The President of Venezuela, Dr. Rafael Caldera, who came to Geneva to address the Annual International Labour Conference, yesterday called on the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero. Mr. Ricupero also who received the President on behalf of the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Mr. Vladimir Petrovsky.
Mr. Caldera and Mr. Ricupero had a bilateral discussion about the impact of the Asian financial crisis on the world economy, and on Latin America in particular. Mr. Ricupero expressed concern about the very destructive effects of the first phase of the crisis and its slow recovery. He was even more concerned about the fact that the problems encountered by the Japanese economy and the weakness of the yen might prolong the crisis. Asked by President Caldera which factor he would single out as the main cause of the Asian crisis, Mr. Ricupero replied: "the excessive dependence on short-term financial resources, given their volatility."
The Venezuelan President and the UNCTAD Secretary-General also addressed the problem of the recent fall in oil prices. The President expressed great interest in Mr. Ricupero’s proposal that UNCTAD work with Venezuela through its risk management programme in the oil sector. Mr. Ricupero pointed out that, in the past, oil-producing countries, such as Mexico, which had applied risk management through hedging and futures markets, had suffered less from the effects of falls in oil prices.
Venezuela will sign shortly an agreement with the UNCTAD secretariat on the installation of UNCTAD’s computerized debt management system, called DMFAS. The system is already installed in some 40 countries. UNCTAD obtained the Venezuelan project by winning an international tender for the provision of a public debt management system, in competition with Arthur Andersen Consulting. The project will be financed through a World Bank loan and managed by the United Nations Development Programme.
President Caldera also expressed great interest in the assistance UNCTAD could provide to strengthen the negotiating capacity of developing countries in the field of international trade. He welcomed Mr. Ricupero’s proposal to set up capacity-building programmes and courses on commercial diplomacy and policy, together with Venezuelan academic institutions.
Mr. Ricupero and President Caldera paid tribute to the late Dr. Manuel Perez Guerrero of Venezuela, who was the second Secretary-General of UNCTAD, from December 1968 to April 1974. Venezuela always had a broad vision and an international vocation, as witnessed by its many historic figures, including Manuel Perez-Guerrero, Mr. Ricupero stated. All his life, Mr. Perez-Guerrero had distinguished himself as someone who was able to combine intellectual ideals with a great sense of pragmatism, he said. This was illustrated by the establishment during his tenure in UNCTAD of the Generalized System of Preferences, under which preferential tariff treatment is accorded by developed countries to the manufactured good exports of developing countries. Speaking on behalf of President Caldera, H.E. Mr. Werner Corrales Leal, Ambassador of Venezuela to the United Nations in Geneva, also stressed Mr. Perez-Guerrero’s contribution to a more equitable multilateral system through pragmatic actions.