Talking points for the Director-General
Thank you all for coming to this meeting at short notice. The purpose of our meeting today is to discuss the situation in the DDA negotiations, in particular with regard to our immediate goal of establishing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA, and to look at the next steps in our process.
Since I last reported to the membership at the General Council on 7 May, the messages from every quarter of clear political determination to conclude the Round by the end of 2008 that we have been hearing for some time have intensified. Political leaders widely believe that in order to achieve this goal, we must put into place modalities in Agriculture and NAMA by the end of July and I agree with them.
At the meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in Arequipa, Peru at the end of May, Ministers agreed on a strong political statement of support for bringing the Doha Round to a successful conclusion this year. From the discussions in and around that meeting, I detected a strong sense of urgency, commitment and engagement on all sides.
A few days later, a number of Trade Ministers meeting on the margins of the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting reiterated that commitment and agreed to direct their officials to engage intensively in Geneva with the objective of working towards modalities in the following weeks. Since then, reiterations of the importance of seizing this window of opportunity have continued, including at the highest political levels. I think it is clear to all that everything that has been accomplished so far in the Round is at stake if we do not succeed in establishing modalities in the next very few weeks.
Over the last weeks, important work has been taking place in Agriculture and NAMA, and I believe we are getting closer to the point when the respective Chairs will be in a position to circulate comprehensive revised modality texts. To enable that to happen, we need to intensify our efforts even further in various configurations, in particular at the level of the Negotiating Groups, where I hope serious engagement can take place. I would also urge Senior Officials to be in town as from next Monday to provide the Chairs with the convergence they need to be able to prepare revised texts
I will now give the floor to Crawford and Don to brief you about the activity in their respective areas since our last meeting.
(Ambassadors Falconer and Stephenson take the floor.)
Although I believe we all agree that our primary focus over the coming days has to be on Agriculture and NAMA, it is important, at the same time, to provide the necessary comfort to the membership that other areas which are being negotiated are also moving forward, in line with the Single Undertaking, which remains the guarantor of a final outcome acceptable to all participants.
As I have reported on previous occasions, my own consultations have shown that issues such as Trade and Environment, the S&D Work Programme or Trade Facilitation are advancing and need not be taken up in detail at the time of the modalities. Therefore on these issues, the respective Chairs will report to the TNC to be held in July on progress and set out roadmaps for further work in their respective areas.
On the middle group of three issues on which it became apparent in my consultations, which I have already reported on, that we need more clarity, namely Services, Rules and the TRIPS-related issues, I would like to provide a brief overview of the situation and the next steps.
On Services, as you know, we have been proceeding on two parallel tracks. The first is the multilateral text on which the Chairman of the Services Special Session has been holding consultations and, to my knowledge, it has reached an advanced stage. The second track among participants in the plurilateral negotiations on market access, is the preparation for the Signalling Conference among Ministers.
As I informed you at our TNC meeting on 17 April, my consultations on this matter had led to common understanding on several points including the purpose of the signalling exercise, what its focus should be, how the process should be organized and what form its outcome should take. It was also clear that the signalling exercise should be a two-way street and its results should reflect progress but would not represent the outcome of the negotiations. The need for careful and thorough preparation for that exercise was also stressed by many.
As you know, the purpose of the Signalling Conference is to provide Members with comfort regarding progress in the market access pillar of the services negotiations at the time of adopting the Agriculture and NAMA modalities. As that point approaches, I will consult on the preparations for this exercise next week, which will be followed by a meeting of Senior Officials on 14 July which I will chair ahead of the Signalling Conference to take place at the time of the Ministerial engagement on Agriculture and NAMA modalities.
On Rules, there is wide agreement that this is not for negotiation by Ministers but rather for discussion if they so wish. At the end of May, the Chairman issued a Working Document which seeks to convey in detail the full spectrum and intensity of the reactions to his first draft texts, to identify the many suggested changes put forward by delegations, and to reassure delegations that all proposals remain on the table. Over the coming days, the Rules Chairman will continue his informal consultations with delegations on how they intend to move the negotiations forward.
On the third and last area, TRIPS-related issues, reports have been issued on both mandated negotiations on a GI register by the TRIPS Special Session Chairman, and on the consultations on the issues of GI extension and the TRIPS/CBD relationship carried out on my behalf as Director-General by Rufus Yerxa under the mandate from Ministers in Hong Kong. Judging by the reactions to our reports, my sense is that these issues necessitate a real engagement on substance among delegations, and this has not yet taken place, at least to my knowledge. As instructed by Ministers, I remain ready to facilitate on the basis of any convergence you find as to how to proceed to prepare any Ministerial engagement on this.
Let us now turn to the next steps in our process, starting with my report on the consultations I have been holding over the recent days. As I said in my report to the General Council in May, I believe all of us are aware of the urgency of what we are doing, but we also know that it is the substance which drives the process. I suggested then that the balance between these two key aspects of our work — urgency and substance — was what we had to strive to fine-tune over the following days, and my consultations have been aimed at doing exactly that.
I think it is important that we get greater clarity on process now, and in my view a good reason for that is to use it as a means to focus work on our target of establishing Agriculture and NAMA modalities.
While substance drives process, I also feel that substance — although more work is needed over the next couple of weeks — has reached a point where lack of clarity on process and sequence risks preventing us from making the last mile to prepare Agriculture and NAMA modalities. I also share the view expressed by many of you that for smaller delegations, and for Ministers whose connection with the day-to-day reality of the negotiations is more distant, having greater clarity and transparency on process and timelines would be of enormous help.
The focus now is, as I said earlier, to create convergence on Agriculture and NAMA so that the Chairs can prepare texts for ministerial consideration, either with areas where full convergence has been achieved, or with straight choices for Ministers. This means a very intensive phase of work in these areas which should culminate in the circulation of the revised texts. Obviously once the texts are out, you and your capitals will need some time to consider them. There will also be an opportunity for the full membership to react to them before we move to the final intensive phase of preparing issues for consideration by Ministers.
In particular, I believe that it will be important for me to continue with my process of consultations, which will increase in intensity and move from being more of an information exchange, towards focusing more on the substance of the topics, to adequately prepare for a ministerial discussion. I see these horizontal consultations with ambassadors and Senior Officials as key to proper preparations for a successful outcome.
Now, the timing. We are now at the end of June, so the end of July is in one month. We need a timeline to manage expectations if we are to do the deal in July, and in my view, we have to plan on a number of Ministers meeting here in the week starting 21 July. I would recommend that they be here a couple of days before in order to warm up, have bilaterals and prepare the ground.
In line with the importance we all attach to transparency and inclusiveness, the process that week will follow the pattern that has worked in the past — concentric circles of consultations with constant communication among them. This means that there will be informal meetings at the level of Head of Delegation, which will serve both to guarantee transparency and to help build consensus. I will supplement them with continuing dialogue with the regional and other groups as well as with the green room. Time will also be set aside for Group meetings and consultations.
The composition of the meetings among Ministers which will also take place that week will, as usual, ensure that the full spectrum of Members' views and interests are represented. Some variable geometry may be needed depending on the issues being discussed. But let me stress once again that any decision making can only take place among the full membership, which means that the process will culminate with a formal meeting of the TNC.
I know that this is not without its risks, and my sense today is that the chances of getting there are today over 50%. This fits with my own appreciation that if there are no modalities in July, the chances of concluding the Round this year are much less than 50%. I also know that we need serious and intensive negotiations among you over the coming days so that we can increase the chances from above 50% to somewhere around 75%. My sense is that this is doable and I also believe that with dark clouds on the economic horizon everyday, we must shelter what we can now.
So, the immediate challenge for the next days is to make the sort of progress on key issues which will provide a basis for improved texts in Agriculture and NAMA. Once we have achieved that goal, we will need to prepare for the ministerial discussion so it can be productive. This means maximum effort from everyone over the next few weeks, not just to put in the hours, but to make the movement we need. I am confident that the WTO and its Members will rise to this challenge.