WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

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Statements by delegations

Chairman’s opening remarks

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Good morning and thank you for coming to this informal meeting of Heads of Delegation.

As I advised delegations at the conclusion of yesterday's session of the HODs, I would like to begin this morning by inviting the remaining speakers who have asked to take the floor to do so.

Once the speakers list has been completed, I would like to update you on a first round of consultations I held with a number of delegations yesterday afternoon.

Let me recall, as I said yesterday, that the main forum for the intensive consultative process this week remains this open-ended HODs meeting, to which the results of all consultations that are held either by myself, the negotiating group Chairs, or among delegations themselves, should be reported. In order to allow all of us to better plan our schedules, I aim to convene these HODs meetings daily, adjusting their time as necessary in the light of our work.

The main objective of this consultative process is, and remains, to facilitate consensus-building on the outstanding issues in the Agriculture and NAMA modalities texts. I intend also to convene a final informal HODs meeting prior to the formal meeting of the TNC, in order that all delegations may collectively review the results of all our work until then.

We need to keep in mind that this process is aimed at resolving differences and facilitating consensus, and that any decisions can be taken only by the membership as a whole. The negotiating group Chairs and I will continue to be available to delegations wishing to raise issues of their particular concern during this process.

With these words, I would like to invite the remaining speakers from yesterday to address this meeting.

[Remaining speakers invited to speak.]

Let me now report briefly on my consultations. As I said at the outset of this meeting, yesterday afternoon I held a consultation meeting aimed at exploring the overall political considerations and the balance and synergies between Agriculture and NAMA. This was a horizontal discussion between level of ambition and flexibilities both on Agriculture and NAMA, with a broad range of the membership, including representatives of regional and other groupings.

No new positions were expressed at this stage, and my impression was we did not hear movement which would be significant. My sense is nevertheless that this meeting was useful to develop a clearer understanding of the key issues and constraints at the political level which remain to be addressed to reach an agreement on modalities. At the same time, I clearly sensed a strong sense of collective responsibility and a determination of Members to engage in good faith with each other on substance to find the necessary balance. So the overall attitude was constructive - we are here to reach a deal, we know why, we know where the rest of the world is, and that is the purpose of this week.

While this was mostly about the balance between Agriculture and NAMA, balance, not surprisingly means different things to different people. However, I was impressed by the way that this balance was assessed and the sort of notion that we are looking at something which all can share in. I must say also that the overall development dimension of the round was emphasized by everybody in this discussion. This is a fundamental feature which I think everybody I heard in this discussion has in mind. There were also a few references to other elements of the Single Undertaking so that they are not forgotten.

Delegations also expressed their willingness to negotiate within the existing draft modalities texts which allows us to move further in a structured discussion, which is what I intend to do this afternoon, i.e. move into more detailed work on both Agriculture and NAMA with the same group of delegations and to begin to discuss possible solutions to the outstanding issues. We will then come back to a further HODs meeting tomorrow morning at the same time to review progress.

If delegations have any specific reactions to what I have reported — or other matters to raise — I would invite them to take the floor, it being understood that we are at a very early stage of any possible convergence. Since much of this work is ongoing, I do not think this is the occasion to enter into a lot of detail. You are of course welcome to add any new elements to the discussion which you have not mentioned in your interventions since yesterday that could help us toward convergence.

If any delegation wishes to take the floor now, I would again ask you to focus on specific points of substance, and to avoid lengthy or repetitious statements, so that we can conduct our important work in a focussed and efficient way.

[Delegations invited to speak.]

Let me conclude by thanking all delegations for their statements. The negotiating group Chairs and I, as well as delegations themselves, will be reflecting on them carefully as we go forward.

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