Trade Negotiations Committee
General Council, 15 October
Report by the Chairperson of the Trade Negotiations Committee
I am pleased to report to the General Council that the Trade
Negotiations Committee (TNC) held its fourth meeting on 3-4 October
2002 and that it marked the start of a new phase of the negotiations
— the phase of substantive engagement. Indeed, this meeting was the
first time that substance itself was discussed in such detail at the
level of the TNC. The prime function of the TNC is to build a sense of
the negotiations as a whole, which is vital if we are to arrive at a
balanced package in line with the Single Undertaking that Ministers
agreed on. In this respect, I believe our fourth meeting was a step in
the right direction.
I would like to thank the Chairpersons of the bodies established by
the TNC for their written reports, but especially for their oral
interventions at the meeting. I think we have made a good start at
making the TNC a more interactive forum — this is something I intend
to encourage at future meetings. The TNC will be more active as the
negotiations advance, and as its Chairman, I will be an activist. I
believe that is what delegations expect of me.
I will work closely with the Chairpersons to support and help them
where I think it may be useful in the interests of advancing progress
in the negotiations. I will also be active in consulting with
delegations, first of all as we prepare for the important issues that
will be on the table in December. I will, of course, also work in
close cooperation with the Chairman of the General Council, as set out
in the TNC’s Principles and Practices agreed earlier this year.
I should also thank delegations for their many constructive
statements and suggestions covering a wide range of views, different
priorities and concerns. I listened carefully to everything that was
said at our meeting, and as I noted in my concluding remarks, the
issues of Agriculture, Special and Differential Treatment,
Implementation, and TRIPS and Public Health stand out as the areas at
the forefront of everyone’s minds in the period until December.
Clearly there are some strongly-held views in these areas and we shall
have to work hard to reach consensus.
written inputs The
Chairpersons’ reports and the comments by delegations on them
confirmed my impression of our current situation. That is, we have got
off to a reasonably good start, but much more remains to be done in a
very short period of time, and time is running quickly. From the
Chairpersons’ reports, it is clear that in some areas there is an
urgent need to move forward and a shortage of written inputs. I can
only repeat my exhortation to all of you to make the greatest possible
efforts to submit your remaining papers rapidly — this is essential
if we are to meet the deadlines that are coming up fast.
Prior to the meeting, I circulated a revised Timeline to Cancún to
all participants, on my own responsibility and without prejudice to
any participant’s position on the issues listed. I did this because
I wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the key dates and
deadlines established so far. I hope that participants keep all of
them in mind when they consider their tactical and strategic moves as
they enter the middle period of the negotiations.
It is important we meet all of the deadlines set out in the
Timeline. But a deadline is not an end in itself. Deadlines are
important because they allow us to measure how we are advancing. And
we all know we must advance the substance of the negotiations
progressively across all areas of the negotiating agenda as a whole.
We have some important deadlines coming up over the next few months,
and if we leave too much for Cancun, I believe we may make our task of
achieving a successful outcome to the negotiations almost impossible.
However, I did find it encouraging at our meeting that there is
already a widespread sense of the globality of the negotiations, of
the need to make progress across a broad front and to build a balanced
overall result. But I would encourage delegations to move rapidly away
from defensive positions — we no longer have the time to wait for
someone else to make the opening move.
This is not a zero-sum game. It is certainly about national
interests, but it is also about our shared interest in a system which
delivers for all its members. We have a shared responsibility to move
these negotiations on to a timely and positive conclusion. Trade is
often mentioned as a means to find a way out of the evolving economic
uncertainties that the world faces and is likely to increasingly face
in the near future. We can only counter these uncertainties by
strengthening predictability, by achieving what we are supposed to
achieve within the time that we have been mandated to do so.
I would like to end by
mentioning briefly one administrative matter, namely the issue of
scheduling of meetings. In my discussions with the Chairpersons and
also with other Members, it emerged that we are facing some practical
problems in this area. This question has many aspects — how to apply
the relevant guidelines in a way which helps not hinders our work,
other purely physical limitations, such as the number of meeting rooms
and the availability of interpreters, and the limitations faced by
In order to address this problem, and in line with the TNC’s
Principles and Practices, I have decided to ask Deputy
Director-General [Roderick] Abbott to work together with the
Chairpersons and with the smaller delegations, in the first instance,
to ensure that we will be in a position to meet our deadlines while
also taking into account the constraints those delegations are facing.
The coming months will be a busy period for us all, and I am sure that
with careful management and appropriate mechanisms we can respect our
mandate to conduct the negotiations in a transparent manner among
participants, in order to facilitate the effective participation of