For use of information media - Not an official record

Geneva, Switzerland, 25 October 1999

The UNCTAD Trade and Development Board today began negotiations on a text to be submitted to the tenth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD X) to be held in Bangkok (Thailand) from 12 to 19 February 2000.

The negotiations began today within a Committee of the Whole set up in preparation for UNCTAD X. The President of the Board, Ambassador Philippe Petit of France, chairs the Committee. Before turning into an informal setting for negotiating purposes, the Committee heard statements in plenary session, highlights of which are given below.

The Plan of Action of the Group of 77 and China for UNCTAD X (TD(X)/PC/4), as tabled, is the culmination of various regional meetings of developing countries. The Committee also has before it Guidelines for the participation of the European Union in UNCTAD X (TD(X)/PC6), submitted today by Finland, which is currently holding the presidency of the EU, and the Report by the Secretary-General of UNCTAD to UNCTAD X (TD/380).

Noting that the pre-negotiated text for UNCTAD X, should be submitted to the Board by 17 December, Mr. Petit urged Member States to show pragmatism and transparency in order to finalize the text so as to allow the Conference itself to enter into a substantive and far-reaching debate, rather than in disputes about drafting details.

The proposals of the Group of 77 and China were formally tabled today by H.E. Mohammed Benaissa, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, the host country of the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting of the developing countries for UNCTAD X. Right from the onset, Mr. Benaissa said, the Group of 77 and China had set out not to formulate a maximalist position paper but to prepare the basis for a pre-conference text that all groups would be able to use as a basis for the work of the Committee.

He highlighted the main features of both the Plan of Action and the Draft Bangkok Consensus (TD(X)/PC/5) which made the two documents a basis for an outcome of UNCTAD X. One was their balanced approach to globalization, recognizing both difficulties and opportunities. The key idea was that "globalization will fulfil its positive potential if it is properly managed".

UNCTAD must play a key role in prompting the international community to put into place the measures and initiatives identified in the Plan of Action to ensure the successful integration of the developing countries into the world economy on an equitable basis. Those measures related to finance and investment, international trade and other development-related issues. The Plan of Action took the view that "UNCTAD is pre-eminently placed to build a consensus for the reformulation of policies in a globalizing world from a development perspective and that it has a major role to play in helping developing countries to design a phased integration into the world economy".

Mr. Benaissa highlighted the three objectives of the Draft Bangkok Consensus, which contains broad principles and guidelines for a development strategy. Those were: getting markets to function efficiently, ensuring an equitable distribution of the costs ad benefits of growth, and creating a favourable international environment for development.

The documents pointed to the need for both national and international action. At the national level, Governments are called on to take the necessary measures to create a stable macroeconomic environment, to stimulate production, trade and investment, to ensure an appropriate and transparent regulatory framework, and to enhance the development of the private sector. At the international level, the call is for improved access to markets and full implementation of existing multilateral trade agreements, assistance for developing countries in strengthening their capacity to compete, a lasting solution to the debt problems of developing countries, the attainment of ODA targets, and a bridging of the technology gap through improved access to technology.

Ambassador Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn of Thailand pointed out that UNCTAD X would not only mark the first United Nations economic gathering of the millennium, but serve as an impetus to a series of international meetings, including the South-South Summit, the UN Millennium Assembly, and the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The host country looked to UNCTAD X for providing meaningful deliberations on ways and means of managing the process of globalization for the benefit of all. As indications for economic recovery were becoming increasingly evident among the crisis-affected economies, the East-Asian development experience was still relevant for comparative studies.

The Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, urged the international community to take advantage of meeting at the heart of the region to draw lessons from the experience of East Asia which after having offered the best hopes for development, had undergone a serious crisis that it was now overcoming. He saw UNCTAD X as an opportunity for a high-level reflection about development experience with the objectives of taking stock of what was missing and of identifying challenges ahead.

Ambassador Pekka Huhtaniemi of Finland stated on behalf of the European Union, that "in order for developing countries to reap the benefits and take up the challenges of globalization, there is a need for the international community to improve and strengthen the environment in which development takes place".

With regard to the new round of negotiations to be launched by the Seattle conference, the European Union highlighted "the important role UNCTAD can play in supporting developing countries as they prepare for these negotiations". The EU suggested that its text for UNCTAD X and that of the G77 be considered side by side by the Committee of the Whole during the negotiations in the coming months. As the first major development conference to take place on the eve of the new millennium, UNCTAD X was "an opportunity for Member States to emphasize the relevance of the organization and its positive contribution towards the integration of developing countries, and in particular the LDCs, within the world economy".

Regional contributions to UNCTAD X were presented also by Ambassador Ali Khorram of the Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of the Asian Group and China (Lebanon Declaration 1999, document AS/MM/77 (IX)/3) Ambassador Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo of the Dominican Republic on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (Santo Domingo Declaration, document LA/G77/(IX)/1); and by Mr. Christopher A. Osah (Nigeria) on behalf of the African Group ( African Ministerial Declaration, document AF/MM/77(IX)/1 + Corr.1)

Ms. Bronwen Clark (Australia), on behalf of JUSSCANNZ plus Korea, Turkey and Israel, stressed the need to ensure that developing countries receive the assistance they need the most in a reasonable timeframe. The group therefore felt "a strong need for the Bangkok conference text to be accompanied by, one, a timeframe and two, an expected outcome for each individual activity requested of the Secretariat".

Mr. Patrick Pardo (Switzerland) thought that such a timeframe would strengthen the action of UNCTAD to the benefit of all, beneficiary and donor countries alike.

Noting that not all nations were enjoying the benefits of globalization, Mr. Makio Miyagawa (Japan), said that the international community today desperately needed ideas, systems and rules, domestic as well as international, which could promote the brighter side of globalization. UNCTAD X should aim at means to bridge the gap, including human capacity building and industrial structural reforms.

Mr. Chakravarthi Raghavan speaking on behalf of the Third World Network non-governmental-organization said that if UNCTAD was no longer a negotiating body but a knowledge based institution at the service of development, it was essential that knowledge be developed without any preconceived judgements. Neoliberal economics and the Washington consensus had not delivered, nor had "globalization". Political economists had begun to argue against pressuring the developing countries and transition economies into big-bang approach to liberalisation, but rather ask them to go slow, and take small steps. They had begun to argue for flexibility for the developing countries from disciplines of rules, and special and more favourable treatment to developing countries until they achieve a level of development where they can take on more obligations.

Mr. Duncan Green, speaking on behalf of CIDSE, a network of northern Catholic development agencies, and his own non-governmental organization, Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, also spoke about the failure of the Washington consensus and stressed that economic policy should give priority to human development. At the global level, this meant greater transparency, democracy and accountability within bodies like WTO and IMF. At all levels, it meant encouraging ownership process through participation – of governments, local governments, civil society, and the private sector. UNCTAD had a role to play in the needed reform of the global financial architecture and in making the Seattle talks a development round. Mr, Green pointed out that whatever the outcome of Seattle, UNCTAD X would be a vital opportunity. UNCTAD should facilitate southern input into the debate and seize the initiative on the issues which were not being discussed by the WTO. If the decision in Seattle was in favour of a comprehensive round with many new issues on the agenda, UNCTAD should help ensure that southern concerns were properly taken into account.