Jul 18, 1987
UNCTAD-VII: PLENARY ENDS FIRST PART OF GENERAL DEBATE.GENEVA, JULY 17 (IFDA/CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) – The plenary of the seventh session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development has concluded the first part of the general debate, and adjourned to resume it again on July 24. As per the organisational plans, the last week of the session is to be at Ministerial level. Several countries of the north and the south, who will have their Ministers here for negotiations and decision-making, will make general statements then. The U.S. delegate is listed to speak as the penultimate speaker, with Cuba’s Foreign Trade Minister as the last speaker. In the general debate, third world, socialist and industrialised country-.spokesmen have all underlined the need for world economic growth, though differing in prescriptions for the same, and also the need for UNCTAD-VII to contribute to renewal of multilateralism and function effectively as a forum where interdependence of issues and economies could be addressed. A statement on behalf of over 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), present during the general debate, underscored their view that the industrialised countries lacked political will, and some of them were indulging in political manoeuvrings to frustrate progress and defer discussions to other forums. The NGOs, and particularly those from western Europe who are present here in greater strength than at other UNCTAD’s, warned that they were monitoring the actions of their delegations and would be reporting back to their large constituencies on activities of delegations and what had been achieve. DON’T HOPE TOO MUCH, BUT BE HOPEFUL NEVERTHELESS – IGLESIAS. The Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Enrique Iglesias said that the current international economic situation was no less than tragic for the third world – with low price for commodities, restricted access to markets and protectionism, dramatic problems of debt and fall in public and private investment. The problems could be tackled only through coordinated solution. The GATT Uruguay round had opened up some prospects, and there might even be "early harvest" by next year to put an end to deterioration in international trade. The sense of co-responsibility was also emerging on debt and its relationship to trade. In an indirect reference to attacks and criticisms on UNCTAD and its secretariat, Iglesias said there was a need for states to redefine priorities, identify areas for action, and give UNCTAD a vitality that could not be provided by the secretariat alone. UNCTAD’s advantage lay in its universality, and it was the only forum where overall political consideration could be given to the global economy, and right signals could be sent to guide negotiations in forums finance and trade. Today, all the actors had more maturity than when UNCTAD first met in Geneva 24 years ago. "Let us no hope too much, but let us be hopeful nevertheless", Iglesias declared. The international economic system would collapse if only third world countries were forced to carry out adjustments. There was need for sound, realistic and pragmatic solidarity based on ethical principles and with belief in UNCTAD as a proper forum to address the issues. POLICIES OF CONFRONTATION OBSOLETE - BULGARIA. The Foreign Trade Minister of Bulgaria, Hristo Hristov, argued that in an interdependent world neo-global policies based on arms superiority and confrontation was obsolete and viable solutions had to be found for problems facing mankind. International economic security within a favourable political environment could lead to a new level of global economic interaction as a basic factor for renewed growth and development. On debt, he said indebtedness reflected the problems of economic restructuring. Debt servicing had become a major drain on resources for development, jeopardising economic and social viability of nations, and durable solutions must be the joint responsibility of debtor and creditor countries. DEBTORS CAN’T BORROW THEIR WAY OUT - JAMAICA. Jamaica’s Anthony Hill said debtor and creditor governments, commercial banks and international financial institutions, all had to work together to ensure flow of resources to debtor countries. These countries could not borrow their way out, and there must be a targeted reduction of debt ratios to sustainable levels over a programme period. MORAL REALISATION OF CO-RESPONSIBILITY NEEDED - VATICAN. Speaking for the Vatican and Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, said that it was not enough for countries to recognise interdependence through economic and political expediency. Only moral realisation of true co-responsibility would open the path to international justice and respect commitments born out of solidarity. The Pope was convening a pontifical commission to study the ethical considerations behind the problems of external debt, and encourage the industrialised nations to make sacrifices for the least favoured peoples. The Polish Foreign Trade Minister, Andrezej Wojcik also underscored the links between issues of peace, disarmament and international security, and said to secure growth and development, internationally compatible policy actions were badly needed in a number of countries. If enough political will existed, UNCTAD could initiate such a process of change. The director-general of UNIDO, Domingo Siazon, said from palm oil to steel, from footwear to electronic software, quite a few third world countries had proved their capability of producing an increasing range of industrial products at internationally competitive prices. But ironically they were facing problems of finding enough buyers for their products, while continuing production to service debt obligations. THIRD WORLD COMMODITY PRODUCERS SHOULD WORK TOGETHER – MALAYSIA. Malaysia’s deputy Minister for Trade, Dato Kok Wee Kiat, said the low prices for commodities should be a cause for concern for all commodity producers. He urged all third world commodity producers to work together to check the slide in commodity prices. Their immediate task should be to ensure stable and remunerative prices. The Malaysian Minister welcomed the Soviet decision to join the common fund, and saw it as a good augury for the future of international trade in commodities. NORTH KOREA ADVOCATES SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION AS LEVERAGE. The North Korean Foreign Trade Minister, Choi Jong Gun, said the active pursuit of south-south cooperation would expedite the establishment of a new equitable international economic order. The present debt crisis, he said, was a direct result of the old order, which not only had a severe impact on economic and trade development of the third world, but also menaced world security and impeded healthy development of international relations. South-south cooperation did not preclude north-south cooperation. But if the countries of the south gave full play to their vast potential for mutual cooperation, their bargaining power would be augmented in international economic relations. Hungary’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade, Tibor Melega, said the sources of unfavourable tendencies and tensions in international trading system lay in national policies and practices. Normalisation of trade relations should take place within the framework of the present trading system with full respect for basic norms. The debt crisis could be solved by agreed and coordinated measures taken by debtor and creditor countries. National efforts must be supported on the international scene by expanded market access possibilities. GIVE EARNINGS FROM FALL IN OIL PRICES AS GRANTS - UAE. Saif Ali Al-Jarwan, Minister of trade and Economy of United Arab Emirate underlined the need for reform of the international monetary system, and supported the call for an international conference for this purpose. Industrialised countries, he added, should distribute the revenues earning through fall in oil prices as grants to the third world, and encourages national banks in the industrial world to assist the third world. Albania, which rarely if ever appears at such forums, wanted world trade to develop free from protectionism, tariff and quota restrictions, and "free from manipulations of the super-powers and policy of limitations and closed markets". Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Kostandin Hoxha, said self-reliance had not prevented Albania from benefiting on basis of reciprocity, from trade exchanges and cooperation with other countries. But experience had taught Albania that "aid from imperialist-revisionist countries had always pursued definite expansionist and enslaving political aims". AFRICA, LATIN AMERICA NEED REORIENTED DEBT STRATEGY – KENYA. Kenya’s Commerce Minister, Jonathan K. Ng’Eno, said since emergence of the debt crisis a viable debt strategy to solve the problem had remained elusive. Many African and Latin American countries continued to face massive accumulation of debt and high interest rates. For these countries to develop their economies, there was need "to reorient conditionalities in the debt strategy". Kenya was disheartened that 11 years after adoption of the integrated programme for commodities, efforts to implement it had been frustrated mainly by lack of support of some major countries. The present commodity situation however confirmed the validity of the IPC and need for its immediate implementation. The Commerce Minister of Cote D’Ivoire, Nicolas Kouandi Angba said, his country had doubts about the capacity of the common fund to deal with the immense demands that would be made on it. Nevertheless in a spirit of solidarity, his country was signing the agreement and would soon ratify it. Cote D’Ivoire account for 0.36 percent of the capital. UNCTAD secretary-general Dadzie said this was "substantial", and hoped other third world countries, yet to ratify, would soon do so. Earlier, Angba said commodity prices should be stabilised, and third world countries provided long-term financing with their debt repayments linked to export earnings. Basdeo Panday, External Affairs Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said the stalemate and stagnation in international economy had arisen from a crisis of perception of long- and short-term interests, resulting in the hydra of north-south confrontation. He was convinced that in the long run the north would need the south as much as the south today needed the north. Among other things, Panday called for full implementation of the IPC, for comprehensive review and reform of the international monetary system, substantial increase in SDR allocations by the IMF, and change of its conditionally criteria. The decline in IDA resources should be reversed, and World Bank’s role should be strengthened by increase in its capital and change in its "graduation criteria". Zambia’s Commerce and Industry Minister, j. K. M. Kalaluka, blamed the current crisis on industrialised countries and their unwillingness to share what they had with those who had nothing. The situation had now reached such proportions that the third world was "exporting ... raw materials as well as real resources". The commitment of third world countries to satisfaction of economic needs of their peoples, as well as their social welfare and political aspirations, had led to indebtedness. It was not the intention of these countries to dishonour their obligations, "but creditors must make conditions easier to meet debt commitments". "WE ARE WATCHING AND MONITORING" - WARN NGOs. A statement presented on behalf of over 20 non-governmental organisations represented at the Conference, underscored the special position that UNCTAD occupied within the international community and within the UN system. Issues of trade and services should not only be considered in GATT, or debt problems within IMF and World Bank, the NGOs said. UNCTAD should consider them from the viewpoint of development and needs of the poor. The NGOs said: "We recognise the absence of political will (here) on the part of most of the industrialised countries. Their rhetorical recognition of interdependence is contradicted by their national policies. There is a clear discrepancy between the generally agreed laws and principles which should govern international relations and certain national practices which violate these laws and principles". The crisis of the world economy demanded that all governments should seriously use the opportunity of UNCTAD-VII to break new ground in finding solutions to north-south problems. "The good faith of governments will be shown by their preparedness to commence discussions in this forum with the most recent agreements and proposals from other fora". "We NGOs will be monitoring the actions of delegations over the coming three weeks and reporting back to our large constituencies on what you have or have not achieved". "The countries of the south cannot afford the luxury of political manoeuvrings by governments which do not seek to advance the discussions and to find immediate solutions to problems before us". Manoeuvring by countries and groups, which seek to frustrate the progress of UNCTAD-VII or top defer discussions to other forums, demonstrate that their primary concern is not whit the poor and marginalised of the south. "NGOs believe that the self-interest of both northern and southern countries are best served by focussing all our energies into honestly seeking solutions to the many development problems to be addressed here at UNCTAD-VII".