Mr. President, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In June 2004, Ministers of member-states of the Agreement on the Global System of Trade Preferences Among Developing Countries, better known as 'GSTP,' met on the occasion of the Eleventh Conference of UNCTAD in Sao Paulo, Brazil and launched the third round of GSTP negotiations.
In the Sao Paulo Declaration launching the round, the Ministers recognized the need for concerted action to harness the enormous potential of the GSTP Agreement in promoting and expanding trade among developing countries. They also reiterated their commitment to promote and sustain mutual trade, and to further economic cooperation through the exchange of concessions within the framework of the Agreement.
To this end, they launched the Third Round of GSTP Negotiations to invigorate and further the objectives of the Agreement. To harness the potential of the Agreement, they envisaged a package of substantial trade liberalization commitments on the basis of mutuality of advantages so as to benefit equitably all GSTP participants.
In addition, the Ministers pledged to work towards developing concrete preferential measures to be accorded in favour of the least-developed country participants in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement and invited all the members of the Group of 77 and China to accede to the Agreement. The Ministers envisaged concluding the Third Round by the end of 2006.
Having recalled briefly the major elements of the Sao Paulo mandate, I should like to take this opportunity, in my capacity as President of the Committee of Participants of the GSTP to inform this body of work carried out since the Eleventh session of UNCTAD.
In November last year, the GSTP Negotiating Committee, chaired by Ambassador Alberto Dumont of Argentina, reviewed the progress of work carried out in two technical negotiating groups, namely the Rule-Making Group and Market Access Group.
The rule-making group has been assigned the responsibility of updating the rules of origin under the GSTP Agreement. Negotiated in the 1980s, the existing rules of origin require updating and improvement to make them more relevant to current trends in global production and trade. After about 12 months of technical work with the participation of experts from capitals, GSTP members have virtually completed discussions on a draft agreement on certification procedures and administrative cooperation. In the course of the first semester of 2006, GSTP members will complete consideration of the draft agreement for approval by the GSTP Negotiating Committee.
Given the very technical nature of the subject of rules of origin and the rather short time available for the discussions, GSTP members have also made good progress aimed at ensuring that the benefits of the Agreement accrue to its members.
Furthermore, GSTP members are poised to work intensively on the criteria for determining the origin of a product under the terms of the Agreement. The work is technically complicated, but with the participation of experts from capitals, the task of crafting an agreement in this regard is not daunting.
With regard to market access, the UNCTAD secretariat has devoted considerable time and technical resources to provide GSTP members the requisite trade and tariff data required for effective negotiations. Secretariat support from the DITC has permitted GSTP members to identify more precisely their export interests.
And parallel therewith, GSTP members have intensively discussed many options for attaining the goal of substantial trade liberalization commitments stipulated in the Sao Paulo Declaration. As of the end of 2005, GSTP members have narrowed down the options available to them in the area of market access modalities.
In the course of the first semester of this year, GSTP members expect to reach agreement on the procedures for carrying out exchange of tariff concessions.
Special treatment, including non-reciprocity, for the least developed country members is an important feature of the Agreement. I envisage that specific provisions in favor of the least developed country members would form an important part of the techniques and modalities of market access negotiations.
Having said this, Mr. President, I am pleased to inform that several additional developing countries have expressed interest and those that have applied for accession to the Agreement include: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Haiti, Madagascar, Mauritania, Rwanda, Surinam, Uganda, Uruguay. I take this opportunity to invite other developing countries to join the Agreement.
Before concluding, allow me to thank on behalf of GSTP members, the Secretary-General and the secretariat, particularly the Director of DITC, for the technical and administrative support to the GSTP Committee of Participants and the Third Round of negotiations. We expect to conclude the Round by the end of this year in fulfillment of the Sao Paulo Declaration and more importantly, in order to renew and strengthen South-South trade.