On behalf of the Asian Group and China I would like to join previous speakers to congratulate you and other members of the Bureau on your election. We stand ready to assist you in the challenging task to make this Commission a success.
We also take this opportunity to thank the Secretary General Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi for his valuable statement and join in welcoming the new Deputy Secretary General Mr Dirk J. Bruinsma. I also thank the UNCTAD secretariat for its pertinent and timely preparation of documents for this meeting, as well as the many activities conducted within the Sao Paulo mandate during the period under review including policy analysis, servicing of the intergovernmental machinery, technical assistance and capacity building. These documents and out puts contained valuable ideas and recommendations and will assist our deliberations.
The Asian Group and China fully associates itself with the statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Mashood Khan, Chairman of the Group of 77 and China and we would like to highlight some of the points of importance to our group.
Item 3 – Commodities and Development – our group is of the view that commodity issues are at the core of recent development efforts. Rising demand for essential commodities have led to commodity prices reaching record highs last year. Nevertheless, globally although there is the potential for a minor economic slow down as a result of these developments, dynamic developing countries will continue to grow in 2006.
From an Asian perspective, the commodity sector is an important aspect of the regional economy, as some 91% of the commodities trade of the region are within the region itself. As indicated in the UNCTAD Trade and Development Report, 2005, "Asia has been a region of economic dynamism over the past four decades, with different economies in the region successfully experiencing rapid growth. The large size of the countries that entered the process most recently, China and India, has established the East and South Asian region as a new growth pole in the world economy.”
Some countries especially LDCs and SIDs are still commodity dependent and vulnerable to price fluctuations, thus the role of commodities in their development process needs to be supported through international action inter alia, by better and increased access to credits, development aid, increased participation in global supply chains and for meeting quality and product requirements in export markets.
The Asian Group believes that some substantive discussions should take place in the present session on identifying and suggesting appropriate, commodity policies as a development tool in the fight against poverty. Such identification would be especially important at this time when the international community is mid way towards its targets of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015.
The Asian Group expects that the Aid for Trade debate will have a significant positive impact for realizing the gains of trade liberalization and supporting our development priorities. We believe that a significant emphasis on commodities in such a package is indispensable for the distribution of gains from trade to the rural poor in our countries.
We very much support the revival of commodities as a major topic in the development debate, both within UNCTAD and elsewhere. The commodities paragraph included in the Ministerial declaration of the Hong Kong meeting of WTO is a welcome development which calls for a concerted effort by all relevant organizations, in particular by UNCTAD which has an undisputed mandate in the realm of commodities.
The creation of an International Task Force on Commodities, agreed upon at UNCTAD XI, which could further orient the debate on commodities towards workable solutions is a crucial step in this direction. We call upon the donor countries and agencies to provide financial support to the Task Force.
On agenda item 4 - Market access, market entry and competitiveness - we note UNCTAD's distinctive work which is of tremendous assistance to us, inter alia, in advancing the market access agenda pursued in the WTO Doha negotiations. UNCTAD's contribution not only addresses technical issues such as tariff cutting formulas - often country or region specific-, or NTB classifications, but it also identifies ways in which countries could formulate overall development strategies based on competitive and dynamic manufacturing sectors. We welcome in particular the work done by the Secretariat on several new and dynamic sectors that are key to the development of many countries in our region: electronics, fisheries products, and steel and related products. UNCTAD's comparative advantage on the comprehensive treatment of trade and development issues was perhaps best demonstrated by the work on these dynamic sectors. Thanks to the cooperation between various units of the Secretariat, several key angles were brought into discussion: commodity issues, non-tariff barriers, trade statistics, sectoral analyses, etc.
We will be participating actively in the selection of topics of the three expert group meetings to be held this year, and in particular the one that will dwell on new and dynamic sectors of world trade.
The Asian Group, therefore, would like to urge the Commission to take forward international policy dialogue, research and analysis on issues affecting market access, market entry and competitiveness of developing country exports including in economic sectors with promising potential of becoming drivers of economic growth in the Asian region and elsewhere in the developing world.
Regarding agenda item 5 - Trade in services and development implications - a number of dynamic factors are shaping policies on services in developing countries. Some of these factors are related to priorities identified in national domestic reforms. Others are external (increasing international competition for finances; regional integration; multilateral negotiations). Overall, governments in our region are facing the challenge of realigning these multidimensional objectives, when seeking to maximize development dividends accruing to them from progressive liberalization of services economy. Faced with such a complex policy environment, the limited experience of many developing countries makes the assessment of available policy options extremely difficult.
The documentation prepared by the UNCTAD secretariat (TD/COM.1/77) has provided a number of policy options that developing countries could consider when proceeding with their reforms in the area of services. Therefore, I would like to say from the outset that we look forward for a fruitful discussion under this agenda item that could further extend the work by UNCTAD in the area of assessment of trade in services to include greater number of developing countries from different regions and in expanding further sectoral coverage.
One specific area in which UNCTAD's work was extremely useful to Asian countries refers to the complementary role played by the advisory services and capacity building carried out by UNCTAD in connection with WTO services negotiations. We would therefore like to encourage the UNCTAD secretariat to focus their work on a number of issues that are of key concern for our group. We attach utmost importance to meaningful commitments in the services negotiations in sectors and modes of priority interest to developing countries particularly Mode 4. The Asian Group underlines the importance of reaching a successful conclusion in these negotiations.
Under agenda item 6 (Trade, environment and development) we would like to reiterate our commitment to ensure that development - both in countries enjoying high growth rates and those that have still to catch up and "climb the development ladder", to make reference to the theme of the high-level panel - becomes sustainable development. Against this background, the Asian group welcomes some concrete and practical initiatives of the UNCTAD secretariat in cooperation with other agencies, such as the Consultative Task Force on Environmental Requirements and Market Access for Developing Countries, and the work on promoting production and export of organic agricultural products in the context of the UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development and the FAO/IFOAM/UNCTAD International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture.
More generally, the Asian Group also welcomes UNCTAD's analytical, empirical and technical support to many of the countries in the region for actively participating in the WTO negotiations on the liberalization of international trade in environmental goods and services. This support comes at a time when WTO Members continue to search for ways and means of ensuring a comprehensive treatment of the negotiating mandate that encompasses environmental goods and environmental services, tariffs and NTBs. This search is representative of the real life situations where environmental goods, services and technologies are often delivered as a package. In the end, it is important for us that there are tangible gains beyond mere trade liberalization, notably in terms of access to and effective use of environmentally sound technologies and related know how that lead to material and resource savings and reduced environmental impact, without compromising our developmental priorities.
The Asian Group attaches great importance to the relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and thus welcome UNCTAD work in this area. The challenge is the best way to implement both agreements in the mutually supportive manner, within the framework of the TRIPS Agreement so as to prevent misappropriation and to support the objectives and implementation of the CBD. We would like to see progress made in requiring in relevant patent applications disclosure of information regarding the source of origin of the biological resource and the traditional knowledge used in inventions, as well as evidence of prior informed consent and benefit sharing under the relevant national regime. UNCTAD work in this area will be most timely.
The Asian Group appreciates the recent analytical work on this topic commissioned by the secretariat in response to the invitation by the CBD Conference of the Parties, and notes that this will deepen understanding of these issues and hopefully help pave the way towards finding solutions acceptable to all. The Group also appreciates the ideas expressed in the background paper on addressing the preservation, protection and promotion of traditional knowledge at the national level. We appreciate UNCTAD's continued assistance in this area.
Agenda item 7 - Implementation of agreed conclusions and recommendations of the Commission, including post-Doha follow-up -
The expert group meetings on distribution services, the ad hoc expert group meeting on insurance, and the expert group meeting on NTBs are examples of the way in which we have found UNCTAD's work extremely relevant and has provided useful inputs and insights for our negotiations.
The post Doha review conducted at the TDB in October, the trade negotiations meetings and seminars have been important in helping our negotiators in building capacity and in better understanding the many complex issues in respect to international trade and international trading system.
Similarly, we have also benefited tremendously from the analysis and various technical assistance activities, implemented by the Division on a national and regional basis, on the Doha negotiations, services assessment, dispute settlement, new and dynamic sectors as well as on regional integration and WTO accession; the latter being of relevance to several of the members of this Group who have recently acceded or are presently in the process of acceding to the WTO.
I would like to reassure you Mr. Chairman of our abiding interest in the work of the Commission. The Commission is a major intergovernmental body of UNCTAD and as such it can move forward on the practical steps to be taken in order to implement the Sao Paulo Consensus.
In the context of the upcoming Mid-term Review of UNCTAD, we would like to see how UNCTAD’s work could be strengthened in order to fully implement the outcomes of Sao Paulo, including operationalizing meaningfully the concept of policy space.
Relatedly, we look forward to examining ideas on how UNCTAD’s commissions, including this one, could be enhanced as part of a broader effort to revitalize UNCTAD’s intergovernmental machinery. We have highlighted how UNCTAD’s work is useful in many ways. We must ensure that the intergovernmental machinery is up to the task of translating work at the expert level into a broader consensus at a higher level, in order to better and more meaningfully contribute to the broader development discourse.
We also take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of Mid-Term Review and the need to elevate the debate and raise the profile of the organization. Doing otherwise may result in an outcome favourable to neither developing nor developed countries.
Finally, we look forward to exchanging ideas on how to enhance UNCTAD’s contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and look forward to UNCTAD’s continuing contributions to our inter-regional effort to implement the development dimension of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership, as well as the operationalization of the Jakarta Declaration on the Millennium Development Goals at the forthcoming 62nd Session of ESCAP.