REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE JULIAN R. HUNTE,
MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND CIVIL AVIATION
AT THE OPENING OF THE NATIONAL WORKSHOP FOR PARLIAMENTARIANS ON THE
MULTI-LATERAL TRADING SYSTEM
Honourable Prime Minister
Members of the House of Assembly and Senate
Representatives of the World Trade Organisation
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Specially Invited guests
Ladies and Gentlemen
I welcome all of you here this morning to what is, in many ways, an historic
event. I welcome in particular, our guests and resource persons from the World
Trade Organisation who will be with us over the next two days.
The Ministry of External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation is
pleased to be associated with the World Trade Organisation in hosting this
National Workshop for Parliamentarians on the Multilateral Trading System and
the Doha Development Agenda.
The significance of this workshop should not escape us coming as it does at a
time when we are engaged in preparations for the Fifth WTO Ministerial
Conference scheduled to be held in Cancun, Mexico, September 10 to 14, 2003.
But the background to this workshop dates from approximately eighteen (18)
months ago when Saint Lucia, among other developing countries, was asked to
submit its Technical Assistance and Capacity Building needs to the WTO. We were
one of the few countries which recongised the necessity to sensitise
parliamentarians to the intricacies of the multi-lateral trading system, and of
the operations of the WTO in particular.
It is in response to this request that this two-day workshop is being held for
parliamentarians in Saint Lucia. It is only the second of these National
Workshops to be held by the WTO, the first one having been held in South Africa.
It is also my understanding that this National Workshop follows a regional one
held last week in Trinidad under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary
Association, where delegations from member countries took part. At this
workshop, however, we will be able to expose not just one or two members of
parliament to these trade issues but, indeed, our entire parliament.
To us, such exposure of members of Parliament to the features of the
Multi-lateral trading system is extremely important. It was the former Director
General of the WTO who wrote the following:
“The WTO is a government to government organisation. We do not tell governments
what to do. They tell us. We operate by consensus, thus every member government
has veto power. Our agreements are negotiated by Ambassadors or Ministers who
represent their governments and who in turn are responsible for advancing their
government agenda. That is why it is important for parliamentarians and
legislators to know about the institutions they own and fund. It is important
for them to also know that they have access to an invaluable resource at the WTO
Secretariat, to help them pass the right rules for their country and their
The rationale for and objectives behind this workshop therefore are fourfold:-
• to foster greater understanding of and interest in the multi-lateral trading
• to inform parliamentarians about the basic operations of the multi-lateral
trading system, key issues on the international trade agenda and the status of
the Doha Development Agenda negotiations;
• to provide a forum for parliamentarians to discuss trade related and
development related issues of particular relevance to Saint Lucia and the
• to encourage an informed and open debate on the potential role of the WTO in
Mr. Chairman, International Trade negotiations are now at a very critical phase.
We are a mere few weeks away from the crucial fifth Ministerial Meeting in
Cancún. For small countries like Saint Lucia which do not have representation in
Geneva, it is absolutely crucial that we find alternative ways of influencing
the process towards taking decisions, which take our circumstances into account.
From past experience we have learnt that it is necessary for us to work
extremely hard in order that our voices may be heard in the various fora. It has
been an uphill task to get issues related to Small Island Developing States
(SIDS) on the agenda.
It appears that although there is recognition of the Special Vulnerabilities of
Small Economies by the major trading nations, there remains the reluctance to
include a separate category of nations within the WTO. And so we must continue
to argue our case and make our voices heard.
We cannot, however, make informed contributions if we do not keep abreast of
developments. As Parliamentarians we must be at the centre of the debate. But we
cannot achieve all that is needed on our own.
The inclusion of the Private Sector, therefore, as part of our deliberations,
signifies the efforts of Government to build national consensus and ensure that
the views of all parties are represented.
Against this background, I look forward with great expectation to our
deliberations over the next few days, and I am confident in my hopes that in the
final analysis we will all find this exercise to have been useful.
I thank you.