Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Let me start by welcoming today the participants
to the Geneva Week for non-residents who have the opportunity to attend
this General Council meeting.
Since my last report to the General Council in February, the TNC has
held one informal meeting, on 20 April. In my opening remarks at that
meeting, the full text of which was made available to delegations in
document JOB(07)/51, I highlighted the increased level of activity
taking place in and around the negotiations since we returned to full
negotiating mode in February.
In the days preceding our informal meeting, a number of major players
had affirmed their commitment to a successful outcome of our
negotiations around the end of this year, and also committed themselves
to intensifying their efforts to finding common ground as a contribution
to the conclusion of the Round.
This commitment from major players was welcomed and supported by
participants at our meeting on 20 April. However, there are no illusions
about the challenges it represents. All of us here in Geneva are well
aware of the sequence of necessary steps which will be needed to
conclude the Round and the severe time pressure that sequence now
imposes upon us.
The first step in that sequence, of course, is to establish modalities
in Agriculture and NAMA, which will then be reflected in the schedules
that participants will elaborate in the next step. It will also be
necessary to bring the work in the other areas of negotiation to a
commensurate level of maturity if we are to have the whole package
agreed by the end of this year. At our informal meeting, I did not
propose a specific timeline for these steps, since I believe it is
obvious to all of us that there is no time to waste.
So, to be able to meet this challenge, we urgently need serious
substantive engagement by all partners in the multilateral process here
in Geneva, under the guidance of the Negotiating Group Chairs. The
multilateral negotiations can no longer be made to wait for
contributions from other processes in or outside Geneva. We can all
acknowledge that such processes are potentially useful, hence important,
but they must feed into the multilateral one, which is the core of our
business and which must now move on rapidly.
I am pleased to report that our informal meeting signalled wide
convergence on the shape of the multilateral process we need in the
coming weeks, as I had outlined it in my opening remarks. Through their
different processes, the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups are now
working towards revised texts which can become a basis for agreement.
The Agriculture Chair has already issued the first instalment of what he
has termed a “challenges” paper, identifying centres of gravity on the
different pillars and aimed at provoking participants into showing
movement away from current positions and towards consensus. Participants
had the opportunity to react to this first paper at an informal meeting
on Monday 7 May, and as could be expected, a wide range of views were
expressed by a large number of delegations on its content. The level of
engagement at Monday's meeting was encouraging. It shows that we do
indeed have an active multilateral process and that participants appear
to be serious about negotiating within it. And I want to thank Crawford
Falconer for this hard work, his determination and cleverness in making
you all reasonably unhappy!
Once he has issued the second instalment of his paper next week, he will
start an intensive series of consultations aimed at moving towards a
revised agriculture modalities text. To take the process forward, we now
need to see participants negotiating with each other, not with the
In NAMA, Don Stephenson is holding a continuous process of
consultations, starting this week. As he has rightly pointed out to
participants, they have asked him to draft a new negotiating text, so it
is now up to all of you to use the multilateral process to tell him what
In the other areas of negotiation, similar processes will also be used
by the Chairs to develop texts. I believe that to facilitate this work,
it is essential that all participants show an equal level of support to
them through constructive inputs and a real willingness to negotiate.
Finally, on Aid for Trade, I am also happy to report that preparations
for the three regional Aid for Trade reviews are advancing well. The
first review is scheduled to take place in Lima, Peru on 5-7 September
for the Latin America/Caribbean region, the second review will take
place in Manila, Philippines on 19-20 September for the Asian region and
the third review will take place on 27-28 September in Tanzania for the
Africa region. In all these three regional reviews, the respective
regional development banks are taking the lead in coordinating the
preparations. All this will lead to the monitoring and evaluation event
which will be hosted here on 20-21 November.
In my recent contacts with Members, both here in Geneva and at meetings
I have attended outside Geneva, I have underlined my belief that a
successful outcome to the Round is possible, even in the small amount of
time remaining until the end of this year. I have warned governments
that if they do not compromise soon, they will be forced to confront the
unpleasant reality of failure. This would mean foregoing the very
significant package of trade opening and rule-making that the Round
represents, and breaching the commitment which was taken to work for a
more developing friendly world trading system.
The challenge before us is now not technical, but rather political. It
is about leadership, about compromise, about countries recognizing their
common interest in success and the collective costs of failure. I urge
all of you to put all your energy and commitment now into concluding the
That concludes my report. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.