to resist the competitive advantage of low-wage countries through self-serving campaigns disguised as concern for the promotion of labour standards in the developing countries. This issue must continue to be discussed at the International Labour Organization which has the mandate, expertise and tripartite structure which can foster a broad agreement on this issue among all concerned.

For those who wish to contribute to the improvement of labour standards through trade, we would suggest the liberalization of trade on an equitable and universal basis, especially in labour-intensive sectors of interest to developing countries. This would significantly increase employment and improve labour standards. Liberalization in the movement of natural persons can also help to enhance labour standards of workers originating from poorer countries. [...]

* * *

Papua New Guinea

The Honourable Kilroy Genia, M.P.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

... Growth perpetuated by free-trade zones which translates to improvement in the standard of living for the mass population is consistent with the WTO principles ...

... I have noted that WTO has concluded a Cooperation Agreement with the World Bank and the IMF for greater coherence in global policy making, and hope that concerns of developing countries will now be addressed with more sensitivity.

As a developing country, many of our industries are still being developed and will take sometime to mature, while the workforce is trying to acquire skills that industrial nations have developed many years ago.

... On the question of labour standards, Papua New Guinea shares the views of those countries who have stated that WTO is not the appropriate forum to discuss this issue. We would rather leave this to individual countries and their ministers responsible for labour to deal with under the ILO framework. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Cesar B. Bautista
Secretary of Trade and Industry

... And worse, it would be disastrous if Members resort to blatantly protectionist and unilateral measures - whether in the guise of standards, the protection of the environment, or other excuses ...

... The outstanding issues, that prevented our officials from agreeing on a draft declaration, have indeed been exacting on all of us. We are, after all, assessing what has been accomplished in the first two years of WTO, and what needs to be done in the future. As in the law or economics professions, there could easily be as many views on these topics as there are WTO Members ...

... My Government believes that we can - and that we must - come to terms with the issues that appear to divide us. Our vision of the WTO's future, complemented with negotiating flexibility, which I hope we all have in abundance, should allow us to reach a consensus on these issues. Our task of bridging the gaps, therefore, is crucial ...

... There were also changes in rules of origin, which are particularly worrisome as these kinds of changes - which violate the standstill we agreed upon in the ATC and the Agreement on Rules of Origin - can potentially wipe out a whole industry in the Philippines. This industry employs some 5,000 workers, who at the end of the day may lose their jobs. They will of course blame the WTO, where ironically labour standards are championed by the very Members who unilaterally change the rules ...

... And thirdly, the new issues. We have expressed our highest concern for labour standards. Our difficulty, however, is in the area of recognizing links between trade and labour standards, and what to do after that. Historically and substantively speaking, we do not consider this as an issue for the WTO, but for the ILO. [...]

* * *


Mr. Janusz Kaczurba
Acting Minister of Foreign Economic Relations

... As regards trade and labour standards, may it be recalled that Poland's systemic transformation began with the establishment of free trade unions. Therefore, our record on this issue is straight and clean. Nevertheless we recognize the sensitivity of the problem in terms of its possible linkage to domestic politics of WTO Members and temptations to resort to trade-restricting measures. Therefore, Poland is in favour of recognizing the ILO as the principal player in the field, so as to lessen the risk of injecting politics into the regulatory framework of the WTO. [...]

* * *


Mr. Francisco Seixas da Costa
Secretary of State for European Affairs

... The credibility of WTO will depend on its ability to promote new debates and, if necessary, to launch negotiations on issues that prove to be relevant for international trade in fair conditions.

In our opinion, this is clearly the case of social rights and, more generally, the respect for internationally recognized human rights.

The WTO will miss future challenges if it cannot adjust to changing realities and fails to address the main concerns of citizens. Present international trade development is seen by many as affecting job opportunities at the expense of unjust labour conditions.

For this reason, it is crucial that all Members show the necessary political determination to start a debate on the issue of social rights and their relevance for free and fair trade.

The best way to avoid unilateral measures in this and other areas is to bring the debate to the multilateral system, namely the WTO.

We are aware that some Members fear that this topic might raise protectionist pressures.

It must be crystal clear that Portugal excludes this kind of approach.

In this respect, we agree that ILO should continue to be the central forum to develop the core work on social rights.

However, ILO and WTO should develop a creative form of cooperation so that they can benefit from each other's experience. [...]

* * *

Russian Federation

H.E. Mr. Oleg Davydov
Deputy Prime Minister
(Speaking as an Observer)

... This Conference will discuss many complex issues. Labour standards, environment, competition policy, investment are among them. Russia recognizes the importance of all these matters. However, in my view, the time is not yet ripe today for linking directly all of those problems with international trade rules. I believe more time is needed to consider in sufficient depth all their aspects and implications. I am confident that this Conference will approach such controversial issues, as well as other items under consideration, in a manner which would contribute to a largest possible extent to global trade liberalization. [...]

* * *

St. Kitts and Nevis

The Honourable Terence Sam Condor
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Trade and Industry

There is a view that the momentum of universal free trade ushered in by the conclusion of the Uruguay Round should be maintained and to ensure this, the mandate of the WTO should be broadened to included new issues such as: (a) Multilateral investment rules; (b) labour standards; (c) competition policy; and (d) government procurement.

Some of these issues like investment and labour, are of major concern to St. Kitts and Nevis.

With regard to labour issues, my delegation is fully committed to the pursuit of national policies that protect the rights of workers and enhance labour welfare. We believe it is desirable that there be internationally recognized labour standards that incorporate the freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, prohibition of forced labour and non-discrimination in employment. We do not believe however, that the WTO is the forum to undertake an investigation into the linkage between trade and labour standards. We believe the issue could be better explored in a specialized agency like the International Labour Organization, which has the requisite competence and expertise in the area ...

... It is our belief that appropriate institutions already exist where the new issues can be investigated, developed and refined without bringing them under the umbrella of the WTO and by so doing overload its agenda.

* * *

Saint Lucia

H.E. Mr. Edwin Laurent
Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the WTO

... Attempts at tabling new areas for consideration to the Ministerial Conference have been noted. Caution needs to be exercised in ensuring that such initiatives are not introduced as a pretext for protectionist measures. Consultations with international organizations such as UNCTAD and the ILO with requisite expertise would be essential. Small developing economies such as Saint Lucia within the context of our constraints will, whilst attempting to participate in the new areas if adopted will of necessity give immediate priority to the implementation of the current Agreements as well as the completion of the work programme of the WTO.

During the transition periods afforded to developing smaller economies, attempts will be made by Saint Lucia at acquiring our fair share of the potential benefits which compliance offers. It is in this context that we should be assured of a more level playing field amongst all free trade partners. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Idrissa Seck
Minister of Commerce, Handicrafts and Industrialization

... Today, despite some encouraging signs, everything seems to indicate that in making our choices for the future we should exercise more caution as regards the new issues to be brought within the sphere of competence of our Organization ...

... Thus, it would seem advisable not to systematically reject any discussion of new issues and, in particular, the question of direct foreign investment, considering that trade and investment are so closely linked.

Senegal likewise reaffirms its total commitment to strict respect for the basic principles of human rights and reiterates its firm attachment to international labour standards.

However, we do not recognize the competence of the WTO to decide these questions which are the specific responsibility of the International Labour Organization. [...]

* * *

Slovak Republic

H.E. Mr. Karol Cesnek
Minister of Economy

... Slovakia recognizes fundamental human rights and is against their mistreatment. This issue requires deeper analysis of labour standards, taking into account macroeconomic relations prevailing in individual countries. Now, there is the responsibility of the International Labour Organization to continue in making extensive examination, where a specific working party is already established for that purpose ...

... In conclusion, allow me to express our readiness to seek positive solutions to complex and controversial issues brought by growing universality of this Organization, where consensual support on sometimes different interests is to be found. It is, however, a matter of principle to address concerns in a truly balanced way with the sense for compromise, where each Member would find, at least partially, reflections of its priorities.

* * *


H.E. Mr. Janko Dezelak
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Economic Relations and Development

... The rapid pace of globalization is increasing pressure upon the WTO to produce additional results to avoid recourse to unilateral measures and pressure from Members. The WTO, in the course of development of its tasks and future role, will have to go beyond the immediate trade concerns and take charge of other matters and issues which effect trade. In Slovenia's view the particular areas of challenge to the multilateral trading system are investment and trade-related aspects of competition policies of Members. Therefore, dealing with "new" issues would provide the WTO with new vigour in the following period ...

... Trade and investment are also closely linked. Progressive and open discussions in these and other areas, such as trade and environment, labour issues, may benefit all. [...]

* * *

South Africa

H.E. Mr. Alec Erwin
Minister of Trade and Industry

... If trade liberalization is to benefit growth and development then it must be an inclusive process and not exclusive either for countries or for particular citizens within a country.

How do we, therefore, balance the clear need for rules with the fact that the players are of unequal strength? This can only be done by acknowledging and clearly understanding that there is both great potential in globalization for growth and development and potential dangers of marginalization for many. We must jointly evolve ways to address this reality.

We will not do this if our multilateral organizations, working in their clearly defined areas of competence do not work together ...

... A concerted effort must be made and made continuously to encourage the cooperation between WTO, UNCTAD, the ILO, UNDP and the Bretton Woods institutions. This does not have to be done by the creation of elaborate organograms and structures of cooperation. It must be done on the basis of need and the complementarity of available resources.

For South Africa, the massive human expenditure in debating "core labour standards" is misplaced. The bulk of world trade takes place between countries where labour standards are high. The reasons for differing cost structures in an economy are complex and to ascribe them to labour standards alone will inevitably become protectionist. Forced labour and child labour are no longer the basis for any nations trade. Where these exist they must be specifically addressed. Core labour standards are the legitimate aspirations of workers and have been widely endorsed in all societies, they must be further promoted. The ILO deals with the establishment, monitoring and enforcement of labour standards and it undertakes a large amount of work related to labour relations and the advancement of socio-economic equity.

The WTO deals with trade and inevitably with wider issues of investment and competition that arise out of the processes of globalization. The processes impact on labour and generates changes in labour markets. This is a self-evident fact that virtually every government continually grapples with. The IMF tells governments as a matter of economic orthodoxy that flexible wages, will attract investment, which will promote trade which will in turn solve balance of payments problems. Do we tell the IMF to keep out of labour issues? No we do not because the link is an economic link. But since the IMF does not really talk to the ILO, their competence in labour markets is low and their advice not always good. The IMF continuously advises on tariff policies - is that not a WTO concern?

We must not lose sight of practicalities. Each multilateral was established because there was a need and a competence has been built to address that need. There must be cooperation and consultation. It is South Africa's view that this failure to cooperate is a prime reason for the very low success rate of the multilateral organizations in promoting development.

However, we must not be understood to imply that the lack of development is caused by the multilaterals. There are barriers - particularly in LDCs - that have to be addressed to facilitate development ...

We have tried to illustrate the immense socio-economic and eventual political changes the developing world must make to try to engage with globalization. The developed world must do the same. It is self-seeking and ultimately short-sighted for the developed countries to plead all sorts of technical and political reasons for not dismantling agriculture subsidies or failing to ratify labour standards yet ask the developing world to agree to multilateral agreements that require far greater socio-economic and political change by developing countries and in particular the LDCs. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Rodrigo de Rato y Figaredo
Second Vice-President, Minister of the Economy and Finance

... Furthermore, we must not overlook a number of issues which are daily gaining in prominence and importance in world trade, and which the WTO neither can nor should neglect. I am referring to what have been called the "new subjects", whose inclusion in the WTO agenda is a matter of debate. I have in mind in particular the relationship between trade and environment, trade and investment, trade and competition, and trade and social rights ...

... I wish to state that my country is in favour of the WTO carrying out an analysis of the function of trade liberalization in improving living conditions in all countries of the world. Trade liberalization and the economic development which it generates have to lead to improvements in standards of living. It is important to support right here and now the fundamental work carried out by the International Labour Organization with the aim of defining basic labour standards and promoting their application worldwide. As we see it, in these cases we are talking about fundamental human rights, which are non-negotiable. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Ewald C. Leeflang
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Suriname to the WTO

... With regard to trade and labour standards we share the view expressed by many other delegations that labour standards must be dealt within the framework of the ILO as the adequately competent body to deal with issues of this nature. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Björn von Sydow
Minister for Trade

... In the field of labour standards there are already rules and standards that we as governments have subscribed to within the ILO. We believe that the WTO and world trade ministers should give their support to continued work in the ILO, and I see nothing objectionable in this. But I also believe that there should be a link to the WTO in the sense that we as trade ministers should have an opportunity to review developments in this field at our biannual meetings. I am quite sure that many of us will address this issue also when we meet in 1998. And I would very much hope that we could do this in a spirit of cooperation and trust. I think everyone who has spoken on this issue has underlined that we reject taking trade-restrictive measures as a means to enforce labour standards and that the comparative advantage of low-wage countries must not be questioned

As far as Sweden is concerned, we would have preferred a decision to establish a body within the WTO to examine this issue, but given the current situation we could also support the text as contained in the Director-General's letter dated 29 November. And I must say that I also very much regret that the Director-General of ILO has not been invited to address this Conference. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Jean-Pascal Delamuraz
President of the Confederation

... Lastly, I wish to refer to the relationship between trade and internationally recognized labour standards. This issue goes beyond the strict boundaries of trade so it is hardly surprising if it is the subject of lively discussion. Nevertheless, we agree on three points: our undertaking to respect core labour standards, rejection of the use of protectionist measures to impose respect for these standards, and the leading role of the ILO in drafting and implementing such standards. It would be desirable to begin to reflect on this issue in close cooperation with the ILO.

Globalization of the economy is not a policy. It is the consequence of many policies and developments. For the main part, it is a fact. As political leaders, it is our duty to ensure that globalization is advantageous to all. We must therefore meet the challenges facing us: malnutrition, poverty, unemployment. Responding to these by giving in to the temptation of protectionism could only worsen the situation. On the contrary, without faltering we must follow the path we opened up by establishing the WTO. Only a strong multilateral trading system based on rules adapted to the current economic situation will allow all of us to make the most of globalization. [...]

* * *


The Honourable A.O. Kigoda
Minister for Industries and Trade
(Speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) States Members of the WTO)(4)

[T]he SADC is a unique regional economic grouping whose membership comprises countries at varying levels of development including land-locked countries, small island States and least developed countries who are the majority. This widely various group of countries met in Maseru, Lesotho, on 24 August 1996 to sign a Trade Protocol which we consider to be a first but important step in moving towards a free-trade area in Southern Africa.

The SADC Trade Protocol which draws on the provisions of the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, is an ambitious project which foresees the establishment of a free-trade zone in a period of eight years. One of the primary objectives of the Trade Protocol is to enhance the economic development, diversification and industrialization of the region for it recognizes that an integrated regional market will create new opportunities for a dynamic business sector ...

... Preparations for negotiations on these new issues in the absence of proper understanding of their exact implications and a constructive dialogue on them, would amount to the imposition of rules by the strong upon the weak with a potentially harmful impact on developing countries. Therefore, we are convinced that these issues require more thorough study and positive discussions to be initiated by UNCTAD in collaboration with other relevant international institutions. The SADC Ministers' Meeting in Arusha on 1 November 1996, considered these but recognized that some were premature, others demanded more thorough consideration, whilst some did not have a place in WTO ...

... We firmly believe that labour standards can best be addressed in the tripartite forum provided by the International Labour Organization. [...]

* * *


H.E. Mr. Amnuay Viravan
Deputy-Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

... Charting into the future course, the WTO should embark upon new grounds of work on a modest scale while seeking to avoid upsetting the balance of priority ...

... We wish to state categorically that while we are strongly committed to internationally recognized labour standards, we share the views of many Members that this is not an issue over which the WTO has the competence. This issue will be more properly addressed in the International Labour Organization.

No one can deny the importance of core labour standards that have been internationally agreed upon. As a matter of fact, all basic relevant elements of core labour standards mentioned have long been recognized by and witnessed in Thailand. There is clear evidence to support this remark. However, there is no relevancy to force linkages of this issue with trade, unless there is an ulterior motive to bring in the issue as disguised protectionism. For the WTO, the immediate challenge is to build a consensus in order to avoid this becoming a divisive issue ...

... Let us work together with a sense of harmony so that the Singapore Ministerial Conference will be remembered as the occasion where all nations are unified to show that multilateralism remains the possible means through which economic wellbeing and prosperity can be equitably shared.

* * *


H.E. Mr. Elom Komi Dadzie
Minister for Trade and Industry

... We think that the integration of the African countries into the world trade system should be at the forefront of the WTO's concerns. We appreciate the exploratory work already done by the WTO Director-General and staff in that respect, and encourage them to continue and to spare no effort, since we are convinced that the right to eat is a basic human right. Consequently, we welcome the inclusion among the items under discussion under this Conference of the issue of social standards. However, we think that further consideration of the issue should take the form of coordinated discussions within the UnitedNations specialized agencies - the International Labour Office and the International Labour Organization - in cooperation with other institutions including the WTO ...

... As the twentieth century draws to a close, the First Ministerial Conference of the WTO provides the international community with an opportunity to take decisive steps in order to:


-- improve cooperation between the WTO and other international organizations so as to provide adequate and effective assistance to developing and least developed countries; [...]

* * *

Trinidad and Tobago

The Honourable Mervyn Assam
Minister of Trade and Industry

... It will be useful to see whether the success which will attend discussions on information technology will be duplicated in sectors which are of importance to the export trade of developing countries: textiles and clothing, agriculture (including the special interests of net food-importing countries), to name a few; and whether in the further consideration of services under the built-in agenda as much consideration will be given to the trade in all factors of production, including the movement of natural persons - labour, as that which has been devoted to investment and other "new issues" ...

... On core labour standards, Trinidad and Tobago understands the sensitivities involved on both sides of the debate. It is because of those very sensitivities that the subject of labour must be discussed in a forum which is not competent to deal with the issue. The International Labour Organization with its tripartite structure remains the proper organization for employers, workers and governments to meet on common ground. Involvement of this intergovernmental organization with its limited mandate and membership, restricted of necessity to governments, is less than useful.

* * *


H.E. Ms. Ayfer Yilmaz
Minister of State for Foreign Trade

... [T]he WTO will gain even further prominence in the years to come as the dominance of trade in our national economies become even more important and its contribution to the well-being of the peoples of the world will be more and more evident ...

... Every support should be given to achieve the efficient functioning of the WTO and the multilateral trading system. We are of the view that introduction of new issues for the future work of the WTO should not promote new forms of protectionism.

We recognize the need for time and assistance by some developing countries to achieve these objectives. We know that once they are ready, they will be even more enthusiastic to participate in new initiatives. However, these considerations should not lead us to be reluctant to new issues ...

... I believe that the debates on labour standards do not constitute a priority issue of the WTO Agenda. The International Labour Organization is the most appropriate forum for such work. [...]

* * *


The Honourable Henry Muganwa Kajura
Minister of Trade and Industry

... It is my delegation's contention that since many WTO Members are still grappling with problems of implementing the Uruguay Round Agreements, it would therefore be over-stretching them to introduce the so-called "new issues" on the WTO agenda. This would not only overload the WTO agenda, but it would also upset the balanced package of the Uruguay Round Agreements. The introduction of labour standards in the international trade regime would have a negative impact on economic growth and development and will impose an unjustifiable economic and social burden on the developing countries. It is our conviction that the appropriate forum to look into labour and social issues is the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has the requisite competence and expertise in the area. [...]

* * *

United Arab Emirates

H.E. Mr. Saeed Ahmed Ghobash
Minister of Economy and Commerce

... We feel that in the next two years the Organization should concentrate on the implementation of the WTO Agreements and on completing the unfinished business of the Uruguay Round ...

... The UAE is not of the opinion that there should be any linkage between trade and labour standards. While my country gives the greatest importance to the social aspect of the issue, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and not the WTO, is the appropriate body to deal with such issue. [...]

* * *

United Kingdom

The Right Honourable Ian Lang, M.P.
President of the Board of Trade
Head of the Department of Trade and Industry

... The UK's priorities for the World Trade Organization are focused on issues which are most important in tackling the trade barriers which confront our businesses and those of our trading partners. We want to push ahead with work on these issues in a spirit of cooperation not confrontation.

So we would like to see a substantial new work programme. I believe that this offers benefits to the developed and developing economies alike. Some examples:

Standards: we need closer cooperation between the WTO and international standards-setting bodies; we need these bodies to concentrate their work on those standards and technical regulations which are of real practical importance to trade; and we need WTO Members to make much more use of international standards rather than going their own way. We cannot rest on our laurels in this field, there is much more work to do ...

... Some countries have proposed that trade and labour should form part of the WTO's new work programme. Here I have to disagree. While Britain is as strongly opposed to child labour and forced labour as anyone else, we see no case for taking trade measures in support of social standards. This would only weaken the economies of the countries concerned and make them less able to remedy social problems. We take the view that the International Labour Organization is the appropriate forum for promoting labour standards, not the WTO. This is also the view of most of European industry, as the Union of Industrial and Employers Confederations of Europe have recently confirmed. We know it is also the view of most other countries around the world. Let us not divide the WTO on this issue.

Let us instead look forward on matters where we have interests in common.

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United States

The Honourable Charlene Barshefsky
Acting United States Trade Representative

... With regard to broadening the WTO's agenda, we are prepared to consider whether the WTO should begin careful examination of new issues some feel should be debated. Like others, we are concerned about finding the right balance of interests. That is why we have been willing to go along with others who wish to begin a modest work programme in the areas of investment and competition, as part of a balanced overall agenda for the WTO.

To remain viable, the WTO must reflect the needs of various constituencies involved in world trade. Each of our economies will be facing more pressure from globalization in the coming years, and we must help workers adjust to and benefit from an open trading system. We must do more to acknowledge that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between an open trading system and respect for core labour standards.

That is why we hope to have an agreement that the WTO should, in cooperation with the International Labour Organization, examine in greater detail the important nexus between trade and labour standards. We believe strongly that increased trade and the economic growth that it brings should also engender greater respect for the basic human rights which are the focus of our core labour standards proposal.

We are not proposing an agreement on minimum wages, changes that could take away the comparative advantage of low-wage producers, or the use of protectionist measures to enforce labour standards. We are proposing that the concerns of working people - people who fear that trade liberalization will lead to distortion - be addressed in a modest work programme in the WTO. Trade liberalization can occur only with domestic support; that support, and support for the WTO, will surely erode if we cannot address the concerns of working people and demonstrate that trade is a path to tangible prosperity. [...]

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H.E. Mr. Werner Corrales Leal
Permanent Representative to the United Nations and
Other International Organizations

... After the WTO's first two years, as we said earlier, this Ministerial Conference provided an opportunity to make a detailed assessment of the implementation of the various agreements, with a view to strengthening achievements and introducing remedies for deviations and shortcomings. The Conference's activities, however, have taken a different direction and we have concentrated our efforts on discussing new proposals. They meet the legitimate concern of some Members of the Organization and warrant a conceptual pronouncement on our part.

With regard to the issue of core labour standards, Venezuela reiterates its recognition of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as its rejection of forced labour, exploitation of child labour and any kind of job discrimination.

Our country's legal and economic history has, for more than 50 years, been one of growing achievements in labour rights, which it has consolidated and will continue to take further, both in the modernization of its own institutions and in its international participation in the agreements, agencies and forums suited to this matter, such as the ILO.

Venezuela recognizes that the WTO can in fact contribute to the practical extension of these rights, by trade liberalization and the resulting economic growth. But it does not accept that WTOAgreements and particularly trade restriction measures should be used as tools to enforce labour standards or challenge comparative advantages in some developing economies.

Accordingly, Venezuela considers that the ILO is the natural forum and should still be the first place to examine the relationship between trade and labour standards.

The link between trade and investment is more complex than just a contribution by investment to expanding the production base and export capacity of developing countries ... Development has a dimension to it that is broader than the trade or the economic dimension.

As a Member, Venezuela has participated resolutely and responsibly in the WTO, because it is of the view that the multilateral trading system affords the best legal guarantee for facing the challenges and taking up the opportunities that emerged from the Uruguay Round and because, like many other Members, my country sees the liberalization of international trade as a factor that is essential to economic growth, job creation and the welfare of peoples.

* * *


The Honourable Alfayo Hambayi, M.P.
Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry

... Regarding the work of the current WTO Ministerial Conference here at Singapore it is my delegation's view that we should avoid taking decisions which would have the effect of overloading the WTO with matters which legitimately belong to other multilateral institutions to which most of us are members. I am referring to proposals being made by some delegations at this Conference on investment and trade and, on the relationship between trade and labour. These issues which are very important should be legitimately dealt with by UNCTAD and ILO respectively. We should also be careful in handling matters, within the WTO, which may impinge on Member countries' internal policies and strategies. [...]

* * *


The Honourable N.M. Shamuyarira
Minister of Industry and Commerce

... The general view expressed by many speakers, and also in the opening statement by the Honourable Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Goh Chok Tong, is that the WTO should concentrate on its core business of promoting worldwide trade. The issues of labour should be dealt with by the ILO, and those of investment and development by the UNCTAD. Zimbabwe supports these positions.

The Zimbabwe delegation has taken note of the clarion call for liberalization and globalization of trade that has been made by many important speakers at this Conference. But, we have difficulty in perceiving how it will impact on less-developed countries in Africa. In many of these countries poverty has deepened, unemployment has increased, and per capita incomes have fallen over the last decade. Such economies do not have the domestic capacity to take advantage of liberalized trade ... The wide economic gap between the industrialized countries of the North, and those of the South, cannot be narrowed or removed by liberalization and globalization measures alone ... Admittedly, the process of liberalization and globalization has benefited some States, and will make them richer. But, many more will lose out (mostly in Africa). They should not be forgotten ...

... The concerns and fears expressed by many delegations have been echoed by many governments in Third World countries. Last month, the leaders of the "Group of Fifteen" (G-15) countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America met in Harare. They condemned the attempts by the WTO to link trade with the so-called new issues at this Conference. They also asserted the sovereignty of their nations which they felt was threatened by the new issues. [...]

* * *

World Trade Organization

Mr. Renato Ruggiero, Director-General

... Our success in the days ahead will not only be measured by our ability to see the future, but by our willingness to lead the way. This must be leadership by all countries, every government, each of us in this room. For some countries their ability to take a leading role in the trading system has been limited by resource constraints. We must work harder in the future to give these countries a stronger voice.

This must also be leadership firmly rooted in public support. Gone too are the days when trade agreements were the affairs of negotiators or governments alone.

A world trading system which has the support of a knowledgeable and engaged global community will be in a far stronger position to manage the forces of globalization for everyone's benefit. This is why the presence here of so many representatives of non-governmental organizations, the business sector and the media is so important. This Conference will, I am sure, send a clear message to them and to the world beyond. It should be a firm message about our determination to fight the marginalization of people and regions, and about the power of trade to promote the growth which allows governments to address problems of distribution. It should be a positive message about the relationship between trade and environmental policies. And it should be a reaffirmation that, since a basic purpose of our efforts is to raise living standards worldwide, trade liberalization helps create a more favourable climate for the observance of core labour standards. [...]

* * *

United Nations (UN)/United Nations Conference on
Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Mr. Rubens Ricupero
Secretary-General of UNCTAD
(Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General of the UN,
Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and of the UNCTAD, as an Observer)

I speak today on behalf of Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD. It is my honour to address this first Ministerial-level Meeting of the World Trade Organization here in Singapore - a remarkable example of progress and development, born out of hard work, enterprise and an unswerving commitment to free trade.

... The first task is based on the perception that differences in national policies may create unfair advantages that should be checked by extending the so-called "frontiers" of the trading system into new areas.

The very success of the Uruguay Round has given rise to pressures to use the WTO as an instrument to deal with non-trade objectives; in short, as a powerful device for global governance. Such an approach could destabilize the balance of rights and obligations based on reciprocity and mutual benefits which forms the bedrock of the system.

For this reason, any eventual expansion of these trade "frontiers" should be the result of a conscious decision of the international community as a whole, after careful consideration of two major concerns. The first is the extent to which there needs to be a balance between the mobility of goods, services, capital and labour.

An additional concern relates directly to the challenge posed by globalization. Sooner or later we will be required to question whether some traditional trade instruments are relevant in a global economy in which production is scattered among many countries and is no longer a mainly domestic process.

At the same time, it will become necessary to seek coherence between calls for the contestability of markets worldwide and the belief in some quarters that competition should be limited whenever it puts in jeopardy higher social values, such as core human and labour rights or the protection of the environment. If these become acceptable, what other commonly-shared values should also be protected? ...

... In drawing up what was called "a partnership for development" at UNCTAD IX, our 188 Member States provided us with a solid basis for constructive cooperation with the WTO. This cooperation has already started to bear fruit, in Africa and elsewhere. Focusing on those areas of expertise where UNCTAD has traditionally enjoyed a comparative advantage, there is much in our work programme that is directly relevant to, and supportive of, the work of the WTO.

UNCTAD's basic vocation thus remains unaltered: that is, to work towards a trading system which promotes equitable and sustainable development.

It is particularly striking that at a moment when, as the Draft Ministerial Declaration states, there are "unprecedented opportunities" for improved growth, job creation and development, a sentiment of anguish and a fear of the future pervades so much of the world's population. The WTO, the UnitedNations System and other relevant international organizations must work towards reducing uncertainty and insecurity in a globalizing and liberalizing world economy.

To achieve this goal, the full and equitable integration of developing countries into the world economy and the world trading system is not a part of the problem that afflicts the "anxious classes" worldwide. On the contrary, this integration is an essential part of the solution. It is, indeed, the best prospect in the short term for the generation of sound and credible reasons for hope in the future.

* * *

International Monetary Fund

Mr. Michel Camdessus
(Speaking as an Observer)

... The IMF and the WTO roles are complementary. As stated in the IMF Articles of Agreement, one of the primary purposes of the Fund is "to facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade". We do this in several ways ...

... But as we all know reforming economies and dismantling protection is a painful process with, at times, at least in the short and medium term, harsh social consequences. This is why the enhanced and sound competition we want to promote through trade liberalization can only be beneficial if accompanied by appropriate use of social policies at home and credible instruments of multilateral solidarity. Time is too short for me to expand on this, but let me mention that the IMF has adapted its financing instruments to support members' adjustment and reform needs ...

... Meanwhile, what has been the IMF's experience with trade liberalization? In our work 181 Member countries, we repeatedly see that opening economies to external trade helps get domestic prices "right", so that market signals improve domestic resource allocation, increase efficiency, and create conditions under which domestic firms can compete successfully in foreign markets. We also see that countries that open their markets tend to attract additional resources and grow more rapidly. This creates a virtuous circle of trade, investment, and growth that greatly facilitates achieving other development policy objectives, such as the reduction of poverty and the development of human resources ...

... But there is the other side of the coin. Just as developing countries and countries in transition must adopt outward-oriented policies - both for the sake of their own economic development and integration into the global economy and for the greater prosperity of the global economy - so must industrial countries. And not just to provide greater market access to developing and transition countries, although this is essential, but also to increase their own efficiency so that they, too, can take advantage of new trade opportunities in the global economy. In many cases, this process could be greatly facilitated if industrial countries accelerated their own structural reforms, especially in labour markets ...

... Of course, it is never easy to make such adjustments in any country. All countries face temptations to try to preserve the status quo by maintaining existing barriers or erecting new ones - always said to be just temporary. Yet we all know that protectionism is self-defeating. And while it is important to provide a social safety net for the most vulnerable segments of the population, attempts to preserve an uncompetitive sector or enterprise are in the long run doomed to failure - and in the meantime, impose unjustified costs on the taxpayer and the consumer ...

... I am pleased to note that our joint efforts can now proceed in the legal framework of the Cooperation Agreement that the Director-General, Mr. Ruggiero, and I will sign here in Singapore. In addition, I understand that the World Bank's Executive Board has approved the WTO/World Bank Cooperation Agreement. Thus, the stage is set for the WTO, the Fund, and the World Bank to work together toward the implementation of our complementary objectives.

* * *

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Mr. Donald J. Johnston
(Speaking as an Observer)

... The OECD enjoys a remarkable and perhaps unique capacity for tackling complex cross disciplinary issues from an objective and hence credible position ... It has proved that time and again whether the task at hand relates to trade, the environment, the challenges of job creation, the appropriate allocation of tax revenues through transfer pricing guidelines or complicated and hotly debated issues such as the relationships, if any, between fair trade and labour practices. Any perception that the analytical work of the Secretariat is controlled or manipulated by a select group of rich countries is simply wrong. The credibility of the Secretariat's analytical scholarship speaks for itself!

I assure you as I have assured Director-General Renato Ruggiero that this great resource is at the disposal of the WTO to help move the trade and investment agenda forward. There are a number of areas frequently cited as emerging or new issues where the OECD is currently doing such work. I refer to trade and labour standards (which I have already mentioned), trade and the environment and trade and competition policy. The list will continue to grow because we know that the trading system does not stop at the border of nations or regions and we must increasingly deal squarely with the interface between domestic policies and global trade ...

... Another area of support for free trade with which the OECD is much involved is that of assisting the structural adjustment process in OECD countries necessitated by the globalization process. Yes, regulatory reform often in the form of deregulation and free trade does not reduce jobs in less productive sectors of the economy while creating jobs elsewhere. The OECD analysis demonstrates a major net benefit to all societies through open market structures and liberalized trade. Properly designed adjustment policies should ensure that everyone benefits. This is the only way to still the protectionist voices of dissent which, in the absence of such policies, could derail or seriously slow down the move to global free trade and investment. [...]

* * *

Opening address by H.E. Mr. Goh Chok Tong,

Prime Minister of Singapore

... Much discussion and debate have taken place about the so-called "new issues" which the WTO should address. In particular, the issues of labour standards and investment are especially divisive. It is clear that low labour costs are a legitimate comparative advantage for developing countries, and that labour standards should not be used as a disguised protectionist measure. But it is less clear whether labour standards can be properly and justifiably discussed in the WTO context. [...]

* * *

Concluding speech by H.E. Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong

Chairman of the Ministerial Conference
Minister for Trade and Industry of Singapore

... The Ministerial Declaration which we have just adopted as a whole has a number of very significant components which provide the necessary balance of interests. All the issues reflected in the Declaration are equally important. Nevertheless, I feel compelled, because this is a commitment which I have made to you, to underline certain elements of the Declaration.

In the first place, with regard to paragraph 4 -- Core Labour Standards -- we have agreed on a text which sets out a balanced framework for how this matter should be dealt with. The text embodies the following important elements: First, it recognizes that the ILO is the competent body to set and deal with labour standards. Second, it rejects the use of labour standards for protectionist purposes. This is a very important safeguard for the multilateral trading system, and in particular for developing countries. Third, it agrees that the comparative advantage of countries, particularly low-wage developing countries, must in no way be put into question. Fourth, it does not inscribe the relationship between trade and core labour standards on the WTO agenda. Fifth, there is no authorization in the text for any new work on this issue. Sixth, we note that the WTO and the ILO Secretariats will continue their existing collaboration, as with many intergovernmental organizations. The collaboration respects fully the respective and separate mandates of the two Organizations. Some delegations had expressed the concern that this text may lead the WTO to acquire a competence to undertake further work in the relationship between trade and core labour standards. I want to assure these delegations that this text will not permit such a development. [...]

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1. Internet:

2. UN, UNCTAD, World Bank, IMF, FAO, OECD and EC. Excerpts from those statements which referred to labour standards and/or the ILO are included below.

3. Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.