WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

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Statements by delegations

Chairman’s opening remarks

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Good morning and welcome. The purpose of this meeting, as always, is to update you on the various consultations I have been holding and to listen to your views.

Let me at the outset offer my sincere thanks once again to Minister Støre, the negotiating group Chairs, and each of the Ministers and delegations representing their Governments here for their hard work and patience over these past few days. I would also like to thank everyone for having responded so well to calls for being available at short notice.

Since our Heads of Delegation meeting on Saturday, the Negotiating Group Chairs and I have been holding intensive consultations in various formats both jointly and separately over the last two days in order to progress our work.

Our discussions have focused on the issues in Agriculture and NAMA other than those that were included in the package on key issues on which I reported to you Saturday morning.

In the meantime, we have also held the Services Signalling Conference on Saturday afternoon which was a very good step towards getting a sense of what the Services part of a final DDA agreement might look like.

Overall, I believe that through all of these efforts, we have registered very important progress. There is now a very high level of convergence on many subjects. However, we continue to operate on the basis of no surprises, and of reaching convergence in concentric circles of representation with a maximum of transparency, including through this open-ended HODs meeting. Nothing will be definitively agreed until everything is agreed.

My report to you this morning represents the best estimation of the Negotiating Group Chairs and myself, on the basis of our consultations, of where convergences are possible on these issues. Let me now briefly review a few specific points.

On Agriculture, important progress has been made on a range of issues.

There is broad agreement on products that will be subject to “tropical product” treatment, on which convergence has been found.

Regarding preference erosion, there is broad agreement that the approach taken will be similar to the one adopted in NAMA, although there may be some variations for certain products and broad convergence has been found also on the eligible products.

With respect to LDCs, an understanding has been reached that the text in agriculture will be identical to that in the NAMA text.

On the treatment of sensitive products for developing countries, the existing text will be modified to introduce a number of options on treatment so as to give an array of alternatives to developing-country Members which do not wish to expand tariff rate quotas.

Regarding the SSG for developing countries, there is an understanding that developing countries will be entitled to use SSG in respect of 2.5 per cent of their tariff lines. In the case of SVEs, they will be entitled to retain 5 per cent of their tariff lines. They will have 12 years to get to this point.

With respect to in-quota tariffs, there is a broad understanding that tariffs at or below 5 per cent shall be eliminated. With respect to tariffs above 5 per cent, it is expected that there will be a 50 per cent cut or a reduction to a certain figure, yet to be agreed, whichever goes lower. There will be special provisions for developing countries. Where a product has been designated as a special product which is exempted from any cut in the out-of-quota range, the in-quota rate will similarly be exempt from any tariff cuts. All other tariff lines will be subject to a 15 percent cut. In the case of SVEs, the cut will be 7 percent. Regarding the thresholds for RAMS, there are still a few adjustments to be made.

Regarding OTDS for developing countries, there is an understanding that LDCs and NFIDCs which do not use the Blue Box would not need to schedule at all. Those who use, or intend to use, the Blue Box must make a notification. With respect to product-specific limits as set out in the current modalities text, there is an understanding that the figures for developing countries in the text will be increased to 75 and 25 per cent for NFIDCs and LDCs. With respect to the treatment of RAMs, there is broad understanding that accession terms should not be undermined.

On export prohibitions and restrictions, the transparency provisions in the text are to be further improved.

With regard to the underfill mechanism in paragraph 4 of Annex E of the text, we have new language which takes into account the concerns expressed in relation to developing countries.

On export competition, with the exception of a small difference on the monetisation issue, all other issues have been settled.

Regarding STEs, there is convergence on eliminating the square brackets in the text which will, inter alia, eliminate the monopoly powers of STEs. There is an understanding that the base period for elimination of export subsidies as regards volume commitments will be 2003-2005. With these adjustments, the Export Competition chapter is stabilized.

Among the outstanding issues in Agriculture on which we still have to work are: cotton; creation of a few new TRQs; and tariff simplification, which are items now requiring solving at the political level.

As for cotton, there is strong commitment to meeting all aspects of the Hong Kong Declaration in the final package on this issue which is crucial for many countries, and a recognition that this cannot be left for the last moment. The Agriculture Chair and I will make sure that this is settled and hope to report progress very soon.

On NAMA, there is language that strengthens the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration on duty-free quota-free market access for LDCs. It ensures that meaningful market access would be provided to all LDCs. In that context, selected tariff lines should represent commercial value.

With respect to non-reciprocal preferences, which is a very difficult and complex matter, the outcome of the discussion so far would be the inclusion of new tariff lines to the lists in the EC and US markets. In respect of Annex 4 on disproportionately affected, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal have been included, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka have also obtained lines in the EC market. However, there is still not yet complete convergence on this issue.

Regarding the treatment for Bolivia, there is agreement to delete the reference to periodic notification to the Council for Trade in Goods. There was favourable consideration of Mongolia's request that it be treated as a low-income economy in transition. As regards special treatment for South Africa and its SACU partners, while there is not yet consensus there is widespread support for additional flexibility and we are working on that. Regarding special treatment for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, consultations are continuing.

On sectorals, there is agreement regarding its non-mandatory nature but we still need to work on language in the relevant paragraphs.

On SVEs, progress has been made and convergence is close. The outstanding political issue is the target average in the top two bands.

Regarding product coverage, we are near to convergence on the removal of the brackets in the footnote.

With respect to the implementation period for RAMs, consultations are on-going with some expressing a preference for an additional 3 years, while others 4 years. On the GCC issue raised by Oman, consultations are on-going.

So this is where we are. As you can see, there has been a lot of progress since we last met. At the same time, there are several issues of interest to many of you that remain still to be addressed, and I intend, together with the negotiating group Chairs, to take them up urgently in the coming hours, in both small and large groups. I say hours very seriously, because the clock is against us. I urge all of you to please accelerate movement towards compromises. This is the moment to show the final flexibilities to close the deal on remaining issues.

My aim now is to issue revised Agriculture and NAMA modality texts later today in order to allow you adequate time to review the texts in groups and with your experts in capitals before coming back to consider them in this HODs format.

As before, there will be no surprises. The substantive elements of the texts will reflect what has emerged from the work on the specific issues undertaken by the negotiating group Chairs, my own consultations, and discussions in this open-ended format. Our aim is to encapsulate the convergences that have emerged, but obviously a few issues that still remain to be resolved may be left out at this stage because we are trying to close agreement on them. These issues are not many but they are politically sensitive, and we need to close them urgently.

The Negotiating Group Chairs and I will therefore continue to meet with delegations throughout today in order to try and close the remaining differences. As before we will do this in a variety of formats before we come back once again to this HODs meeting for a review. I would therefore request that delegations remain on readiness to consult at short notice.

With these words, let me now invite Minister Støre to report on the work he has been doing on my invitation on the TRIPS-related issues of GIs and the TRIPS/CBD relationship.

[Statement from Minister Støre.]

I would like to thank Minister Støre once again for his report and for the work he is undertaking on these issues. I will ask now those delegations who wish to speak to take the floor. May I request as before that you keep your remarks as brief and focused as possible. Following this meeting, the negotiating group Chairs and I will renew our consultations on remaining issues before reporting back to our next HODs meeting.

[Statements from delegations.]

Let me leave you with a few final thoughts. When we look at the package that is on the table as of this morning – in terms of its size and attendant economic consequences – as compared to what remains still to be done, I hope that you will all agree that it is enormous and represents significant progress from where we started last week. We have had a tiring but very productive week. A bit more to do. This is therefore time not only for a sense of urgency but also for a sense of realism. We are close to closure on what is a very substantive achievement. Let's go that last short distance to the summit.

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