"I am very encouraged by what I heard at Lyon. I dare say that no other international institution was devoted as much attention in the final Communiqué as well as such a positive assessment by the G-7 leaders", the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Rubens Ricupero, told the press this morning. He accompanied the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to the Summit and participated in discussions on economic development issues.
In an entire paragraph devoted to UNCTAD IX, the Economic Communiqué reads: "UNCTAD IX was a major milestone in the renewal of UNCTAD. In close partnership with the other member States, we succeeded in reforming UNCTAD´s intergovernmental machinery and in refocusing its work on a small number of priorities to promote development through trade and investment with the aim of facilitating the integration of developing countries in the international trade system. We are committed to the implementation of these reforms. The least developed countries will be the major beneficiaries of this action. We also welcome the WTO and the renewed UNCTAD initiative to enhance mutual cooperation with each other, with due regard to their respective mandates" (paragraph 44).
Earlier in the text , the G-7 leaders consider that at UNCTAD IX "we succeeded, together with all our partners, to pave the way for a thorough reform which can also be regarded as an important point of reference for the reform of the UN economic and social sector" (paragraph 40).
Encouraged by this positive opinion about UNCTAD and its future work, Mr. Ricupero stated at the press conference in Geneva that the implementation of the results of UNCTAD IX would proceed at full speed and the establishment of the three commissions, as decided by the Conference, would be completed by the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board at a session scheduled for 8 July. These commissions will deal respectively with: Trade in goods and services, and commodities; Investment, technology and related financial issues; Enterprise, business facilitation and development.
UNCTAD´s ideas permeate the Economic Communiqué
Mr. Ricupero added that beyond explicit references to UNCTAD, many of the concepts that UNCTAD had advanced, permeated the Economic Communiqué on development issues. For example, the Communiqué issued at Lyon reiterated the concept of a partnership for growth and development which was enunciated at UNCTAD IX. In its section dealing with providing necessary multilateral support for development, the Communiqué reflects very closely the global approach to the problems of heavily indebted poor countries which UNCTAD had been advocating for many years.
The fact that globalization of the world economy holds both promises of growth and risks of further marginalization of the poor countries, is recognized by the G-7 leaders. This was precisely the theme of UNCTAD IX, held from 27 April to 11 May in South Africa. In this connection, Mr. Ricupero referred to his address to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in New York, a week ago, where he had underlined that the contribution of developing countries to the growth and the interdependence of the global economy and trade has been second to none.
For instance, the merchandise imports of the ten leading Asian economies in 1995 amounted to US$748.4 billion, more than that of the European Union, excluding its internal trade, close to the US total and more than double that of Japan´s. To a large extent this was the result of unilateral trade liberalization undertaken by developing countries. Such initiatives by the developing countries needed to be matched by trade liberalization initiatives by the developed countries, including a reduction in high tariff peaks and tariff escalation.
Looking ahead to the first ministerial meeting of the WTO to be held in Singapore in December, the Secretary-General recalled that UNCTAD had been entrusted by the United Nations General Assembly with the important role of helping to ensure a more balanced trade agenda, which duly takes into account the concerns of the developing countries. Indeed, at Midrand, UNCTAD was given a mandate to deal with the new and emerging issues on the international trade agenda from a development perspective. UNCTAD was the institution which had the highest degree of competence in matters related to investment and competition for example. Moreover, it was designated as task manager on trade and environment issues, reporting to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.