WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

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Statements by delegations

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Introductory Remarks

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

I would like to update you, as promised, on the consultations I have been holding since our last meeting. Just to recall, as I mentioned yesterday, these consultations focussed in particular on six key elements in agriculture (OTDS, Cotton, market access formula for developed countries, Sensitive Products, Special Products and SSM) and three key issues in NAMA (Formula and Flexibilities, Anti-Concentration and sectorals).

In addition, I mentioned that the Negotiating Chairs were continuing to consult on a number of other issues, including in agriculture preferences, tropical products, in-quota rates, tariff capping and export competition; and in NAMA preference erosion, including those disproportionately affected.

Let me point out that some significant progress has been made on Export Competition, where I believe there is now the basis for agreement, with just a few loose ends to be tidied up.

On the key issues I have identified, I have to report that we do not yet have convergence. Ministers and officials have worked long and hard into the early hours of this morning, and there was ó and is ó a genuine shared desire to bridge differences. The negotiations have been not only intensive, but also detailed and specific, involving numbers and a clear enunciation of possibilities and problem areas.

However, on some of the key issues I mentioned positions still remain too far apart. The priorities among these issues vary among delegations, but I think all agree that more work is needed overall. These issues are both technically and politically complex.

On the other hand, there is a firm commitment among the delegations I consulted to renew their efforts to find convergence today. Everyone wants to find a positive solution to these differences, because our common interest is so great.

We will resume the consultations this afternoon and the Negotiating Chairs are also continuing to work on the issues.

Now more than ever we need your undoubted political will to be applied to finding additional flexibility so that we can bridge the remaining differences rapidly. We al know this is a crucial time and we have to give ourselves and the Round every chance of success.

In order to give adequate time for these processes and also for delegations to consult with their capitals and among themselves, it will be necessary to postpone the Services Signalling Conference further, to Saturday 26 July. The TNC timing will probably also have to be adjusted.

I ask all of you to spare no effort over the next 24 hours to resolve the remaining issues. I believe the prize is within sight, and we must not fail to claim it. What is on the table already represents major progress. We are not there yet, but let us not let this opportunity slip.

I would now like to ask Minister StÝre to report on the work he has been doing on my invitation on the TRIPS-related issues of GIs and the TRIPS/CBD relationship.

[Report presented by Minister StÝre.]

I would like to thank Minister StÝre for his report and for the work he is undertaking to facilitate convergence on how to move these issues forward.

I will ask now those delegations who wish to speak at this HODs meeting to take the floor. May I request as before that you keep your remarks as brief and focused as possible. This is the right way to address the issues in this forum, and I want to thank you in advance for that.

The floor is open.

[Statements from delegations.]

 

Closing Remarks

Before we adjourn, let me say that I totally understand, and share, the concerns of those of you who feel that this process is frustrating and sometimes too obscure, although I am trying my best to keep you informed. Let me repeat once more that any decision can only be taken by the membership as a whole. No decision can be taken by a small group, and no decision will be taken by a small group. I'm as eager as you are to move to larger circles, and some of the consultations we are having involve other than the restricted circle we have been working in all night. However, please understand that in order to move to larger circles overall we need a basis to do it. And that's the blunt reality. This being said, in terms of transparency I think that most of your coordinators ó or Members who belong to your group and who have been associated with the various consultations ó are in a position to brief you. I understand that there are group meetings today, and that there have been already group meetings this morning, where the members of the group have been debriefed. I recognize that this is not the case for each and every group, which is why in the case of the ACP, AU and G-90 I have scheduled for today a meeting with the three coordinators. I will do as much as I can in terms of the number of hours each day to provide this sort of transparency. I need the coordinators and the groups to assist me. Please understand again the fundamental principle which I have always stuck to, namely that decisions can only be taken by the membership as a whole. If, as I hope, convergence emerges in a small circle it will have to be enlarged in successive concentric circles and it will not come suddenly to this HODs meeting tomorrow morning or to the formal TNC meeting scheduled for Saturday. Let us go back to work on the substance and we will return in this format tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.

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