Trade and development

OECD Global Forum on Trade: The Development Dimensions of the Singapore Issues, Hong Kong, China, 19-20 June 2002


On 19-20 June, 2002, the OECD Trade Committee, in co-operation with APEC, the OECD Development Assistance Committee, the OECD Development Centre, the OECD Directorate for Financial, Fiscal and Enterprise Affairs, and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, held a workshop on the Development Dimensions of the Singapore Issues in Hong Kong, China. The Global Forum on Trade, co-ordinated by the OECD Centre for Co-operation with Non-Members aimed:

  • to stimulate dialogue and help build bridges among representatives from a diverse range of economies with various viewpoints on the Singapore issues (investment, competition, trade facilitation and government procurement);
  • to help with trade-policy formulation on these issues and so contribute to preparations for the WTO's 5th Ministerial Conference next year in Mexico;
  • to promote understanding of the development dimensions of trade, particularly as relates to the Singapore issues.

These objectives were fully met. The workshop generated a lively and instructive exchange of views among over 80 participants from 24 OECD (or Observer) countries and 13 non-OECD countries. The workshop was attended by the Chairs of the OECD Trade Committee (Luzius Wasescha), Competition Committee (Frédéric Jenny) and the Development Assistance Committee (Jean-Claude Faure), as well as by many key trade policy practitioners from national capitals or Geneva missions. Senior officials from the government of Hong Kong, China played an active role throughout the workshop. Developing country representatives were actively engaged and broadly affirmed the importance of continuing the dialogue on trade issues in the lead up to the WTO's fifth Ministerial Conference and beyond.

At the Fourth WTO Ministerial Meeting at Doha it was agreed that, subject to consensus on modalities, negotiations on each of the Singapore issues will take place after the Fifth Ministerial (in Cancun in September 2003). This prospect is greeted with some apprehension by many developing (and some developed) countries - though with concern varying from issue to issue. Against this background, it was encouraging to hear the comment from one developing country participant that discussion at the workshop of possible modalities of negotiation had "helped raise his comfort level". This can be seen as reflecting a broader appreciation from developing country participants. They were not of course expressing a formal position on behalf of their governments. Nevertheless, they were part of a very useful bridge-building exercise which can only help the process in Geneva. This positive contribution is well captured in the OECD Trade Committee Chair's characterisation of the four key messages from the workshop:

(i) All countries - developed and developing - have a stake in the Singapore issues.

(ii) Flexibility is needed on behalf of all players.

(iii) Though we can draw lessons from experience at the regional level, RTAs cannot substitute for the multilateral trading system.

(iv) So, the treatment of the Singapore issues should be anchored to the WTO rules-based system.

The workshop will provide constructive ideas and valuable insights (particularly from non-Members) for ongoing OECD analysis of two of the most important and challenging tasks arising from Doha:

  • Looking at the WTO architecture of investment-related provisions in five different WTO agreements as a first step in understanding how a multilateral framework on investment might co-exist with existing WTO agreements;
  • Clarifying how the core principles of transparency, non-discrimination and procedural fairness could be applied to a multilateral agreement on competition.

The presence of the Chairman of the DAC at this workshop served to underline the importance of policy coherence in dealing with development dimensions of the Singapore issues, and the need to match the provision of technical assistance and capacity building with the real needs of recipients and to target assistance to those who need it most.

The interventions of the chairs, speakers and discussants at the workshop were filmed and will be included in a CD-ROM "Tool Kit" being prepared by OECD on issues identified under the Doha Development Agenda.

Attached are more detailed observations, contained in the Concluding Remarks made by the Chairman of the OECD Trade Committee, Mr Luzius Wasescha.