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Speech Delivered by Cuban President Fidel Castro at the World Trade Organization in Geneva
Tuesday, May 19, 1998.
Excellencies, World Trade Officials, Distinguished delegates:
Last March, the U.S. government publicly revealed its plans under which it makes clear that it intends to act in an aggressive and direct manner and on a global basis for all regions of the world, and that the United States -- as the most important and successful economy in the world trade system -- is in a strong position to use its powers of persuasion and influence to push forward this program, and that in spite of the substantial opening in the markets, which has been achieved in recent years, there still remains too many barriers to the exports of goods and services from the United States around the world. This is disturbing language.
In addition to this, in September 1995, at the initiative of the United States, in spite of the existence of the WTO -- consisting of 132 countries in various states of development -- discussions began in the OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) --an exclusive First World Club-- to develop a multilateral agreement on investment.
For reasons which are clearly related to national sovereignty, the subsequent idea of discussing this agreement within the WTO met fierce opposition from many members of the organization at the Ministerial Conference in Singapore in December 1996.
The agreement reached at this conference did not prevent the OECD, consisting as I said of developed countries, from continuing to negotiate the multilateral agreement on investment. From the moment when the United States began to try to introduce basic aspects of the Helms- Burton Law into this agreement, the negotiations became stalled with only the U.S. and Europe involved, and the remaining 13 nations of the OECD being marginalized.
This law illustrates the procedures adopted by the United States in its economic war against Cuba. The extraterritorial nature of this and other measures gave rise to a situation where the European Union requested the creation of a special panel within the WTO, which was approved on the 20th of November of 1996. Subsequently, on the 11th of April of 1997, an understanding was reached on the basis of particular commitments of the United States relating to the application and modifications of the Helms-Burton Law. The European Union, having no wish to weaken the WTO, provisionally suspended the opening of the special panel activities.
In a surprising and cunning maneuver, the United States switched from being under investigation by the WTO to a position where it imposed new rules of international law within the WTO, attempting to establish retroactively in the multilateral agreement on investment the illegal nature, in its opinion, of the nationalizations carried out in the late 1950's. This date coincides with the victory of the revolution in Cuba, and the principle is also applicable to any nationalization which took place in other countries after 1959. In this way, they attempted to internationalize the principles of the infamous Helms-Burton Law, under the umbrella of a multilateral treaty. This law, which was not altered in any way, arbitrarily transformed people who at the time of the expropriation were Cuban citizens, into U.S. citizens who suffered from expropriations.
The blockade has been extraterritorial in nature for a considerable time, even before the enactment of that shameful law. Any U.S. company, based in any country, is forbidden by the U.S. government to trade with Cuba. That is a violation of sovereignty and is extraterritorial in nature.
The world has ample reasons to feel humiliated and concerned and the WTO should be capable of preventing economic genocide. Any difference that may exist between the U.S. and the European Union because of this law should not be resolved to the detriment of Cuba. That would be an unthinkable dishonor for Europe.
The agreements in London yesterday are confusing, contradictory, a threat to many countries and completely unethical. The economic blockade has already cost Cuba 60 billion dollars.
In the last few years, the United States has passed more than 40 laws and Executive Orders to apply unilateral economic sanctions against 75 nations which represent 42% of the population of the world. The U.S. has achieved almost everything which it intended to achieve through the agreements that gave rise to the WTO, and especially through the General Agreement on Services, a long standing dream of theirs. Similarly, in the agreements on intellectual property relating to trade, an area in which it holds a privileged position, thanks to its technological development and its systematic draining of the best brains of the world. Some of its patents have established exclusive rights for 50 years. Now they have already reached other agreements which are of further great benefit to the United States.
In addition, the U.S. has the remarkable privilege of printing the money in which most foreign currency reserves are kept in central banks and commercial bank deposits throughout the world. While being the country whose citizens save the least, its transnational companies buy out the riches of the world with the money which is saved by the citizens of other countries, and with the notes which have been printed without the gold-backing agreed at Breton Woods, which was unilaterally eliminated in 1971.
And so, if the Euro becomes established as a strong and respected currency, welcome to the Euro, because it will be of benefit to the world economy.
New subjects for discussion in the WTO introduced by wealthy countries threaten the chances of developing countries of competing in conditions already so difficult and unequal that they will doubtlessly serve as a perfect pretext for the establishment of non-tariff barriers or inhibit access of developing countries' products to the market.
Third World countries have gradually lost everything: tariffs which protected developing industries and generated income, agreements on basic products, associations of producers, indexation of prices, preferential treatment, or any mechanism to protect the value of their exports and to encourage development.
What are we being offered? Why is no mention made of the unjust and unequal terms of trade? Why do we no longer mention the unbearable weight of foreign debt? Why is the developed countries aid for development being cut?
If all the developed countries did the same as Norway, the countries of the Third World could expect 200 billion dollars for development. Norway's example should be followed. How are we going to live? What goods and services are we going to export? What industrial products are they going to leave for us? Only low-technology and labor-intensive and highly-polluting products? Is some attempt being made to turn most of the Third World into a huge free-trade zone, full of maquiladoras who will not even pay taxes? Why is the greatest economic power in the world obstructing the entry into the WTO of China, which has one-fifth of the inhabitants of the planet? Why is it obstructing the entry of Russia and other countries? No nation, great or small, can or should be excluded from this important institution or have their entry subjected to humiliating conditions.
The developing countries cannot allow ourselves to be divided. Unity is the only asset we have, the only guarantee of our legitimate aspirations. Those of us who were colonies only yesterday and who are today still suffering the consequences of backwardness, poverty and underdevelopment, are the majority in this organization. Each of us has a vote, no one has the right to a veto, and we must convert it into an instrument of struggle for a better and more just world. We also have to rely on responsible statesmen who undoubtedly exist in many developed countries and who are sensitive to our situation.
In the midst of so much euphoria, no one can guarantee the economic system of the United States governed by the blind laws of the market. No one can prevent the financial bubble from bursting.
There are no economic miracles. This has been amply demonstrated. The absurdly inflated share prices on the U.S. stock market -- although it is undoubtedly the strongest economy in the world -- cannot be sustained. In such situations, history has presented no exceptions, but now, any great crisis will be a global one and would have unthinkable consequences, even for those of us who are opponents of the established economic system. It would be good for the World Trade Organization to evaluate these risks and include among its so-called new subjects for discussion: What to do in the case of another global economic crisis.
Thank you very much.