WTO: 2005 NEWS ITEMS

30 November 2005
TRADE NEGOTIATIONS COMMITTEE

Lamy urges Geneva negotiators to “redouble” efforts as Hong Kong looms

Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his capacity as chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, said on 30 November 2005 that he hoped to present soon a revised version of the Draft Ministerial Text for the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. He urged all delegations to “exercise good will and redouble their efforts in order to find all possible convergence in the few hours before us”.

> More on the TNC meeting of 30th November 2005


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I would like to welcome delegations to the twenty-second meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee.

Turning now to the first item on our agenda, I should like to make an introductory statement.

First of all, there is the matter of the Draft Ministerial Text which was circulated as document JOB(05)/298 on 26 November. This meeting gives you the opportunity to hear from each of the Negotiating Group Chairs their report on the work done in their respective areas before the draft text is submitted to the General Council for consideration. This is also your first chance to place your views and comments on record in the wake of the informal meeting of Heads of Delegation held on Monday, at which you were able to give your first reactions to the draft declaration.

As I said at the informal meeting of Heads of Delegation on 26 November, I sincerely hope that the General Council meeting on Friday will enable Members to agree on the text to be transmitted to the Ministers. I wish to stress this point once again because, as I informed Members at the meeting on 26 November, the Ministers I have been talking to in recent weeks and, more recently, the ACP Ministers I met yesterday in Brussels, have told me clearly and unambiguously that they expect to be provided with a workable basis for their upcoming deliberations in Hong Kong.

I am convinced that we have a collective responsibility to do our utmost to ensure that Ministers arrive in Hong Kong with a clear conception of the issues on which they should focus their attention.

It is important to keep in mind that, even if we have perhaps already “recalibrated” the specific level of ambition for the Hong Kong meeting, it must nonetheless serve as the launching pad for completing the Round in 2006.

In recent days, the General Council Chair and myself have been in listening mode. As I mentioned at the informal meeting on Monday, we have held a series of intensive consultations with delegations in various forms. At the Monday meeting, a large number of delegations commented on the first Draft Ministerial Text. More recently, I held discussions with the Ministers of the ACP countries at their meeting in Brussels.

We have taken note of all the observations and statements made by delegations up to now, and I assure you that we shall continue to be guided by the principles of consensus and respect for the inclusive approach that has characterized our ongoing consultations. This must also be the basis for any improvements that can be made to the draft text, and I shall return to that point in a moment.

As I said at the Heads of Delegation meeting on Monday, the consultations have confirmed that the draft text covers three broad categories of issues:

  1. Issues on which a high level of convergence or agreement was reached during the consultations or at meetings (for example, the Dispute Settlement Understanding, trade facilitation or technical cooperation).
      
  2. Issues covered by a text in the Ministerial Declaration, but which have not yet been fully negotiated or agreed, services for example.
      
  3. More difficult issues — on which either there is no declaration-type text, or there are competing texts. Examples include agriculture, NAMA or special and differential treatment, including proposals by the LDCs.

In the course of these consultations, I detected signs of an emerging convergence of opinion that Members should continue to focus their attention, up to the end of the week, on the most difficult issues – agriculture, NAMA, special and differential treatment for LDCs – that I mentioned above, since there are still major divergences on these issues. Some delegations have also observed that, in the areas of agriculture and NAMA, key questions or points need to be identified with a view to negotiations by the Ministers in Hong Kong. We are working on this. Several other concerns have also been raised by a number of delegations with regard to the preliminary draft text.

That said, I should like to emphasize again that, over the last few weeks and days, we have made it perfectly clear that neither the General Council Chair nor myself intended to take Members by surprise. The overall text is and will continue to be anchored firmly in present-day reality.

In those parts of the text that fall within the purview of the TNC, as you will have already noted from a reading of the text and as is shown by the points of view and comments that you put forward at the Monday meeting and the contacts I have had with some of you, it is clear that the situation differs widely from one area to another.

The various Chairs with whom I have worked very closely throughout the process, and who will shortly be reporting to you, have made me fully aware of the diversity of positions and of the fact that in some areas certain delegations would have preferred more operational wording. This is also clear from the consultations I have recently held on the draft text. We would all have liked to have a more operational text at this stage, but there it is.

Our current position does, however, reflect considerable progress since July 2004. I should like also to emphasize that the current draft, which I hope will be improved by our joint efforts, does not purport to present a balanced package here and now – that will be done at the end of the Round, and we are not there yet.

Finally, I would like to report on my work on the issue of implementation. In line with the mandate given to the Director-General in the July 2004 Decision, which was renewed by the General Council in July of this year, I have been undertaking a consultative process on all outstanding implementation issues under paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, including on issues related to the extension of the protection of geographical indications provided for in Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement to products other than wines and spirits.

This process has been carried out in my capacity as Director-General and has been without prejudice to the positions of Members. I have been assisted by a number of the Chairpersons of concerned WTO bodies acting as my Friends and by two of my Deputy Directors-General — Valentine Rugwabiza who has been consulting on the TRIMs issues and Rufus Yerxa who has been taking up the issues of GIs and TRIPS/CBD. I would like to thank them for their work.

However, from the reports they have made to me, I regret that we do not seem to have made much progress since my predecessor reported in July to the TNC and the General Council.

I would now like to report in detail on my consultative processes.

TRIPS Issues

In the area of TRIPS, Deputy Director-General Rufus Yerxa has pursued on my behalf dedicated consultations on both the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and on the Geographical Indications extension issue. These consultations have not indicated any significant change in the positions that were reported in the July meetings of the TNC and General Council. In each area, there continue to be significant differences on both the merits of what might be done and on the relationship of these questions to the Doha Round. On each issue, the main proponents have presented language aimed at providing guidance for negotiations on these matters to be concluded within the timeframe of the Round. They have emphasised that for them, an appropriate result on these matters is an essential part of a balanced outcome of the Round. In each of these areas, some other delegations are of the view that no case has been made for negotiations; rather, technical work aimed at clarifying the issues should be pursued. They have also made the point that any language which prejudges results would be unacceptable to them.

Regarding the other tirets under the TRIPS Agreement, once again, no delegation has availed itself of the opportunity provided by the Chairman of the Council for TRIPS to pursue any of these matters.

Balance of Payments (BOP)

Since the TNC in October, a further consultation has been held in the BOP area. However, the positions still remain unchanged as reflected in the Chairman's non-paper in document Job(05)/60. Consequently, and also taking into consideration the important systemic implications, the Chairman has concluded that this matter requires resolution at the political level.

Customs Valuation

On all five proposals in the Customs Valuation area, the situation has remained unchanged since the reports made to the TNC and the General Council in July. There is no visible prospect of moving forward on these issues

Market Access

On the one proposal in the Market Access area, the situation remains unchanged since the last report to the TNC and the General Council in July. A paper aimed at providing precision to the proposal originally made by Saint Lucia on a redistribution of negotiating rights is still awaited from Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda.

Safeguards

In the area of Safeguards, the situation remains unchanged since the last report to the TNC and the General Council in July. The Committee reported in 2002, that it was not able to suggest a course of action on the issue due to a lack of convergence.

Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)

At a TBT Committee meeting held on 2 November 2005, the Chairman explored whether there was any scope for further discussions on the two TBT outstanding implementation issues. There was no response from the Committee. This may indicate that, as the Committee has undertaken considerable work relevant to both issues, there is no inclination to further debate these two issues in the Committee at this point in time.

TRIMs

On TRIMs, it would appear that the positions of Members have not changed since the last report made in July to the TNC and the General Council. Differences of view still remain both on the substance of the proposals themselves and on how to proceed with the consideration of the outstanding issues.

Overall, the situation has clearly not evolved significantly since July. However, there has been a good level of engagement by all delegations in the work and I believe that some substantive results are still possible.

Therefore, with the aim of ensuring that we can fulfil the commitment we undertook at Doha on this issue, paragraph 21 of the draft Ministerial Declaration which will be before the General Council, proposes continuing this process and reiterates the instructions given last July to all relevant bodies to find appropriate solutions as a priority. We will need both flexibility and creativity in our approaches to these issues if we are to be able to respect our mandate.

I suggest we turn to the reports by the Chairpersons of the bodies established by the TNC.

Written reports have been circulated in the following documents:

Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture

TN/AG/21

Negotiating Group on Market Access

TN/MA/16

Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services

TN/S/23

Negotiating Group on Rules

TN/RL/15

Special Session of the Council for TRIPS

TN/IP/14

Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment

TN/TE/14

Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation

TN/TF/3

Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body

TN/DS/14

Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development

TN/CTD/14

Before closing this meeting, let me now tell you how the Chair of the General Council and I see the process for the next days — I should probably say the next hours.

As I just said, we are collectively trying — through the meetings of Heads of Delegation, this meeting and our intensive consultative process — to improve the situation and hopefully to be able to present you with a revised version of the Draft Ministerial text.

Our intention is to circulate as soon as possible tomorrow, a revised version of the text, which again will be a no-surprises draft, one that fully takes into account the bottom-up approach that we have been following strictly.

Revisions in the Draft will reflect only rather non-controversial issues, and will try to capture the current situation in the negotiations without trying, in any way, to push the envelope. We are just preparing the negotiations that will have to take place in Hong Kong . I would urge Delegations to look at the revised Draft with all the objectiveness and tranquillity, so that when you can collectively take a decision, during the General Council meeting on Friday, on this draft.

As you are aware, the last items in the proposed agenda for the General Council are the Report by the Chair of the TNC and a statement on the Draft Ministerial Text. My Report and my statement at the end of the General Council meeting, therefore, will reflect the situation in the negotiations, for the benefit of Ministers in Hong Kong.

Again, I urge all delegations to exercise good will and redouble their efforts in order to find all possible convergence in the few hours before us.

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 > Reports by the Chairpersons of the bodies established by the TNC