COUNTRIES CONTINUE DEBATE ON GLOBALIZATION
ESCAP members underline recovery on fair basis
Bangkok (United Nations Information Services) -- Delegates to the Ministerial Segment of the
56th Commission session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and
the Pacific (UN/ESCAP) discussed a wide range of related to sustaining economic recovery on a
The meeting is being held under the theme: Development through globalization and
partnership in the twenty-first century: an Asia Pacific perspective for integrating developing
countries and economies in transition into the international trading system on a fair and
The delegate from Thailand said his Government had proposed the "ASEAN Mekong
Agenda" which aimed to reduce the disparities between older and newer members of ASEAN.
He noted that recent projects focusing on the Mekong sub-region lacked an overall directional
framework. As a result, the region's limited resources had been spread too thin to allow anything
substantial to be achieved.
It was imperative for ASEAN members to identify cooperative schemes in the sub-region
so that they could be prioritized, harmonized, and brought under a coherent framework. This
would avoid duplication of efforts. Thailand was convinced that this work should begin with the
development of the Mekong sub-region, for without the integration of the newer members of
ASEAN, the dream of a more prosperous and stable Southeast Asia would not be realized.
For many countries including Singapore, globalization was not a matter of choice but
necessity. The representative of Singapore told delegates that what was needed was the human
dimension to mitigate the worst excesses of globalization. He called for increased trade
liberalization among developed countries, reform of the international financial architecture, and
development of human capital.
He also called on ESCAP member countries to invest heavily in education as human
resources were the key to prosperity. Wars and civil conflicts continued to retard the economic
development of many countries in the developing world. Increased economic and political
cooperation were needed to resolve such unrest. He noted that among developing countries,
mutual assistance and support could help increase reliance on indigenous resources.
While the developing countries must be allowed to develop at their own pace, strategic
steps must be undertaken to ensure that poor nations increase their knowledge level and their
capacity to quire knowledge so that they would not be left behind, the delegate from Malaysia
Tremendous development in information and communications technology had opened a
fast track for knowledge-based growth. For obvious reasons, developing nations were losing out
in the race to acquire and create knowledge. As a result, there was an ever-growing knowledge
gap between the developing and advanced countries. He called on the meeting to focus on ways
to take advance of the convergence of information, telecommunications, consumer electronics,
broadcasting, and multimedia technologies to ensure that developing countries were able to tap
and utilize the universally available knowledge and opportunities for individual and common
The representative of Japan noted that economic growth rates of the Asian economies
had recently turned positive. The most important step to be taken to ensure these moves towards
recovery did not prove temporary was the development of human resources, a critical factor for
economic development. Based on a report submitted by the Government of Japan last November
at the ASEAN + 3 summit, Japan had announced the "Obuchi Plan" for enhancing human
resources development and exchanges in East Asia. His Government would continue to steadily
implement the Obuchi Plan. To help the socially vulnerable who have suffered most from the
crisis, Japan had decided to create a "Japan Social Development Fund" in the World Bank and
"Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction" in the Asian Development Bank, to which it would continue
a sum of 10 billion Yen each for fiscal year 2000.
The widening gap between rich and poor nations, if left unremedied, would further
marginalize developing countries, the representative of the Republic of Korea told delegates.
His Government believed that it was high time for industrialized countries to take the lead in
building a worldwide public information infrastructure to narrow the "digital divide." For their
part, developing countries should do their utmost to adapt to the new environment through the
strengthening of their educational bases and vocational training to prepare young generations to
be ready for knowledge-based economic development.
The representative of Sri Lanka said that during the cold war, people asked about the
speed of a missile system. Today people ask, how fast is your modem. While today literary was
measured by the ability to read and write, tomorrow it would measured by computer literacy.
Internet had become the symbol of the globalization era and e-commerce the vehicle of growth in
the 21st century. Developing countries should have access to information technology and skills
and finances to adopt them.
The international debate of electronic commerce should take into account this
dimension; otherwise e-commerce could result in widening the income disparity between the
developed and developing countries.
The Indian delegate announced his country would host a regional roundtable on
Information Technology and Development later this month in New Delhi and he invited all
ESCAP member countries to participate. India firmly believed that trade negotiations should
concentrate on core issues of market access ensuring smooth flow of trade based on the
principle of equity. The constructive role that e-commerce and information technology could
play in the development process should be examined. Regarding the agriculture sector,
developed countries should eliminate export subsidies and other trade distortive measures.
Future negotiations in agriculture must not in any way limit the flexibility of large rural agrarian
economies to support and protect their domestic production as well as achieve the objective of
food security and rural employment.
Developing countries were struggling for their economic survival in a highly
competitive world, the representative of Pakistan said. Although these countries did have the
advantage of cheap labour and raw materials in some areas, they were handicapped by resource
constraints, lack of skilled labour and modern technologies.
He warned of a danger that globalization and trade liberalization could result in macro-economic destabilization leading to imbalances in foreign trade and balance of payments. He
cautioned that the application of non-tariff barriers like child labour, human rights, environment,
labour, and quality standards by developed countries would push the developing countries to the
wall. These non-tariff barriers created against developing countries would nullify all efforts to
establish a fair, just and equitable international trading system.
The representative of the Maldives said his country had made rapid and confident
strides in development. But to go beyond them it needed to overcome many hurdles. The
biggest of these was the inherent vulnerability of its small islands that arose from the delicate
environmental balance of island ecosystems and the uneven distribution of his country's
population over 200 islands. These conditions imposed serious constraints in the delivery of
services and the development of viable economic activities.
Membership and effective participation in international organizations such as the WTO
was one of the major steps towards enabling developing countries to benefit from the
globalization process and simultaneously shielding them against its negative impacts, the
delegate from the Islamic Republic of Iran told the meeting. Unimpeded access to members in
the organization including transparency in the application of accession procedures were critical
factors for their integration into the world trading system. It was imperative to ensure the
universality of the WTO. Attempts to obstruct the normal accession procedure were not
acceptable. In today's global climate such attitudes should be seriously revisited.
As well as trade liberalization, the United Kingdom believed that debt relief was
another vital component in the drive to eradicate poverty. Having helped to secure multilateral
funding for debt forgiveness, the representative of the UK said his Government had taken a
further step of eliminating all bilateral debts owed to it by the heavily indebted poor countries.
He hoped that other creditor nations would follow the UK's lead and make the year 2000
one in which a new, virtuous circle of debt relief, poverty alleviation and economic
development would be established.
NOTE TO EDITORS: You or your representatives are cordially invited to attend an end-of-session press conference with the Chairman of the 56th Session and the Executive
Secretary of ESCAP, to be held at approximately 5 pm on Wednesday, 7 June 2000, at the
United Nations Conference Centre. The press conference will follow immediately after the
adoption of the Session's final report.