WTO: 2009 NEWS ITEMS

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The Doha Declaration explained
The Implementation Decision explained
How the negotiations are organized

Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Thank you Mr Chairman.

Since my last report to the General Council on 20 October, I have met with the Negotiating Chairs and the General Council Chairman on a number of occasions to exchange views on the overall process and to coordinate activities so as to facilitate the work of delegations. You will all have received the organizational fax on 10 November outlining the schedule of meetings during the Senior Officials' Week. The Negotiating Chairs, the General Council Chairman and I are still fine-tuning this programme with a view to ensure predictability, inclusiveness and transparency in the context of an intensive meeting schedule. There may be a few minor changes to the overall schedule of meetings and I intend to outline these at the informal TNC on 23 November.

Before I provide you with a brief overview of the state-of-play and outlook of the negotiating groups, let me pay tribute to the Negotiating Chairs for their work and commitment. The past year has been one of modest, but nevertheless progress in all areas of negotiations, albeit of a different type. In some cases progress has meant a better understanding of positions; in some others, however, there has been tangible progress and we are about to capture this in a draft negotiating text, as is the case with trade facilitation.

Before the year ends, we still have two weeks of Senior Official engagement which need to be used to continue to move the ball forward. What is clear is that if we are to conclude this Round in 2010 as you have pledged to, we will need to take a hard look at where things stand early in the new year and map the road that would lead us to a successful result.

With your permission I will report at slightly greater length than normal, in order to include a brief review of the year's progress in each area. I believe this may be useful to prepare the up-coming Ministerial Conference.

Let me now turn to a brief overview of each of the negotiating areas:

AGRICULTURE

Following his appointment in April as the new Chair of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session, Ambassador Walker held detailed consultations with members to determine where useful progress could be made, particularly in light of the subsequent renewed political mandate from the G20 in London and the G8 in L'Aquila. The consultations included Room E and open-ended informal meetings of the negotiating group, resulting in a steady programme of technical work and further discussions on outstanding issues in the texts before the negotiators. Thus, now it has become clear that work in agriculture is proceeding with the support of members on a two-track approach.

One track, template work, is advancing well, with substantive contributions from members. Step 1 of this template work concerns the identification of base date and appropriate tables; it is expected to conclude this month, with Step 2 then to start, namely the preparation of templates to be used for scheduling. This technical work will continue with every prospect that it can conclude early in the new year.

The other track of work in agriculture is the Chair's informal consultations on the bracketed and otherwise annotated issues in the draft modalities and associated documentation. There have been discussions on domestic support — where again it is clear that a solution on cotton is fundamental — and on market access issues, including useful work on sensitive products, tariff cap, TRQ [tariff rate quota] expansion and tariff simplification. Starting this week the Chair's consultations will branch the S&D [special and differential treatment] issues in the modalities with then an opportunity in December and early in the new year to return to some of these matters.

In sum, the work on agriculture is engaged, has the support of members and holds the prospect, given political will, of moving towards agreed modalities in the new year. I strongly urge you to continue in this vein, to keep the level of ambition, knowing that all issues need to be resolved to conclude the work.

NAMA [non-agricultural market access]

Turning to the Negotiating Group on Market Access, the main activities of the year that I would report on are as follows:

The Group has spent a substantive amount of time during the year on non-tariff barriers [NTB]. During the course of the four NTB dedicated sessions held this year, members were able to deepen their understanding of the NTB proposals through questions and answer sessions, and discussion. Additionally, workshops have been organized by the sponsors of some of these proposals in these NAMA weeks in order to further enhance members' understanding of their proposals. More recently and as a follow-up to the last senior official meeting, the Chairman of the Negotiating Group has been engaging in a series of consultations with a view to seeing how we can narrow differences among delegations on these texts. I believe that the discussions have been good with real engagement.

You will also recall from my July report that the Negotiating Group has spent time this year on the technical exercise of scheduling. A Workshop on Electronic Negotiating Files was organized in July, and this exercise was repeated during the recent Geneva Week. I would also note that “scheduling” is now a regular component of all NAMA-related technical assistance programmes. Next week senior officials will also be getting a taste of “scheduling”. In any case, it is a complex but essential exercise and delegations need to be familiar with the contents of these electronic negotiating files.

Turning to sectorals, during the year, the sectoral negotiation has been led by the sponsors of such initiatives. They have undertaken technical work which has then been used in outreach activities. In this regard, information sessions have been conducted by the sponsors on their various proposals during the NAMA weeks. Members have been kept appraised of this work through reports by the sponsors in the open-ended transparency sessions. At this stage I think it would be fair to say that results are “subliminal”, to borrow an expression used by a Minister at the recent APEC meeting.

Regarding the next steps, a NAMA week has been scheduled for the week of 7 December. The focus will be NTBs and the hope is that discussions will be pursued on the basis of updated NTB textual proposals which take account of the comments exchanged during the previous months.

SERVICES

During 2009, there has been only incremental progress in the services negotiations. Members agreed early in the year to continue work on the basis of the roadmap contained in the July 2008 services text, and held several negotiating clusters to further those objectives. On the market access side, work has concentrated on technical discussions, in small groups and bilaterals, largely aimed at clarifying signals made at the July Ministerial gathering. With respect to GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services] rules, progress has been minimal in the three areas of subsidies, emergency safeguards, and government procurement. In domestic regulation, negotiations have continued on the basis of a Chair draft. On the implementation of LDC [least-developed countries] modalities, a small group of members has been discussing a draft text of a waiver, which I understand will soon be forwarded to the Special Session.

It is clear that the services negotiations can only proceed in tandem with those in the other areas of the DDA [Doha Development Agenda]. Progress will therefore depend on the extent that progress is achieved in agriculture and NAMA. There is also a need for balance within the services negotiations, between market access and rule making. On market access, there is clear room for offers to be improved, while in rule making further progress needs to be made, especially with respect to the text on domestic regulation presently under discussion. And in my view, we should be able to make headway on the issue of the implementation of LDC modalities soon.

Next year, a services cluster is planned for the week beginning 8 February. It is intended to be a negotiating week similar to that held on 9 November, but will naturally take into account any direction of the negotiations given by members over the next few weeks.

RULES

Regarding rules, the Chairman circulated new draft texts on anti-dumping and subsidies, as well as a roadmap on fisheries subsidies, in late December 2008. Thus the Negotiating Group has focused its efforts in 2009 on working through these documents. To this end, the Group has continued to meet intensively and on the substance in open-ended format in week-long clusters in February, May, June, September and October 2009.

The process has been long and sometimes tedious, but the work has advanced. The Group is likely to have completed its first review of the horizontal subsidies text by its December meeting, immediately after the Ministerial, and to be near completion of its review of the anti-dumping text. On fisheries subsidies, it will complete discussion of the roadmap in December and begin consideration of new proposals by members. It has also completed a first discussion of possible transposition in the context of differences between the provisions on anti-dumping and countervail. Next week, the Group will meet in open-ended session with Senior Officials to take stock.

There has been some progress on technical issues, and the Group has advanced on some of the preparatory work necessary for conclusion of the Round. There has not, however, been any signs of significant convergence on major political issues. To the contrary, the level of engagement to seek convergence on such issues has been limited. As in other areas of the negotiations, a renewed level of commitment by all members will be necessary if we are to bring our work to a successful conclusion.

With respect to Regional Trade Agreements, the Negotiating Group has not met since early 2007, although there have been small group meetings among interested members and between interested members and the Chair.

As we all know, the Negotiating Group has already produced a good result in this area with the adoption of the new Transparency Mechanism on RTAs which has been operating successfully. It now remains for the Group to review it and agree to make it into a permanent WTO instrument.

Negotiations on systemic issues of RTAs have unfortunately not progressed and I understand that the Chair intends to discuss ways of reinvigorating these negotiations with Senior Officials next week. One cannot but be perplexed by the limited focus by members over this major systemic issue for the multilateral trading system, especially if one compares it to the flurry of academic activity on this same topic.

CTD SS [Committee on Trade and Development — Special Session]

On special and differential treatment, work in the Special Session, this year, has focused on the Monitoring Mechanism. This work, which has largely taken place in small group format, has been carried out on the basis of the Chairman's non paper which he tabled in May 2009. Periodic open-ended meetings have also been held to inform the wider membership of the progress. The Chairman has recently revised his non paper which will now form the basis of work on the Monitoring Mechanism.

While some progress has been made on elements of the Monitoring Mechanism, there are still a number of areas where members will need to focus their efforts in order to reach convergence. In particular, discussions are continuing on the scope of the Mechanism and on the sequencing of the monitoring process. There are some other issues, including those relating to the objectives and mandate of the Mechanism, which would also need to be fine tuned.

In the coming months, the Chairman intends to continue concentrating on closing these gaps on the basis of his revised non paper. In addition, he is keeping open the possibility of reverting back to the Agreement specific proposals, depending largely on members putting forward new ideas and language that will enable progress to be made on these proposals. The Chairman has also informed me that he will be working in close collaboration with the relevant Chairpersons to determine the best way to make progress on the Category II proposals which are being addressed in other WTO bodies.

TRIPS SS [Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights — Special Session]

The Special Session of the Council for TRIPS, which deals with the multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits — in short, 'the Register' — held three formal meetings, on 5 March, on 10 June, and on 23 and 28 October, and is scheduled to hold another on 27 November. Between the formal meetings, the Chair has consulted delegations in various settings - bilaterally, in small groups and in open-ended informal sessions. The March and June discussions took up the three categories of issues identified in the Chair's report of June 2008:

  • consequences/legal effects of registrations and participation;

  • notification and registration;

  • and other issues such as fees, costs and administrative burdens, in particular for developing and least-developed country members, and special and differential treatment.

The Chair has signalled a need for the negotiating process to move from the re-statement of known concerns and established positions towards a substantive, structured discussion of the issues under negotiation. He has, therefore, structured the discussions since June around a list of four questions drawn up on his own responsibility. The two first questions relate to consequences/legal effects of the Register, the third question concerns members' participation in the Register, and the last addresses special and differential treatment.

The issue of consequences/legal effects continues to be the core of the discussions. Several delegations have very usefully explained what the implementation of the proposed systems would entail in their current domestic laws, e.g. how the information on the Register could be taken into consideration or account. There is a serious division between delegations as to whether the entry of a geographical term on the Register by one member should produce a prima facie evidence of the eligibility of that term for protection as a GI in any other member. Further progress in discussing the other questions of the Chair's list and issues such as fees, costs or administrative burdens largely depends on the resolution of the major stumbling block of consequences/legal effects.

As you know, Ambassador Clarke is preparing a handover report in view of the formal meeting of 27 November and will be consulting delegations in the coming days. In addition to reporting on the work hitherto achieved, he would, based on the discussions he has conducted, seek to identify in his report the areas where there seems to be some convergence of views and those where differences remain.

TRADE FACILITATION

Good progress has been made this year on trade facilitation and the outlines of a new Agreement are beginning to take shape. In the first six months of the year, the Negotiating Group built on its compilation of members' proposals, and comments on those proposals, on all elements of the mandate — GATT Articles V, VIII and X, special and differential treatment, and Customs cooperation.

In September, members agreed to take their work to the next level by drafting a consolidated negotiating text. That process has proceeded well, under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Sperisen-Yurt and with the assistance on the issue of S&D of the Friend of the Chair, Matthew Wilson of Barbados. Last week, the Negotiating Group completed its review of all issues in its mandate and a draft consolidated negotiating text will be issued in the next few days.

Negotiations on the consolidated text will start again early in the new year to narrow down areas of disagreement and produce a consensus result.

ENVIRONMENT

In trade and environment, members agreed to continue working on the basis of the Work Programme contained in the July 2008 Chair's Report to the TNC with updated timeframes. With respect to the relationship between WTO and MEAs [multilateral environmental agreements], a process of consultations has been initiated to clarify further the areas of convergence and outstanding issues with the objective of preparing for text-based negotiations.

On environmental goods and services, members had exchanged ideas and examined in more detail key environmental sectors at a workshop held in September. This has provided a useful basis for the next phase under the Work Programme, where delegations are expected to identify environmental goods of interest and put forward concrete proposals on cross-cutting and development-related issues, without prejudice to members' positions.

This exercise has formally started and a few contributions have already been made by certain members, while others have given indications that work is still being undertaken in capitals to come forward with submissions on goods of interest and on cross‑cutting issues. The CTESS [Committee on Trade and Environment — Special Session] will be meeting later this week and again in mid-February to continue negotiations pursuant to the Work Programme. The discussions will require engagement on a broad basis and substantive inputs from members for a successful outcome to be achieved in the negotiations. Hopefully, there is scope for further technical work to be undertaken in this area and linkages with other areas of the negotiations should not prevent this work from going forward.

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

In 2009, the Chairman of the DSB [Dispute Settlement Body] Special Session continued his series of week-long group consultations with interested delegations. The consultations aimed at addressing the universe of 12 issues covered in the text that the Chairman issued in July 2008, and were based on the drafting proposals reflected in that text. Each week of consultations ended with a brief informal meeting of the DSB Special Session, where the Chairman reported back to the membership at large and discussed the steps ahead.

Three of the 12 issues have not been covered in the consultations this year; they will be addressed at a further week of consultations scheduled for January. Following that discussion, the Special Session will have covered the complete universe of 12 issues addressed in the Chairman's Text of July 2008. Accordingly, at that point the Special Session will take stock of the progress made since the issuance of the Chairman's Text, and assess how it can move forward towards a prompt conclusion of the DSU [Dispute Settlement Understanding] negotiations as mandated by Ministers in Hong Kong.

Discussions in 2009 have been useful, but still much remains to be done to bridge the differences on the drafting language reflected in the Chairman's Text. During the coming weeks and early next year, the Chairman will consult with delegations individually and in groups on how to adjust the negotiating process with a view to successfully concluding the DSU negotiations.

GIs AND CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity]

Turning to the two TRIPS issues on which I have been mandated to pursue consultations as Director-General - the relationship between TRIPS and the CBD and the extension of Article 23 GI protection - I can report continued progress in working through the substantive issues, although we are plainly not on the verge of a breakthrough either on the modalities of how we are to take forward these issues beyond the consultation process nor on the content of what a substantive outcome would look like. That is not to minimize, however, the significance and value of the concrete, focussed and thoughtful dialogue that we are conducting. As for all participants on both issues, I sense that we have a clearer grasp of the central policy issues and legal options, and the concerns and interests that drive members' positions in these sensitive policy areas.

We are halfway through the current phase of work, that is a series of thematic clusters of questions posed by participating members, with the next set of consultations now scheduled for 9 December expected to work through the remaining clusters. Then, frankly, we will have to consider realistically where we stand, what we have learned from the process so far, how we can harvest in a usable form the understanding gleaned from these consultations, and then how to build on this foundation in the new year.

RECENT CONSULTATIONS

Let me also briefly report to you on my recent participation in meetings of African Trade Ministers in Cairo as well as my discussions with the Trade Ministers of APEC. At both of these meetings, I briefed Ministers on the state-of-play of the DDA negotiations in Geneva as well preparations for the Ministerial Conference. I stressed that the timing of this meeting was very opportune because it would allow Ministers to send a very clear and strong political message that concluding the DDA in 2010 remains a priority and that the work programme until the end of this year provides the launch-pad for a further intensification and a further push towards modalities in the first quarter of next year. The message that I have taken back from these meetings is one of commitment to the conclusion of the DDA in 2010 and recognition of the important role of the WTO in the context of global economic developments.

THE MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE

Mr Chairman, in less than two weeks your Minister will be calling the 7th Ministerial Conference to order and open the proceedings. It will be the first time in almost four years that we bring together our political masters to review the activities of the multilateral trading system and provide the necessary guidance to the institution for the next few years. In other words, the forthcoming ministerial gathering is long overdue.

We have all agreed that this regular Ministerial Conference will not be a negotiating session and that the DDA is on its own, separate track. At the same time, I think we agree that what is needed more than anything in the current economic situation is a platform for ministers to review the functioning of this house in its entirety and to renew their commitment to a strong, well functioning multilateral trading system. The DDA clearly ranks among such issues. I see the upcoming Ministerial Conference as a unique occasion for the WTO membership to send a number of strong signals to the world with respect to the entire WTO waterfront of issues - from monitoring and surveillance to disputes, accessions, Aid for Trade, technical assistance and international governance. On this latter point, I think we have a collective interest in setting a positive and constructive tone for international cooperation ahead of the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.

I hope the presence of Senior Officials in Geneva next week will set the stage for a positive Ministerial Conference. I believe we all have an interest in taking a constructive, yet honest assessment of the engagement in the Geneva process across the board of the DDA to the Conference. This would be conducive to a successful ministerial meeting and towards facilitating the political commitment needed to conclude the Round next year.

Finally, you will have seen the schedule of meetings for the up-coming Senior Officials' Week. To provide delegations with a certain amount of predictability for that week and to ensure a high degree of transparency and inclusiveness, I intend to hold an informal TNC on Monday 23 November in the afternoon. At the end of the week, on Friday 27 November, I will also be holding an informal TNC to “wrap up”, so to speak, the Senior Officials' Week and to provide my assessment of the week's activities. That assessment will, of course, also be circulated to delegations ahead of the Ministerial Conference and will, I believe, set the tone for the principles of Full Participation, Inclusiveness and Transparency that you, Mr Chairman, have identified for the meeting.

This concludes my last report today, Mr Chairman. It is a bit longer than is normally the case, but I thought it would be important to provide members with a somewhat more comprehensive re-cap of where we are at this juncture.

Thank you.

 

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