South Africa's Statement to the seventh session of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial conference held in Geneva, delivered by Dr Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry
4 Nov 2009
Ladies and gentlemen
Our delegation wishes to thank the government of Switzerland for hosting this conference.
South Africa has participated in several of the recent attempts to re-energise the Doha Round including in Bali, Paris, Delhi and in the various senior officials meetings. Unfortunately none of these efforts has brought us close to a successful developmental conclusion of the Doha Round. Instead of prioritising the advancement of outstanding reforms that are of urgent need to developing countries, like cotton and the Least Development Country (LDC) package, recent engagements have been dominated by unfair demands placed on major developing countries to enhance market access for the benefit of narrow commercial lobbies in parts of the developed world.
South Africa was not part of the agreements reached by some members in the July 2008 package. As we have stated before our view is that even these texts are imbalanced and reflect too much accommodation of the sensitivities of developed countries in agriculture, while demanding too much from developing countries in terms of reducing their applied industrial tariffs and policy space for industrial development.
Despite these reservations we have been willing to work to see whether, on the basis of the existing texts, the specific problems posed for South Africa (SA) and Southern African Customs Union (SACU), arising from the historic injustice of South Africa’s classification in the Uruguay Round as a “developed country,” can be resolved in a fair manner.
After considerable effort we have now won recognition of the reality that by implementing developed country commitments in the Uruguay Round our average bound rate was reduced to almost half that of comparator countries. In addition the fact that South Africa is part of the Southern African Customs Union means that these cuts would also apply to three Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) and a Least Development Country (LDC) that would not otherwise have to take formula cuts.
Despite our hard won recognition we still have to establish whether or not our specific needs will be adequately accommodated before we are able to work on the basis of the December texts.
As many previous speakers have said the current recession is causing job losses in all countries around the world with developing countries suffering the major impact. South Africa which already had 23% unemployment before the recession has lost an additional three quarters of a million jobs since then, creating further strains on the stability of a highly unequal society and nascent democracy.
In recent weeks there has been much talk about resisting backsliding and we agree with that. But we need to be clear about what we mean by backsliding. For us backsliding means retreating further from the development mandate that we all agreed to in Doha, and further imbalancing the proposed Doha outcome.
South Africa fully supports the position of the G20 and Africa Group amongst others in calling for an “early and successful conclusion” to the Doha Round, with successful being defined in terms of its delivery on the Doha development mandate. Let me say though that if we have to choose between the two, South Africa will opt for a successful developmental outcome.
The LDCs have kept reminding us that the delay in the round means no real further movement on issues of vital interest to them. We support their call for an Early Harvest on, Duty Free Quota Free Market Access, Cotton, a Services Waiver for LDC preferences, and an ambitious aid for trade package.
The current economic crisis that began in the developed world has impacted on the developing countries in the form of diminished investment flows as well as the massive job losses and increased levels of poverty already referred to.
The current bailout packages of several developed countries, while a necessary countercyclical measure, could also exacerbate existing imbalances. Certain programmes have the potential to impact negatively on productive investments in the developing world. It is for this reason that South Africa has supported the proposals made by Argentina and other developing countries that the WTO monitors the impact of such measures on the trade and investment of developing countries.
Finally, we would support the call made by a large number of countries to initiate a dialogue on the future reform of the WTO. For South Africa this must focus on strengthening the consensus principle and ensuring a more inclusive and transparent approach to decision making. There also needs to be greater clarity within the WTO on what we understand by development and greater coherence between the WTO and the other multilateral institutions concerned with promoting development and decent work.
These reforms are essential to transform the WTO from an institution dominated by a mercantilist discourse towards one which becomes a global public good, or in the words of the Director-General, Pascal Lamy, “more development friendly, more user-friendly and for the benefit of all, rich and poor, large and small.”
Issued by: Department of Trade and Industry
4 December 2009
Issued by: Department of Trade and Industry
4 Nov 2009
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