Global Policy Forum

G77 Ministerial Meeting: 1st Report


By Martin Khor

Third World Network
September 19, 1999

G77 Chair Says Review, Repair, Reform WTO!

Dear friends,

The Group of 77 (a grouping of over 130 developing countries) recently held a Ministerial Meeting attended by 80 countries, to prepare for UNCTAD X (to be held in Feb 1999). But the issues of real concern were those related to the WTO Seattle Conference. I attended as an observer (the only NGO). I was able to put the Joint NGO statement against the Millennium Round on the table, accessible to all delegates. I am making available the reports I wrote on this Conference for the SUNS (a daily bulletin edited in Geneva by Mr Raghavan). Article 1 reports on the chair of G77's opening speech: repair and review the WTO and no new issues. Do look out for subsequent articles.

Best wishes, Martin Khor

G77 Ministerial Meeting 14-16 Sept 99: Article 1

G77 chair calls for review, repair and reform of WTO

Marrakech 14 Sept

The Chairman of the Group of 77 today said that the WTO's Seattle Conference should focus on a process of what he called the Three Rs, or "review, repair and reform" of the WTO.

Mr Clement Rohee, Foreign Minister of Guyana, said any new round of negotiations should right an existing imbalance. Developing countries should not be expected to "pay" for this by agreeing to negotiate new issues. Rohee was making his address as Chairman of the G77 at the opening panel session of the Ninth Ministerial Conference of the G77 being held here on 14-16 September.

In a broad-ranging review of recent trends in globalisation and development, Rohee said the international trading system is central to globalisation. The functioning of the WTO must thus be responsive and sensitive to the development needs of all its developing members.

Asking what does the developing world require from the multilateral trade system, Rohee said: "First, the full implementation of existing liberalisation commitments. In this regard, many developing countries suggest that the Seattle Conference should be a time to initiate a process of "review, repair and reform" (the Three Rs). "The issue for any new round of negotiations is that of righting an existing imbalance. This should not become something developing countries are expected to "pay" for in negotiations on new issues. "Second, the provisions for special and differential treatment must be emphasised in recognition of the disadvantages faced by many developing countries by virtue of their low level of development. In the WTO context future special and differential treatment should be based on specific development criteria instead of arbitrarily defined transition periods."

Noting that advanced forms of knowledge and technology have emerged, Rohee said a collective agenda for the South in science and technology should call for "a revisiting and amendment of the TRIPS regime of the WTO in order to make the global IPRs regime more sensitive to and supportive of development."

Rohee noted that the G77 conference is being held against a background of great uncertainty for the developing world. "Over the last two decades there has been a gradual but definite displacement of the collective concerns of the South from the international policy agenda. This process of displacement has occurred in the context of two developments: the ideological and political ascendancy of economic neoliberalism (with its emphasis on the role of unfettered markets in the allocation of national and global resources) and the accelerated pace of globalisation which has itself been increasingly underpinned by a market liberalising logic."

Rohee added that globalisation continues to have a profound impact on most developing economies. The key decision-makers are concentrated in a few major industrial countries, often in the hands of a few major corporations and individuals. National governments are increasingly marginalised as economic sovereignty is redefined and market forces become ascendant. "For most developing countries the globalisation process of rapid trade, financial and investment liberalisation has not fully lived up to its promise despite the adoption of profound structural reforms and macroeconomic measures. Attempts to respond to the demands of the western-driven market-based globalisation process, on the basis of individual capacities, have only served to atomise the developing world whilst making countries ever more vulnerable to pressures from the most powerful players in the international order, whether these be states or TNCs. The current global agenda is almost bereft of the concerns of the South."

Rohee stressed three important tasks of the G77: strengthening the G77 as a central forum to advocate growth, social development and strategic integration of the developing countries in the global economy; renew and consolidate south-south cooperation; and identify a broad and pragmatic programme of work for UNCTAD to support these

He added that the absence of a Secretariat is a major constraint of the G77. The G77 should take steps to strengthen its analytical capability through institutional arrangements. It should also use the facilities available in appropriate institutions such as the South Centre and the Third World Network.

At the same session, WTO director general Mike Moore, making his first speech in this capacity, told the delegates: "I am your servant and will do my best to shape the WTO so it can help make the next century a century of persuasion unlike so much of this century which often was a century of coercion." He pledged to assist participants get the most balanced outcome from new negotiations, to advocate for benefits to great and modest nations, and to reshape the WTO to reflect the reality of its membership and their needs.

In practice this would involve five measures. First, to ensure trade liberalisation brings real benefits to all, especially developing countries. This is particularly in agriculture, processed foods and textiles. Second, to ensure that rules are developed in a way that developing countries can use them. Third, to ensure that rules and procedures for "contingent"protection are applied fairly and that such measures don't become a substitute for old-fashioned protectionist barriers. Fourth, to ensure that access to the dispute settlement mechanisms is available on an equitable basis. Fifth, to ensure that information about the WTO is available to all members, including the most vulnerable.

The deputy trade minister of South Africa, Ms L.B. Hendricks said that the industrialisation of the South had to be based on establishing industries which make use of natural resources. Such nature-based industries still exist in the North, and should be considered grandfather industries. The comparative advantage in the industries that are agriculture-based and resource- based now lies with the South. Thus the countries of the North should undergo structural changes for it is not viable that these grandfather industries remain prominent in the North, for then the South's prospects to industrialise would be foreclosed. She stressed that structural change is needed in the North, and what we need is not a handout system, but a structural system where the North gives the South access to its market.

In an afternoon Roundtable on Development Challenges in the 21st Century, UNCTAD secretary-general Rubens Ricupero said a few years ago, it was thought private inflows alone could provide the South's financial needs. Another exaggeration was in relation to FDI , that it would grow so fast that it would easily compensate for decrease in ODA.

"We now know this is not true. FDI is highly concentrated in a few countries, for example China Brazil and Mexico alone account for 50% of FDI in recent years. Last year of total FDI that went to developing countries, less than one percent went to the 48 LDCs, the countries that are more in need. "We should try to look at the picture of financing for development in a comprehensive way. to focus on all possible ways to finance development. "The starting point is that most of the investment has to come from domestic sources. In most countries over 80 percent of finance is from domestic sources.

As for financing from abroad, Ricupero said infrastructure finance will have to be by multilateral banks. ODA is also impossible to replace at this stage. It has gone down but we must react against this tendency. As for debt relief., the Criteria applied and funds provided are so far insufficient.

Ricupero also spoke about the doubts that had arisen over the effects of developing countries' integration in the world economy. This was because the recent financial crisis hit the most integrated developing countries. Mexico and South Korea that had just graduated to the OECD were among the countries most directly affected. "This is a paradox. If development is a process that supposedly reduces vulnerability of countries to external shocks, how come S Korea or Mexico and others so advanced in integration were so severely affected? "My conclusion is not that integration is a dead end. Much depends on the quality of your integration, the appropriate sequencing of your integration, the way you deal with that."

Ricupero noted those countries affected were exactly the countries that were more successful in trade. Some of the Asian countries that were successful in exports of manufactured goods, did not prove so successful in financial integration. He said it showed that "the only thing in common between trade and financial integration is the name integration." "Integration into the world financial market is something different from integration in the trade system. It is delicate and few countries succeed fully. "When you hear that all counties should have full convertibility in the capital account (this in the IMF is a goal), you must remember full convertibility was only reached quite recently in developed countries. In 1983 only 3 countries had full convertibility (US, UK and the Swiss).

Even Germany and Japan reached it later and France and Italy only in 1990. It is very difficult to have total mobility in the capital account as this requires many conditions including political and economic stability."

Ricupero said it was now clear that short term capital will always prove highly volatile. However one should be weary about artificial distinctions. It is not enough to distinguish between long and short term cap. Longterm capital can also prove dangerous as sometimes it adds to the volatility.

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.