Saudi Minister of Commerce Osama Faqih, heading the Saudi delegation to the Eighth Asian Preparatory Ministerial Meeting being held in Amman prior to the Ninth United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in an address today stated that tackling development requires fair international cooperation to serve the common interest of all parties, advising developing countries to make serious efforts to improve their economic situation, pave the way for utilization of their national resources, and attract foreign investment.
Minister Faqih said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains strongly committed to backing such trends, as is clear from its continuing assistance to developing nations and allocation of financial resources to international, regional, and national financing institutions. Over the past two decades Saudi Arabia has allocated U.S. $ 70.6 billion in the form of grants, representing 5.5 percent of the Kingdom’s annual average Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Of the 72 nations that have benefited, the 29 least developed received grants worth U.S. $ 13.26 billion. This is in addition to the U.S. $ 130 million extended to African countries suffering from drought. Citing the Saudi initiative during the Sixth Islamic Summit in Dakar in 1992 in writing off the loans of a number of developing countries, Minister Faqih said that the Kingdom has in addition made contributions in the form of soft loans rendered by the Saudi Arabian Development Fund.
Referring to the high taxes on oil imports imposed by certain countries, Minister Faqih said that at a time when Saudi Arabia is working to expand and diversify its economic structure and apply optimum utilization of its natural resources, its main exports are facing protectionist barriers in the markets of the developed world under the pretext of environmental considerations. He pointed out that the basic price is often doubled or more than doubled, and that these countries plan to impose the so-called carbon tax in a discriminatory manner in contrast to other energy resources, stating that this contradicts the objectives of international trade agreements based on equality, fairness and openness. The Saudi Commerce Minister urged all member states to reiterate commitment to the rules of the world trade system and refrain from harming its credibility by such taxes and other unfair acts.
Minister Faqih commented that the establishment of UNCTAD in 1964 was made in response to a pressing need for reinforcement of development efforts and for transfer of technology to third world countries in order to pave the way for the training of national qualified cadres that could effectively run the development projects themselves and enable their products to compete in international markets. He emphasized the importance of the principles laid down in New Delhi in 1968 by the Second UNCTAD, concerning preferential treatment for products from developing countries in the markets of the developed world, and said these principles should continue as a basic pillar of the new “international trade order”.
The Saudi Commerce Minister also spotlighted the major economic developments witnessed by the world over the last few years, including the determined tendency to allow market factors to shape economic policies and to set up fair partnerships that share favors under the umbrella of a new international mutual understanding of the true meaning of mutual reliance. Such developments, he said, stipulate that UNCTAD has to reconsider methods of work and administration with the aim of reinforcing its credibility in dealing with them in order to serve the common interests of the contemporary world.
Minister Faqih urged UNCTAD to seize the opportunity to deal with serious challenges facing international development issues that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization, and called on the members of WTO to show greater flexibility towards countries who desire to join the organization with fair conditions, bearing in mind the requirements for developing countries to join without being deprived of their acquired rights. The Saudi Commerce Minister ended his speech by hoping that the meeting would achieve the targeted objectives to serve development causes and reinforce constructive cooperation among members of the international community on equivalent and fair conditions.