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Mr Lamy told heads of delegations in the informal meeting that he will
recommend a “time out” to the General Council on 27 July. He did not
suggest how long the talks will be suspended. They can only resume when
progress can be made, which in turn will require changes in entrenched
positions, he said. The suspension will apply to all negotiating groups.
“We have missed a very important opportunity to show that
multilateralism works,” Mr Lamy told a press conference afterwards.
“The feeling of frustration, regret and impatience was unanimously
expressed by developing countries this afternoon.”
He did not say when the negotiations will resume but explained that
movement towards a conclusion can only result from internal work within
countries. “Now we have to think first at home,” he told journalists.
Mr Lamy reached the conclusion to suspend the negotiations after talks
among six major members broke down on Sunday 23 July. Ministers from
Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan and the United
States had met in Geneva to try to follow up on instructions from the St
Petersburg Summit on 17 July.
The Geneva meeting was “lengthy and detailed … but at its conclusion, it
remained clear that the gaps remain too wide,” Mr Lamy told the full WTO
The main blockage is in the two agriculture legs of the triangle of
issues, market access and domestic support, he said. The six did not
even move on to the third leg, non-agricultural market access, he
He is therefore recommending the talks be suspended in all subjects
across the round as whole to give members time to reflect: “Time out to
review the situation, time out to examine available options and time out
to review positions,” he called it.
“In practical terms, this means that all work in all negotiating groups
should now be suspended, and the same applies to the deadlines that
various groups were facing,” he went on.
“It also means that the progress made to date on the various elements of
the negotiating agenda is put on hold, pending the resumption of the
negotiations when the negotiating environment is right. Significant
progress has been made in all areas of the negotiations, and we must try
together to reduce the risk that it unravels.”
Mr Lamy warned of the dangers: a possible lost opportunity to integrate
more vulnerable members into international trade, “the best hope for
growth and poverty alleviation”; a negative signal on the world economy
with the possible resurgence of protectionism.
“If the political will really exists, there must be a way,” he said.
“But it is not here today. And let me be clear: there are no winners and
losers in this assembly. Today there are only losers.”
Stressing that movement has to come from the members themselves, Mr Lamy
told them: “The ball is clearly in your court.”
Members shared the disappointment and frustration. Some blamed the
deadlock on inadequate offers to make significant cuts in domestic
support in agriculture. Some blamed it on market access offers that
would not produce genuine increases in trade. Some blamed it on rich
countries’ demands for improved market access that would put subsistence
farmers in poor countries at risk instead of the rich countries tackling
the distortions of their own subsidies.
Several members said fingers should not be pointed at individual
members, but that the responsibility for failure should be borne
collectively by all members. Some argued that the gaps are not as wide
as they appear.
Several developing countries said failure to conclude the round would
deprive them of outcomes that would benefit development, from the
reduction of agricultural distortions, to the duty-free, quota-free
package for least-developed countries’ exports and “aid for trade”.
The deadlock will be bad news particularly for cotton farmers, African
countries said. They have been pressing for more ambitious reductions in
distortions in the sector. More generally, these countries said they had
unilaterally liberalized under programmes of the World Bank and IMF only
to face increases in subsidized imports from richer countries. They had
hoped the negotiations would redress the balance.
“We realize we are now taken hostage by larger developed countries,” one
of them said.
Speakers stressed their commitment to preserving the multilateral
system. One warned that some sections of public opinion, which do not
understand the benefits, could celebrate the suspension. Another said
the multilateral system is on trial. Others warned that disputes could
Several were uncomfortable about the uncertainty. They called for a
clearer picture in September, after the European summer break, of when
and how work will resume.
Press conferences back to top
Statement by TNC chair Pascal Lamy at the 24 July TNC meeting
(20 mins, 11MB)
Audio from the press conference following the 24 July TNC meeting
(30 mins, 36MB)