morning and thank you for coming to this informal meeting of Heads of
A piece of good news to start the meeting: Today we welcome the Republic of
Cape Verde as the 153rd Member of this Organization. Cape Verde is the third
LDC and first country from Africa to have completed the accession procedures
under Article XII of the Marrakesh Agreement. Membership will provide a
stable and predictable basis for the growth and development of Cape Verde.
They have worked very hard to achieve this, knowing it will give a welcome
boost to the economy, and their efforts serve as an example to us all.
The purpose of our meeting this morning is to report in this open-ended
format on the second round of consultations I had yesterday afternoon with a
number of delegations.
These consultations involved as before a broad range of the membership,
including representatives of regional and other groupings, with the aim of
ensuring that the full spectrum of Members' views and interests was
Let me stress that, in this process, I am counting heavily on the
coordinators of the various WTO Groupings to assist in maintaining
transparency and inclusiveness. I know that Group coordinators face a big
burden, but I do ask that you continue to ensure the flow of information and
maintain consultations with your constituencies from smaller consultations
so that they are kept informed and involved, as well as to convey your
groups' positions to other Members, the negotiating group Chairs and myself.
I also want to emphasize that the work being undertaken by myself, the
negotiating group Chairs, and among delegations bilaterally or
plurilaterally, is aimed at facilitating consensus in what is an urgent
collective task before us all. Let me repeat once again that any decisions
can ultimately be taken only by the membership as a whole.
We all have the responsibility to provide a launching pad, that is, a clear
workable basis, for finishing this development round by the end of this
year. The outcome of our meetings here this week should be able to provide
the much awaited green light that both the developed and developing world
expects from us. This is a heavy responsibility and we must not let this
chance slip away.
Let me turn now to my report.
The consultations involved a full run-through of the revised Agriculture and
NAMA draft modalities texts, focussing on AG subsidies and AG and Non-AG
market access, with the aim of finding possible solutions to outstanding
issues that could be presented to the membership as a whole for
In Agriculture, we addressed the following six key elements:
(i) Overall Trade-distorting
Domestic Support (OTDS) for developed countries, including AMS and
(iii) Market access formula for developed countries;
(iv) Sensitive products (number and quota expansion);
(v) Special products; and
(vi) Special Safeguard Mechanism.
We also ran through the following three issues in
(i) Formula and Flexibilities;
(ii) Anti-concentration; and
I fully recognize that these are not the only open
issues, but the negotiating group Chairs are continuing to consult on a
number of issues on which I do not believe it would be efficient to focus
now. These include: in Agriculture, preferences, tropical products, in-quota
rates, tariff simplification, tariff capping and export competition; and in
NAMA, preference erosion, including those disproportionately affected. These
issues are there, but I organized the discussion so that we first addressed
the main pillars.
There is also the issue of SVEs which in my view is technically stable but
in need of a final political decision. The DFQF issue for LDCs is also being
taken up as part of the negotiating group Chairs' processes.
Overall, I would characterize the consultations as constructive, with a
strong commitment to engaging directly and in good faith. However, I must
emphasize that the progress has been modest as yet.
On the Agriculture issues, there was positive engagement on the OTDS
cuts to be made by Members. The new US offer to reduce its OTDS to $15
billion — conditional on the contributions from other Members — was seen as
a welcome step. Several Members urged the US to consider further reduction.
On AMS, Members focussed on two main issues, namely the base period
for product-specific cuts and whether the US should be given headroom for
the starting point. The US indicated that it could accept the base period
proposed in the draft modalities text. Regarding Blue Box support,
discussion was on the headroom issues.
On Cotton, there was a renewed sense of engagement. The proponents of
the sectoral cotton initiative challenged Members to respond in detail to
their existing proposal. There was greater clarification of the specific
concerns and possibilities of Members on different sides of the issue. The
Chair of the negotiating group is now retaking it from here.
With respect to tariff cuts for developed-country Members, the
emphasis was on the cuts in the top band as expected.
Regarding sensitive products, discussion focussed mainly on three
main issues, namely (i) the number of tariff lines to be designated as
sensitive; (ii) the treatment to be afforded to these products in terms of
quota expansion; and (iii) whether the creation of new tariff rate quotas
should be allowed.
As for special products, Members narrowed their discussions to
whether there should be a single or a two-tier system under which a certain
proportion of the designated tariff lines could be exempted from tariff cuts
and the other lines subjected to an average tariff cut.
Finally, on the special safeguard mechanism, discussion focussed
mainly on the question of whether pre-Doha bound rates could be exceeded.
On the NAMA issues, while Members mostly restated their well-known
positions on the formula and flexibilities, I did nonetheless detect
a willingness to go further towards convergence.
On the anti-concentration clause, there remains a marked difference
of views but there were also efforts to move towards a mutual understanding
and some ideas were floated which can be followed up.
On sectorals, all present recognized that these are not to be
mandatory but differed in the emphasis they would put upon them. In
particular, there was an exchange of views on whether sectorals should be
seen as part of the overall balance in NAMA. Some suggestions were made as
to how this issue could be resolved, and these also deserve to be followed
My overall sense from yesterday's meeting was that while progress is being
made, it is unevenly distributed across the issues discussed. It is clear
that we need to move into a more intensive mode of consultations, including
Starting from today, I plan to put more emphasis on variable geometry,
working on these key issues in Agriculture and NAMA in smaller groups,
together with the negotiating group and General Council Chairs. The issues
will be the ones I have listed earlier, and I will report back to you
In order to allow this intensive series of consultations to bear fruit, it
will be necessary to move the Signalling Conference on Services from
Thursday to Friday.
In my capacity as Director-General, I would also like to inform you that, at
my request, Minister Jonas Støre of Norway has very kindly accepted to help
me as a “Friend” by holding informal contacts with delegations on the
TRIPS-related issues of GIs and the TRIPS/CBD relationship. I am very
grateful for the assistance of Minister Store in this process. He will
report to our HODs meetings on developments.
This is where we are at this stage. I would invite all delegations to engage
each other over the next few days with a greater sense of urgency, with the
focus very much on the development of compromises. Success or failure
depends very much on how far all are prepared to cooperate with each other
on the fundamentally important issues, and whether we are each prepared to
act with the interests of the broader membership, and of the benefits to the
system as a whole, uppermost in our minds.
From my engagement with delegations so far, I believe the membership is
steadily but slowly ascending the Mont Blanc. My sense is that we would need
to accelerate the pace to make it to the top.
With these words, I will ask now those delegations who wish to speak at this
HODs meeting to take the floor. Let me request once again that you keep your
remarks as brief and focused as possible.
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