WTO: 2009 NEWS ITEMS

Summary of General Council meeting

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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.

Let me start by welcoming today the participants to the WTO introductory course for Least Developed Countries who have the opportunity to attend this General Council meeting. I am pleased that this session provides you the opportunity to gain an overall picture of the WTO's work, in which the interests of the LDCs figure prominently.

Since my last report, the TNC [Trade Negotiations Committee] has held one informal meeting on 24 July. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the situation and next steps in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations. My remarks at that meeting were made available to delegations in document JOB(09)/84. I am requesting that they be included in the minutes of this General Council meeting. I will not repeat all the details, but I would like to recall some of the points that were made and build on the common threads that emerged in our dialogue.

I provided delegations with an account of my recent contacts at political level and the renewed impetus that leaders have given the DDA with the call that the Round be concluded in 2010. I then set out an overview of the state of play in each of the negotiating areas as well as an insight into the road maps envisaged by Chairs of Negotiating Groups in the weeks after the summer break.
Whether these are roadmaps, train timetables or GPS, to use the terminology evoked last Friday, whether they start in Versoix, in Vevey or in Carouge, what I heard from you on Friday is that all of them point in one and the same direction: a conclusion of the Doha Round next year.

In the lengthy, and I believe productive, discussion, there was unanimous agreement that if we are to get to our destination on time, the renewed level of political re-engagement by leaders urgently required translation into tangible progress in the negotiations.

There was also strong support for the process set out in the detailed road maps and for the need for all participants to be ready to work intensively in the autumn. The message was “all hands on deck”.

While the need to work at all levels, including the bilateral level, was recognized, the primacy of the multilateral arena was stressed by delegations. Various views were expressed about the possible impact of bilaterals on the speed and transparency of multilateral decision-making. But there was wide agreement that bilateral engagement should be no reason for slowing or holding up the multilateral process; the two have to move simultaneously. It was also noted that bilaterals should not go on too long, and should be conducted with the maximum possible transparency.

The strong position was expressed that scheduling in agriculture and NAMA [Non-Agricultural Market Access] would be the arrival point, to be just followed by a verification process. Thus, there was strong support for the “no surprises” principle, with regard not only to the scheduling process in agriculture and NAMA, but also to other areas under the Single Undertaking.

There was also considerable discussion of the need to intensify and advance work right across the scope of the negotiations. While delegations recalled the sequencing established by Ministers at Hong Kong, the need to arrive at an acceptable level of certainty in all areas at the time of agreement on Agriculture and NAMA modalities was also widely recognized. This pleads for a more horizontal process, using our established pattern of working in concentric circles. This work should be text-based as far as possible. To make such a process effective, it will be important that delegations signal their “big ticket” items but that they equally refrain from “hostage-taking” behaviour.

Lastly, I should also mention that many delegations re-affirmed our basic principles in those negotiations — multilateralism, development, and a bottom- up, inclusive and transparent process. As TNC Chair and as Director-General, I will do everything within my realm to uphold those principles.

Let me now report to you on the open-ended meeting on GI [Geographical Indications] extension and the relationship between the TRIPS [Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] Agreement and the CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] which I held yesterday afternoon under the mandate given to me at the Hong Kong Ministerial.

As required by this mandate, I have earlier reported to the TNC and the General Council on past progress with this consultative process. Since my last report to the General Council, I have been undertaking these consultations personally, with four sessions taking place between March and July. Yesterday, I convened an open-ended consultation for all members and provided an extensive report on the work done so far. Today's report will therefore be brief and cover the most recent developments.

The consultations have concentrated on technical questions, with a view to assisting members to understand more fully each other's interests and concerns, and to shed light on the technical aspects of the two issues. They have not focussed on questions of broad interest to WTO members, such as whether, and if so how, these issues should be linked to the broader negotiating agenda. This is a question which still, of course, divides members.

While the consultation process has not bridged the gaps that have long defined debate on these issues, I believe the gaps are better defined. Their contours are better illuminated. We are gradually understanding more about the implications of different ways of bridging those gaps. But we should be clear — members still do not agree on certain procedural issues and the status of these two issues vis-à-vis the overall work programme and negotiating package. Members also do not agree on substantive questions. For instance, they continue to differ on whether the scope of goods afforded higher protection under Article 23 should be extended, or not; and they differ on what specific action, if any, is required to ensure that the TRIPS Agreement and the CBD are mutually supportive.

While members differ on the need for GI extension, members do seem to agree that using the trademark, sui generis legislation or other legal means are legitimate ways of protecting GIs. The debate is more about whether and how such systems can or should deliver on members' expectations.

Delegations also support the essential objectives and principles of the CBD. Where they differ is on how to ensure that TRIPS and its implementation effectively supports those objectives and principles.

Yesterday's open-ended consultations illustrated both these points of convergence and the continuing areas of divergence. But from yesterday's discussions, I was able to conclude that there continues to be support among members for this method of continuing consultations, provided there is adequate transparency for you all. I therefore undertook to continue this process along the same lines, for the moment, while ensuring transparency, including through reporting to the TNC and to this Council.

Also, in the light of requests from Members and in the interest of transparency, I have agreed to make available the text of the informal report that I delivered to members yesterday, subject to the very strong caveat that it is only an informal impression of the process — the lifeblood of such consultations is their informality and openness. Any sense that these conversations would be reported or published in some authoritative or comprehensive record would be completely self-defeating. So I ask you to treat my report as background only — not as formal, complete or definitive in any way.

I will be pursuing these consultations following the summer break with the next meeting scheduled on 8 October.

In conclusion, our task now is to match political promise with negotiating performance. It is less about “talk about the talk” and more about “action”. It is less about “optimism or pessimism” and more about “activism”.

As I said last week, we have come a long way, and we are not far from our journey's end. The sense that we are entering the endgame needs to become both widely shared and effective. I hope the holiday period will offer you all the chance to not only refresh yourselves but also to reflect and refocus, so that the autumn will indeed be a season of fruitfulness.

That concludes my report today, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

 

Report by the Director-General on the Second Global Review of Aid for Trade

Thank you Chairman,

We held the second WTO Aid for Trade global review on 6-7 July. All our key partners were represented at this conference at the highest level, thereby reaffirming their continued support to this initiative even in these difficult times.

The presence of the United Nations Secretary General, heads of international organisations and ministers was a clear demonstration of our collective resolve to collaborate to address the capacity challenges facing developing countries.

Our assessment is that this conference was successful in taking stock of overall progress achieved since the initiative was launched in 2005 and also in highlighting the need for additional and substantive commitments from donors, particularly at this juncture when developing countries are facing even higher challenges as a result of the current global economic crisis.

The conference was also successful in stressing the leadership role now played by many developing countries in articulating their priorities, with the support of regional economic communities.

In terms of moving forward on the Aid for Trade agenda, a few key issues were identified as priorities for our future work.

In the first place, the need to reinforce the regional dimension of Aid for Trade. It is encouraging to see that our regional partners, the regional development banks, regional economic commissions and regional integration communities have reaffirmed their commitment to play a leading role in this regard.

Secondly, the need to maintain momentum on commitments post 2010. To this end, I have already begun making this point to all donors in my interactions with them. I also raised this point in my interactions with leaders at the recently concluded G8 summit in Italy and intend to continue to do so in future bilateral contacts. I am happy to note that at least at this juncture, I have not heard any donor declaring their intention to scale down their Aid for Trade support. In fact, a number of them have already indicated additional pledges to their 2005 figures despite current budgetary constraints they are facing.

Thirdly, the conference was also unanimous on the need to enhance the role of the private sector in this initiative. For my part, I will be consulting extensively with private sector groups on this and I have been assured by other Aid for Trade partners that they will be focussing on ensuring that the private sector is fully engaged.

Lastly, the conference highlighted the need to focus our attention towards evaluating the impact of aid for trade interventions in developing countries. The rationale for this is very clear. For this initiative to maintain the current level of political support, we need to demonstrate clearly and convincingly that Aid for Trade is bearing fruit on the ground and that the capacity to trade in developing countries is effectively being enhanced. I have already begun consulting with our partners to borrow from their experiences in evaluation.

In sum, the Second Global Aid for Trade Review provided us with a clear roadmap of work on Aid for Trade under the leadership of the CTD [Committee on Trade and Development].

Mr Chairman, the Aid for Trade initiative has the potential to make the difference for developing countries' ability to realise the developmental gains from a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda. For my part, I remain fully convinced that we are on the right track.

Thank you.

 

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