In his address to the Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle on Thursday, Minister of Commerce Dr. Osama Bin Ibrahim Faqih stressed the Kingdom's support for the principles of the multi-party system within the WTO, and its readiness to participate in the new round of comprehensive negotiations as a full member. Dr. Faqih declared that Saudi Arabia has reached the final stage of this process, and has introduced important proposals on the entry of commodities and services to its markets.
Dr. Faqih went on to say that the WTO is not fully international, since a number of major countries are not yet members, adding that its legitimization and the new round of negotiations would be questionable unless its international character is clarified, and this can be done by accelerating the joining process.
Dr. Faqih also remarked that there is skepticism concerning the multilateral trade system among developing countries, who feel that they had not received any advantage from it. Calling on the conference to give this matter all the concern it deserves, and to take corrective measures to restore credibility to the WTO, he pointed out that developing nations have a strong belief that the agreements of the Uruguay Round have not fully been implemented. There would therefore, he said, be no motive to sign new agreements. He added that the agreements on information technology and chemicals for example are not part of the multi-party trade agreements.
During the conference Dr. Faqih took the opportunity of meeting with his counterparts to mobilize support for the Kingdom to join the WTO. At a press conference today, he stressed that Saudi Arabia is interested in the follow-up of this meeting in view of the increasing importance of the WTO in broadening its sphere of influence, since the WTO is concerned not only with trade, but with all issues that have direct or indirect links to trade. He also referred to the Kingdom's support for non-developed countries, arising from its membership of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Group of 77.
In response to a question about the remaining stages of the process for Saudi Arabia to join the WTO, Dr. Faqih said the sixth round of negotiations was held last September in Geneva. He said many areas had been covered, but there were still issues under discussion at the bilateral level.
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