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Prime Minister Address 52 Session of UN General Assembly - October 3, 1997

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OCTOBER 03, 1997

Mr. President
Mr. Secretary General
Distinguished Heads of Stated
Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Mr. President,
Mr delegation welcomes the experience and expertise which you bring to the leadership of this Session of the General Assembly, and would like to applaud you predecessor, Ambassador Raazali Ismail of Malaysia, for his outstanding contribution during the 51st Session.

We feel a quiet sense of elation that you, Mr Secretary General, have emerged as the personification of the new possibilities of the United nations. Your recent succession to the distinguished position of Secretary General of this esteemed body is symbolic of the New Vision and the New Order which heralds our entry into the Twenty-first Century.


Mr. President, our historical moment is a defining one. Change has brought us to the stage at which we can either transform or be transformed. All of us - large as well as small nations; individuals as ell as governments - are challenged to make a decisive break with the old ways of doing and seeing things. People of our planet continue to yearn for justice, equality and fairness; the human spirit continues to thirst for all that is good and beautiful, the soul of humankind is still seeking to reinvent itself in ways that are noble, kind, compassionate and caring. That is the new wave that is beginning to swell on the cusp of the new millennium and we can discern its gathering momentum in the emotive milestones of the past few months. The expression of universal public grief infused with private intensity over the deaths of Mother Teresa and Diana, Princess of Wales; the donation of one billion dollars by Ted Turner to UN charitable causes - these are the affirmations of the emergent humanist temperament of the new age. Mr. President, in these times, this esteemed body must welcome the inspiration of those who by their example, generosity, selflessness and courage, seek to protect the defenseless in a bid to reshape the horizons of our common humanity.

It is a global wave sweeping local shores as well as distant ones. In my own tropical corner of our global village, Saint Lucia, the people elected on May 23, 1997, a new government with a decisive mandate predicated on a vision of hone, change and possibility.

The wave of the people's aspirations at the national level is faced with its own counter-turbulence in the conduct of relations among states. Arrayed against this popular impulse for humanism in the affairs of state is the assertion of all that has been selfish, greedy and exploitative. The powerful continue to parade their might without any regard. They exercise their influence without any compassion, and accumulate their wealth without any charity.

The icons of free trade, market liberalization and economic liberalism represent the hardening of the arteries of human conscience in the sphere of commerce. The movement away from concerns of social and economic justice to the preoccupation with market forces and economic rationality is leading inexorably, to a new world order at odds with the impulse of the world's billions for a more caring and compassionate world.

At the level of the international system, we are witnessing a rolling back of the strictures of social responsibility, the progressive erosion of the capacity to respond and the annihilation of the ill to act humanely. We see the incapacity to care for the welfare of the people; the apathy to address their growing material depravation; and, most frighteningly, the calculated institutional insensitivity to the plight of the disadvantaged who wish to continue to earn with dignity and by the sweat of their brow.


Mr. President, there is no better example of this callous disregard than the situation facing Africa Caribbean and Pacific countries, (ACP), and in particular the banana producers of the Caribbean. Only last month, the small banana producing countries of the Caribbean Community received a particularly harsh and crushing blow, when the Appeals Board of the World Trade Organisation, upheld an earlier finding that the preferential treatment accorded in the European market to bananas of the Member State of the ACP contravened WTO rules on free trade.

Mr. President, the intent behind the current move towards globalization as manifested in the World Trade Organization is, evidently, most commendable. Indeed, Saint Lucia was amongst the founding members of the WTO. We were led to believe that the WTO would help to raise the living standards of our peoples, and by emulating the ideals of the United Nations, promote fairness in world trade. It was our hope that it would end, once and for all, the law of the jungle as the dominant feature of international commercial relations. In short, Mr. President, it was hoped the WTO would establish a standard of arbitration premised on fairness, civilised negotiation of vital interests and the inculcation of equity in international trade and commerce.

The WTO ruling on the European banana regime is nothing short of a capitulation to the machinations of those who are blinded by free trade and sheer greed. We speak in these strong terms because the world community must understand that the WTO and the complainants to the European banana regime, completely and steadfastly ignored the fact that the import of its ruling is the economic and social destruction of a number of small member states of this august body, who, together, enjoy a minuscule 2.5% of the world trade in bananas and only 5% of the European market.

Mr. President, consider for a moment the flaws in the process through which the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body sought to resolve this issue. The initial Panel, did not have a single representative from a developing country although the matter was of utmost importance to developing countries. To render fair play even more remote, the Appellate Board was chaired by an American, despite the fact that the principal complainant was the USA. While that may have been permissible within the rules, surely good sense and fairness should have dictated that it was nothing but highly improper and undesirable. But then, even the nature of the major complainant was improper - the USA does not produce a single banana for export. Yet, while it activated and participated in the proceedings, we, the banana producing countries, were denied the right to full participation and relegated to the sidelines as spectators.

The WTO has dismally failed to match up to the commendable goals which inspired its creation. The implementation of the ruling will bring about a generalised reduction in the living standards of our peoples and an acceleration of poverty.

Mr. President, far from providing reassurance of a civilised approach to resolving world trade disputes, the ruling leaves a lingering suspicion that "might" will still always be "right" and that the strong and powerful will always be able to use the system to achieve their own ends regardless of the human dislocation and suffering that results.


Mr. President, if the WTO is to be if any value to us small, developing countries, there must be fundamental reform to its system of dispute settlements. This is essential because the implications of the scope of the ruling on bananas are not confined to bananas only. The ruling raises questions about other import arrangements for agricultural goods as well as the future of trade and development cooperation agreements between rich and poor countries. The real challenge to WTO is not how effective its Dispute Settlement Body can be in rigidly applying the letter of its regulations, but rather whether the process by which decisions are arrived, is perceived as being fair. The system must be reformed so that it takes account of the consequences of the implementation of its ruling. It must of necessity consider the impact of its decisions, particularly as in the case of the ruling of the banana regime, the affected countries have small, vulnerable and fragile economies.

Mr. President, trade and development must, in the final analysis, be about the development of people. Therefore, the WTO criteria for settling disputes must be redesigned to take account of social, health, cultural and environmental issues. If national security issues can be raised as a reason why a law of one powerful country should not be brought before WTO jurisdiction, then why should the WTO not take into account the special social and economic circumstances of small, vulnerable countries in its dispute deliberations ? What is the point of the WTO's Dispute Body rigidly applying rules, when in so doing, it takes decisions, which are in direct contrast to the very principles which justified its existence ? In such a situation, Mr. President, the principles become worthless and the organisation becomes amenable to manipulation.

Mr. President, we do not seek international charity for our banana farmers. We seek only fairness and opportunity. We are not irrevocably opposed to free trade but we need fair trade. We are a proud people seeking to earn our living in as honest a manner that the wealth of nations permits.


Mr. President, the nations of the European Union, entered into a partnership for development with us when, together we signed the Treaty of LOME. We call upon them not to cast aside their solemn commitments and obligations under that Treaty, as they respond to those who want this most unfair ruling by the WTO, implemented immediately and in its entirety. We are heartened by the statements so far from the European Commission expressing the EU's deep concern about the negative political, economic and social effects of the WTO ruling on a number of ACP countries. We take comfort in the Commission's expression of its intention to take these factors into account and to stand by the EU's International obligations and the principles of its developmental policy. We welcome also the statements of support for Caribbean banana producers from the European Parliament and its call for the revision of criteria used by the WTO in the resolution of trade disputes. We look forward to working with the European Union to find a formula which will allow us continued access to the banana market in a manner which will permit our farmers to continue earning a decent and dignified living. Mr. President, we urge the European Union to be steadfast in protecting the spirit and the substance of its obligations under the LomJ Convention, to remain committed to ensuring development and equity in international economic relations and to remain faithful to its ACP friends.


Mr. President, such are the challenges confronting the small, the weak and the proud. It is within such a context of an uncertain international system that my country has to shape its foreign policy. The changing characteristics of the international system have necessitated that we redefine the boundaries of our alliances. We must look beyond the sea of uncertainty to the mountains of possibility. The contemporary confluence of forces challenges us to create new relationships to assist in our social and economic development. Having been forced out of our traditional partnerships, we must be guided by the imperative of finding and mobilising new sources of investment that are predicated on creating new paths to sustainable growth. For us, foreign policy is about building bridges to other people, other cultures and other markets. It is about contributing to the emergence of a new climate of tolerance and international understanding; it is about matching domestic need with international possibility.

Consistent with these basic principles, Saint Lucia has proceeded in a direction which the majority of the states of the world have already trod by establishing diplomatic links with the People's Republic of China.

Mr. President, Saint Lucia will always cherish the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the rule of international law. All countries, regardless of size, must have the comfort of these irrevocable principles and be secure in the confidence that the conduct of nations will be guided by them.


Mr. President, it is in this context of these basic principles that we urge the United States of America to reexamine some of its recent policies towards the states of the Caribbean. Its lead role in the challenge to our banana marketing regime has damaged our peoples confidence in its declarations of friendship. Its new immigration laws are causing apprehension and dislocation for thousands of persons who originated from the Caribbean and is eroding the bridges between our peoples. The imminent deportation of persons who have lived for decades in the USA will create a humanitarian problem of mass proportions. This is no longer a domestic matter. The consequences for the Human Rights of those affected, has transformed it into a subject for international concern.

The deportation also, of persons who have become trained criminals to lands they do not know as home, is further rocking the social and economic fabric of our democracies. If there is a law of unintended consequences, the USA, must accept the negative repercussions of its policies. It must therefore embark on corrective action to undo the damages which these policies have unleashed on the peoples of the Caribbean Community.


Mr. President, it is our concern for fairness, equity and democratization in the conduct of international relations that has caused Saint Lucia to embrace and support the process of reform of the United Nations itself. Saint Lucia firmly believes that if the United Nations is to adequately address the challenges of the coming century, then three things must happen.

First, member States must honour their financial obligations to the body. Saint Lucia continues to believe that the UN financial crisis can be alleviated if all member States large and small, rich and poor, do so in a timely manner without conditions. A united Nations that is financially weak that lurches from one budget crisis to another, is in no condition to confront and overcome the challenges facing mankind. If there is to be financial reform then the precarious financial existence of the UN must be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Secondly, the UN itself must take steps to become more efficient and effective. We need a United Nations where waste is abhorred, where the churning out of documents for documents sake, at a cost of millions of dollars is no longer a priority. We need a United Nations that is leaner, but more capable of making the maximum use of its resources.

Thirdly, the UN must become more responsive to the needs of all its member States. For the majority of the UN's member States, the need is for sustainable development, for the eradication of poverty and of illiteracy. We need a UN that will show an even greater sensitivity to those needs.

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