17 January 2003

Renewed Efforts Needed for Successful Trade Negotiations, Secretary-General Says at Ceremony Marking Morocco's Chairmanship of Group of 77

Also Cites Need for Cooperation Between Developed, Developing Countries on Issue of Migration

NEW YORK, 16 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks, as delivered, by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the ceremony marking the turnover of the chairmanship of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China from Venezuela to Morocco in New York today:

I am very happy to join you today for this ceremony. Venezuela presided over the Group of 77 during a year of major global events in the economic and social realms, including the International Conference on Financing for Development, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Second World Assembly on Ageing, the World Food Summit, and the General Assembly Special Session on Children.

These events have provided important opportunities to address the challenges of globalization, achieve concrete progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and bring development issues back to the centre of the global agenda. They have enhanced the credibility and visibility of the Organization's work in these areas. And they have seen very constructive participation by the Group of 77. I would want to take this opportunity to thank President Chavez and his team for their great dynamic and sustained leadership during a busy and difficult period. I would also want to applaud the work of his Ambassador here, Milos Alcalay, and his team, for the great skill and determination they showed during this past year.

I would also like to congratulate you Foreign Minister Benaissa and Ambassador [Mohamed] Bennouna on the assumption of Morocco's duties as Chairman of the Group of 77 in the coming year.

Morocco assumes this responsibility at a challenging time.

First, the world economy is recovering very slowly from its largest setback in a decade, and substantial risks remain, including geo-political tensions and uncertainties with possibly grave effects on the economies of all countries, especially the developing countries, and on efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Overall, the prospects today look far more troubling than they were a year ago.

Second, the optimism generated by the agreement at Doha needs to be sustained through renewed efforts to make the multilateral trade negotiations a success. These negotiations are the first in the history of GATT/WTO to have embraced development as their principal objective. We now have a commitment to reduce trade barriers and subsidies, and to set trade rules in ways that will bring new benefits to the developing countries. At the same time, the Doha negotiations have encountered difficulties, in particular with regard to TRIPS [Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights of the WTO Agreement] and the question of developing-country access to life-saving medicines. But this should not lead to pessimism. Major trade negotiations have rarely concluded without moments of near despair, when reasonable deals seem beyond reach. Indeed, with so much at stake, we have no option but to persist. Poor countries should do their utmost to defend their interests. And rich countries must recognize that it is in their self-interest to open up trade.

Third, we continue to face the urgent need to improve the way conference follow-up is carried out within the United Nations system, and I think all the speakers have touched on this. This issue will be a major priority in the months ahead. The recently established open-ended ad hoc working group of the General Assembly will have to address an array of critical issues, including how to ensure policy coherence; how best to integrate the system's wide-ranging efforts without duplicating them in different intergovernmental bodies; and how to monitor progress. United Nations departments, specialized agencies, programmes, funds and other entities will likewise be focusing intently on this question, as a major part of our effort to continue strengthening the Organization. Implementation will be everyone's job.

This year's development calendar also offers a number of important opportunities. The Economic and Social Council will examine the key question of rural development, and look as well at how it can sharpen its contribution to the implementation of what was agreed at global conferences. And in December, the World Summit on the Information Society will try to find new ways to place the great power of information technologies at the service of economic and social development. I urge you to give these events your full support.

I also encourage you to pay greater attention to emerging issues that will have a profound effect on our efforts to meet the challenges of development and globalization. One such issue is migration, which now involves hundreds of millions of people and which requires political leaders from both developing and developed countries to strengthen cooperation. The challenge is threefold: to better protect the human rights of migrants; to fairly share the burdens and responsibilities of providing assistance for refugees; and to fully realize the positive potential of international migration -- for migrants, for transit and receiving countries alike.

Morocco's voice has contributed greatly to the development debate. I am confident that the Moroccan delegation will lead with expertise and determination in the coming months. I congratulate them and I wish you all success.

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