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Australia statement to UNGA special session



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AUSTRALIAN STATEMENT TO UNGA SPECIAL SESSION

NEW YORK, 22 APRIL 1974

This special session evokes a sense of history.

Universal membership, a first great land-mark in the progress of

the United Nations, is within sight. The epochal progress of

political decolonisation will run its full course in the foreseeable

future. At the same time we shall have made only a beginning, and

it is in some measure a realisation of this that brings us to this

special session.

The sovereign equality reflected in independence and

membership of the United Nations is a means- to an end, as well as

an end in itself. It is not surprising, therefore, that as we

approach universality, our targets, priorities, and expectations

should change. We feel, Mr President, that we are now coming to

a water shed, where the final injunction in the charter preamble -

to employ international machinery for the -promotion of the economic

advancement of all peoples - will become, and continue to be, our

foremost task. We see the special session in this perspective.

It is, of course, only four months since we met in

regular session of the General Assembly. Yet no one doubts the

urgency of this special session and the imperative need to make

progress on the matters it addresses. The tragedy of the present

situation is that the heaviest blows are falling on the poor.

We are thus indebted to his Excellency, the President of

Algeria. His initiative in proposing that the Assembly meet in

special session was most timely.. . . .

We are principally concerned at this special session with

the problems of raw materials, including oil, but the Australian

delegation also acknowledges the relevance to the work of the

session, of the parallel work of the United Nations in drafting a

charter on economic rights and duties of states in response to

the initiative of His Excellency, the President of Mexico.

The effects of increasing prices for agricultural

commodities and raw materials, including oil, particularly on

developing countries must be of concern to alls- For some

developing countries the increased import bills could outweigh

the whole of their normal receipts of aid. Those who have

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benefitted from the high commodity prices of recent years are

better placed to meet the rise in import bills- However, many will

face serious restrictions to their development programs.

Australia welcomes the discussions now proceeding in the

IMF aimed at establishing a special facility to lend for oil-inducec

balance of payments problems- Many developing countries will need

aid on generous terms to help them cope with higher fuel prices.

Accordingly, my Government welcomes the efforts being made in this

direction by organisations such as the World Bank Group and by the

oil-exporting countries themselves. Particularly significant in

this context is the Iranian proposal for a new special development

fund, as well as other proposals, either already in existence or

foreshadowed, to help the developing countries finance their urgent

balance of payments needs. ..

. For Australia's part, we will be increasing our official

aid allocations with the object of moving to the 0.7 per cent targe-

by the end of the decade. We will continue to provide assistance

on a largely untied basis and in the form of non-repayable grants.

■ ■ Mr President, energy is one problem, but the world

community faces other important problems - and especially those

surrounding the availability and prices of food and fertilisers.

Shortages of both were evident even before the changes in oil

prices. While the immediate outlook for food supplies is somewhat

improved, future prospects are not so clear.

In addition to increasing prices, there is a world-wide

shortage of fertiliser. The result will be a heavy additional

foreign exchange outlay by developing countries in 1974 for less

fertiliser than they were able to obtain in 1975»

We look forward to the forthcoming world food conference

as a vehicle for stimulating international action. We will be

particularly interested in discussing the proposal recently

advanced by Mrs Bandaranaike for a world fertiliser fund and the

United States proposal for an International Fertiliser Institute.

We want the question of availability of fertiliser to be a major

subject addressed at the conference and' xre will x-rork for that

result and for positive achievement in this area.

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While the availability and costs of food and petroleum

products are currently at the forefront of international

preoccupations, this special session extends to the whole range of

raw materials. The aim should be to ensure that countries receive

a just return for their products. It is a matter of record that

for the greater part of the last 20 years countries producing basic,

raw materials and commodities have suffered from adverse movements

in the terms of trade. Relief from this situation-was experienced

periodically, but never long sustained - In any event, even the

temporary periods of boom often brought with them as many problems

as they seemed initially to solve. Accordingly, Australia has

always been among those supporting the negotiation of international

commodity arrangements as a means of promoting and regulating

world trade in major primary products. We have taken the view

that such arrangements are of benefit to producers and consumers

alike, believing that sudden and disproportionate fluctuations in

prices of primary products have no merit for anyone.

Australia also believes that there is scope for greater

collaboration and consultation between producers of raw materials.

As a major supplier of bauxite, for example, Australia welcomed the

opportunity to participate in discussions in Conakry with other

producers last month. From these discussions there evolved an

agreement proposing the establishment of an International Bauxite

Association. We would hope that this will promote the orderly and

rational development of production and trade in bauxite, providing

producers with fair and reasonable returns, while at this same time

ensuring adequate supplies at fair prices to consumers.

Australia does not see relations between producers and

consumers as a test of strength. We believe there ought to be a

confluence of interests between consumers and producers. Raw

.. trials are an essential prerequisite of indsutrial activity

and are therefore of great importance to industrialised countries.

For man;/· developing countries, on the other hand, raw materials

have had a sustaining influence on economic growth and have formed

the basis for their exports.

There remain great gaps in our knowledge of the earth's

resources of raw materials, particularly in those of mineral

origin. There is accordingly an urgent need to develop exploration

activities to locate these resources and to improve information

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storage and techniques to ensure that when resources are located

the information is not lost or subsequently over-looked. The

suggestions which have been made to establish an international

centre for natural resources information and to set up an advisory

group of eminent persons to report on resources problems are

imaginative and worthy of the most careful examination.

Hand in hand with the need for more exploration and for

more knowledge runs the need for developing countries to have

access to modern technologies which will' enable them to take ·

advantage of improved information. This problem lies at the heart

of the development effort and will be a vital area for the closest

examination and attention in any report on the subject. Valuable

work has already been done by existing U . M V bodies in the area of

technology transfer.

• In 1970 the Advisory Committee on the Application of

Science and Technology to Development produced an investigation on

the development and rational utilisation of the' natural resources

of developing countries which could provide a starting point in

preparing, any comprehensive report or review.

The Australian delegation considers that the work on

exploration and information collation should be as all-embracing

as possible. A number of regions and groups of countries have

developed cooperative arrangements for the .exploitation of

resources which cross their borders or adjoin their coast lines.

In the Asian and Pacific region there has for some time now been

useful cooperation between groups of countries through committees

concerned with off-shore prospecting for oil and mineral resources.

There may be scope for developing this technique of cooperation

among groups of developing countries to achieve more effective

techniques of exploration and information interchange. This

approach could also be beneficial in regard to the interchange of

relevant technologies.

Australian experience leads us to acknowledge the role

that foreign investment can play in facilitating the development of

natural resources. However, in company .with many other nations, we

have become concerned over the problems of foreign ownership and

control. In my own country there is a determination that we

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should achieve the highest possible level of Australian ownership

and control of our resources including minerals, and of our

industry generally. In pursuing this objective we aim to

establish equity in the widest sense of that word and on terms

which are fair and reasonable to all parties =

Our experience also leads us to a sympathetic view of

the desire of developing countries to regulate foreign investment

in accordance with their own national aspirations and development

plans. The foremost consideration must be the interests of the

recipient countries. Last January, the Australian Prime Minister

announced that it was the intention of the Government to ensure that

such private Australian investment is made on terms which directly

benefit the host country, which promote advanced labour relations,

and which - through joint ventures - facilitate local ownership

and control of the enterprise concerned.

The operations of multinational corporations present

special problems in the field of regulation of foreign investment.

It is, of course, for each country to strike a balance between

benefits and costs. B ut, internationally, it may be appropriate to

seek means to ensure that the multinations respond more

sensitively to the needs and wishes of host countries. While we

would not wish to prejudge the work of the group of eminent persons,

this might be done, for example, through the establishment of common

guidelines, perhaps through an internationally negotiated code of

condixct. Uncitral might be encouraged to pursue its work in this

direction.

Australia supports the multilateral trade negotiations

which were inaugurated at the Ministerial Conference in Tokyo last

year. It is to these negotiations that we must look to resolving

many of the long-term problems of developing countries.

Australia has recently enlarged the scope of its

generalised preference scheme. The scheme now provides concessional

access for a wide range of manufactures and semi-manufactured

products, including processed primary products which are of concern

to a great many developing countries. A unique feature of our

program to promote the trade of developing countries is the

establishment of a unit within our Department of Overseas Trade to

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provide practical marketing assistance to these countries to help

them sell their products in Australia.

Under the impact of increases in commodity prices,

international financial relationships are changing dramatically

and the balance-of-payments prospects of many countries have

changed in some cases radically. Major changes in sources and

uses of short-term capital are under way. The new situation.-has

already led many governments to abandon their earlier belief that

the world may soon be able to return to fixed exchange rates. Th<

continued floating of some major currencies is no longer being

considered a badge of failure, but as something which, under agree

rules, may offer the best prospect for relative stability in this,

hopefully, interim period of global economic uncertainty.

With the work on the d evelopment of a new and fully

articulated monetary system temporarily shelved, the Committee of

20 has decided to concentrate its efforts on trying to develop

specific measures capable of implementation in the near future.

In particular, work is proceeding on the valuation and interest

rate for the SDR and on the development of guidelines for floating

Australia supports this evolutionary approach to reform.

Mr President, fundamental questions about future relatic

between the world's consumers and producers of raw materials have

been raised. The global structure has to be adapted to these new

economic facts of life so that it may continue to function. We

believe the United Nations system and the structure of related

International Organisations and Agreements is comprehensive. It

promotes a framework in which many of the matters we are

considering at this session are being studied. We have the

institutions,therefore, in which our objectives can be pursued.

Our aim should be to make these institutions function more

effectively. My delegation wishes to urge that the decisions of 1

special session be transmitted to the relevant organs of the

United Nations system and other international institutions. We

must continue the dialogue we have instituted and work out in

detail the action we must take in the future to ensure that our

work at this session serves to transform our mutual economic

relations and to improve the standard of life of peoples throughoi

the world.

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Australia welcomes the initiatives of the developing

countries and other delegations at this session aimed at the

rational and productive use of raw materials in the pursuit of '

continuing development. Australia intends to respond

constructively and sympathetically to these initiatives and

particularly to initiatives which will he helpful to the

developing countries in coping with their current problems.

The immediate tasks are the formulation of realistic practical

measures which will help to overcome the problem, particularly '

for the developing countries, arising from the increasing costs of

fuel and other products essential to the development effort.

Mr President, it would be unconscionable to allow

developing countries to sink beneath the weight of unbearable

new burdens and a diminishing prospect for growth. Nor would it

be in anybody's interest to see the world plunge into a slump

induced by economic slowdown in the industrialised world. Every

speaker before has emphasised that we are living in a world marked

by growing inter-dependence and that we need therefore to create a

new spirit of cooperation based solidly on an understanding of this

inter-dependence. The security we seek through the U.N. must now

be a collective economic security as well as the security that comes

through peace.