São Paulo, 16 June 2004

The third round of negotiations on the Global System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) was launched at the 11th Session of UNCTAD. A Special Session of the GSTP Committee of Participants adopted the São Paulo Declaration announcing the launch of this round of GSTP negotiations and 43 developing countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America will take part in it.

Presiding over this Special Session, Argentina’s Minister for Economy Roberto Lavagna said that another 40 developing countries are expected to take part in the negotiations. UNCTAD’s Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero and Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim were present at this Session.

In the Declaration, the participating countries committed themselves to work towards developing concrete measures to be accorded in favour of the least developed countries. They also extended an invitation to all the members of the Group of 77 developing countries and China to join the GSTP. “We give great importance to South-South trade,” expressed Li Enheng, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

According to Celso Amorim, this round of GSTP negotiations is expected to construct a new commercial geography worldwide. He also underscored the need for greater participation by poor countries. At present, out of 49 least developed countries (as per the UN categorisation), only seven are part of the GSTP.

One of the goals of the GSTP is to stimulate South-South trade by lowering tariffs between developing nations. However, not much progress has been made in that direction. By relaunching the negotiations at São Paulo, UNCTAD hopes to take advantage of new alliances between developing nations, especially the Group of 20 (G-20) and its increasing prominence at the international stage.

Earlier in the day, speaking as one of the keynote speakers in the Plenary, Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said that poor countries must be assured of better market access to developed economies and financing from their rich counterparts for education and infrastructure development.

“We cannot sanction a trading system that produces advantages for some and adversities for others,” he emphasised. He argued that if 800 million Africans, 1 billion Indians, 1.3 billion Chinese, 200 million Indonesians and millions in Latin Americans assert their participation in the world economy, that would be a win-win situation for all.

Another keynote speaker in the same Plenary, Leonel Fernandez Reyna, President-elect of the Dominican Republic agreed that underdeveloped countries can achieve their potentiality through the use of technology and development of infrastructure. He emphasised on the imperative of poverty reduction in order to achieve further expansion of the world economy.

Another high-level round table titled “Bilateralism and Regionalism in the Aftermath of Cancùn: Re-establishing the Primacy of Multilateralism” was held today in which Executive Secretaries of the United Nations Regional Commissions participated. Carlos Fortin, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD chaired this session.

Participating in the discussion, UNCTAD’s Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero questioned Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which makes provisions for regional and bilateral trade agreements. He argued that the so-called free trade agreements are undermining the key element of multilateralism, i.e. non-discrimination between nations, if not in letters but in spirit.