Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee
When I reported to the General Council in
December last year the focus was on reviewing and evaluating the year
2009. In my report I noted that, overall, last year saw technical
progress across the WTO’s negotiating agenda, but that the necessary
political will to propel us to the finishing line remained absent.
During their deliberations at the 7th Ministerial Conference in
December, Ministers were unanimous in calling for 2010 to signal a
change of gear and endorsed a continuation of the senior officials
process which had provided an important forum for discussion in the last
quarter of 2009 following the Delhi meeting.
In my report to you today, however, I wish to
look forward as we move towards the stocktaking exercise at the end of
March. In this context, let me provide you with a brief overview of my
most recent activities as Chair of the TNC [Trade Negotiations
Committee], including the activities during last week's meetings among
As you all know, the President of the Swiss
Confederation hosted the traditional informal ministerial meeting at
Davos at the end of January. I understand that the Swiss mission has
circulated the personal concluding remarks of Mrs Leuthard. The purpose
of the meeting was to assess where we stand in the Doha Round and what
is needed to reach our target. From the discussions among Ministers
present in Davos as well as from my meetings with individual members a
number of important messages were underlined.
First, in relation to the DDA [Doha
Development Agenda], I detected an unwavering commitment to the progress
achieved to date as the basis for entering into the last stage of the
negotiations. Unravelling the hard-won progress made in the negotiations
would not be an option if we want to conclude the Round. There was
genuine concern that time is not our friend and that further delay will
only increase the risks of back-tracking.
Second, Ministers at Davos reiterated the
importance of continued ministerial attention over the coming weeks as
senior officials intensify their work in order to prepare for such an
Third, in the context of the global economic
crisis Ministers pledged to continue to resist protectionist pressures.
I informed Ministers that at the last TPRB [Trade Policy Review Body]
meeting on 22 January 2010, all members had welcomed the contribution
made by the WTO's monitoring of trade and trade-related measures and had
asked me to prepare two reports for this year - one in June and a second
one in November. I also informed them that, in addition to the general
monitoring of relevant measures taken by members and Observer
Governments, the WTO Secretariat will continue to prepare (jointly with
the OECD and UNCTAD Secretariats) reports on G20 trade and investment
measures, as requested by G20 leaders. The next such report is expected
to be ready in early March and, as usual, it will be made available to
Since then I have had meetings with a number
of Ministers and leaders, including members of the Australian government
and the new EU Trade Commissioner. These meetings have re-enforced my
sense that capitals remain engaged and committed to injecting momentum
from the political level into the Geneva process.
Last week I held consultations in various
formats, including a Green Room meeting. The purpose of these
consultations was to briefly share with participants our impressions of
where we stand in the negotiations at this point and to initiate
preparations for the stocktaking, including an exchange of views on its
purpose, its content and its format. Even if we do not need to close on
all the details of the stocktaking at this stage, I think that we now
have a clearer sense of the direction in which we are moving.
The stocktaking was meant to assess whether or
not a conclusion of the Doha Round in 2010 would be doable and we
collectively thought this had to be done after MC7 [Seventh Ministerial
Conference]. In my view, the 2010 question has two components — a solid
technical preparation and a political determination.
On the state of play in the bilateral and
multilateral processes my sense is that, although some progress is
taking place, gaps remain. At this stage we do not yet have a clear
sense of the size of these gaps and we would certainly need to have a
better sense by the stocktaking at the end of March.
On the latter point, the political decision
about 2010, I believe this is a judgement that belongs to Ministers and
that, on this specific issue, engagement will be needed. Given where we
are right now, it is also clear, however, that the end of March is too
early for that.
Given where we are, I believe the stocktaking
provides an important opportunity to inject the political energy and
momentum in the negotiations so that we can hopefully chart the path for
cracking the remaining nuts. I believe that this exercise is best
undertaken by senior officials at this stage.
At the stocktaking we should identify progress
made until now at the technical level and the outstanding gaps. On the
multilateral side this could be done by the Negotiating Chairs in
factual reports to the TNC under their own responsibility according to
standard practice. With respect to the work taking place bilaterally
among a number of you, I believe that by the time of the stocktaking,
and given the bilateral engagement taking place in the meantime, we
should have a clearer sense from participants on the gaps in their
positions as well as a clearer sense of a negotiating dynamic to address
At the stocktaking we would therefore have a
better sense of where the gaps remain, the size of these gaps, as well
as the dynamic to address them. This would enable you to report to your
Ministers and decide after further consultations on how best to address
the next steps post-stocktaking, which will need political guidance.
In terms of timing, the dates being considered
for the stocktaking are 29 and 30 March. This would provide delegations
and Chairs with the week starting 22 March for any further consultations
to prepare the stocktaking.
This, Mr Chairman, is my sense of where we
stand at this juncture vis-à-vis the stocktaking. Let me now turn to a
brief outline of the state of play in the different negotiating groups.
In Agriculture, work continues on two
tracks — templates and on the bracketed or otherwise annotated issues in
the draft modalities. On templates, and on the associated work on base
data, Step 2 has been engaged to draw up drafts of the actual proposed
formats for the scheduling process and members are actively involved.
There has been progress on base data and its verification. In
particular, there is an agreed definition of the Value of Production,
which is fundamental to commitments on OTDS [overall trade-distorting
domestic support]. On the modalities, the Chair has continued his
consultations, especially in the area of SSM [Special Safeguard
Mechanism] where some technical issues are under discussion, including
on the basis of submissions from members. Consultations are also
continuing on tariff simplification, TRQ [tariff rate quota] creation,
tropical products and preference erosion.
Ambassador Walker will again convene
open-ended informals in the first weeks of March on templates and base
data. In addition, he will consult on the bracketed and otherwise
annotated issues in the draft modalities, including again SSM, other
market access matters and also cotton. During this period he also will
engage with members on the work plan. And, of course, he remains
available for “confessionals” on technical ambiguities in the draft
On NAMA [non-agricultural market access],
the Negotiating Group on Market Access met during the first week of
February to pursue discussions on several NTB [non-tariff barriers]
proposals. I understand that the exchanges were good, business-like with
members engaging. Clearly NTBs is not an area where results can be
achieved quickly and there is a need for much more discussion and
clarification. But I understand that we are moving into a text-based
discussion on some of these proposals. The Group is meeting again the
week of 15 March where the objective will be to make further progress on
these texts in order to get them to a higher level of maturity. The
Chairman has called for input which takes account of the work done
during this recent NAMA week and I hope that members will be in a
position to respond by the end of this month.
I understand that the Chairman has categorized
NTB proposals into Wagons I or II of a train. Wagon I proposals are
those which have been highlighted as meriting particular attention in
the draft modalities text as well as the two more recent proposals which
look at the cross-cutting issues arising from the TBT [technical
barriers to trade] related sectoral proposals. The Wagon II proposals
comprise all the other remaining NTB proposals. The Chairman intends to
hold consultations on how to address this group after the 15 March NAMA
Since the beginning of the year, the
Services negotiations have addressed market access, rule-making and
the text of a draft waiver for LDC [least-developed countries]
preferences. A two-week negotiating cluster was completed last week,
during which these three topics were fully covered.
On market access, there have been few
surprises. Little if any substantive progress has been made. What
progress there is has been mainly in the nature of technical
clarifications of offers, or of signals made by Ministers in July 2008.
On rule-making, there has been some forward movement. The Chair of the
Working Party on Domestic Regulation will issue an annotated version of
the Chair's text to serve as a basis for future negotiations. In the
Working Party on GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services] Rules,
there is now agreement to proceed with the gathering of information on
services subsidies to serve as a basis for future discussions on this
The Chairman of the Special Session held
consultations in late January on the issue of a waiver mechanism to
grant preferences to LDCs. The small consultative group led by Norway
has produced a draft text of a waiver, which was circulated to all
members and discussed at the Special Session held on 9 February. The
text contains several elements on which agreement has yet to be reached,
not least of which are the scope of the waiver and its duration. In the
weeks ahead, the Chairman of the Special Session intends to continue his
efforts to drive forward the discussion on this topic.
Looking ahead, members have agreed to a
further meeting of the Special Session on 15 March, that will focus on
the issue of an appropriate input for the stocktaking. In the meantime,
the Chairman of the Special Session will continue to consult on this
matter, including through his usual Enchilada consultations.
In the Rules area, the Negotiating
Group continued its work with a meeting in late January dedicated to
horizontal subsidies and fisheries subsidies. Having completed its
review of the fisheries subsidies roadmap late last year, the Group at
that meeting began consideration of new proposals from delegations
presenting alternative approaches to fisheries subsidies disciplines.
The Group's next meeting, to take place in the first week of March, will
complete the Group's review of the Chair text on anti-dumping, with a
discussion of the remaining bracketed issues. A further Rules cluster,
covering all three areas, will take place in early May, back-to-back
with the Rules Committees. At that meeting, the Group will continue
considering proposals from delegations presenting alternative approaches
to fisheries subsidies disciplines, including on special and
differential treatment. In conjunction with that meeting, the Chair has
also scheduled a panel discussion with the FAO [Food and Agriculture
Organization] on international fisheries management instruments and
With regard to Regional Trade Agreements,
the Chair will hold a meeting in March 2010.
On Special and Differential Treatment,
work in the CTD [Committee on Trade and Development] Special Session,
has resumed in 2010 with the consideration of elements of the Monitoring
Mechanism. This work is continuing on the basis of the Chairman's
revised non paper of November 2009 with the objective of bridging the
remaining gaps and removing brackets, wherever possible. There are still
a number of areas where members will need to find common ground. The
Chair plans to intensify work in the meetings scheduled through February
and March and based on the progress made, he hopes to revise his
non-paper by the time of the stocktaking.
The Chairman has indicated that he is also
prepared to revisit the Agreement specific proposals, on some of which
areas of divergence are quite narrow, as soon as members are ready to
put forward new ideas and language that will enable progress. The
Chairman will also be working in close collaboration with the relevant
Chairpersons to determine the best way to coordinate and ensure progress
on the Category II proposals which are being addressed in other WTO
In the area of Trade and Environment,
consultations have been conducted by the Chair on different aspects of
the mandate since the beginning of the year, and the Committee held an
informal open-ended meeting last week on 18-19 February.
On the issue of the relationship between WTO
and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), the Work Programme
calls for text based negotiations to begin and, to this end, further
work will have to be undertaken in the coming weeks, based on the
proposals on the table, to develop language that can be acceptable to
As regards the mandate on environmental goods
and services, a number of new submissions — such as that of Saudi
Arabia, the Philippines, Japan — were put forward and discussed at the
CTESS [Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session] meeting last
week. These submissions further contributed to the process of
identifying environmental goods of interest to members pursuant to the
Work Programme. As a next step, the Chair will be working towards
developing a compilation document based on members' inputs on
environmental goods of interest to delegations.
In the area of Trade Facilitation,
members were able to make a considerable step forward by coming up with
a first draft consolidated negotiating text (TF/W/165).
While still work in progress, with a significant amount of further
negotiation yet to be done, this marked a clear sign of advancement in
that delegations are now in a position to base their future work on a
single, legal text.
The current draft still requires a lot of
refinement and “cleaning-up”. Members had an opportunity to advance this
process during the second week of February with a first run through the
consolidated text. This will be continued, and intensified, in the
context of the Group's second meeting cluster, which is scheduled to
take place at the beginning of March.
By the time of the stocktaking, members will
have been able to complete their first round of revisiting the entire
negotiating text. Opportunity for subsequent, in-depth reviews will be
given in the course of two further meetings in the period up to July.
This process aims at advancing the substantive work of the Group that
still needs to be done. The current text needs to be streamlined by
reducing the number of square brackets and eliminating duplicative
elements. Negotiations have to intensify on all elements of the draft,
especially with respect to the area of special and differential
As far as the DSU [Dispute Settlement
Understanding] negotiations are concerned, a first round of discussion
of all issues has now almost been completed, based on the Chairman's
text of July 2008. At an open-ended informal meeting of the DSB [Dispute
Settlement Body] Special Session on 5 February, the Chairman reported on
the most recent work and took stock of the state of play and way
forward. He noted that it has been useful to discuss all the draft legal
text and consolidate the basis for the work.
On that basis, the Chairman proposed to start
a more intensive process, in which it would be necessary for delegations
to engage on the basis of the comments received in the previous phase.
Over the coming months, he proposed that the work be conducted around
group meetings in variable geometry depending on the topic to be
discussed. This would combine meetings convened by the Chair and space
for meetings among delegations.
With respect to TRIPS [Trade-related
Intellectual Property Rights] Special Session, informal group
consultations were held on 4 February, followed by an open-ended
informal meeting on 5 February. Delegations reiterated their
appreciation of Ambassador Trevor Clarke's report contained in
TN/IP/19 as a fair and balanced reflection of the state of play and
remaining challenges. While the five guiding principles for the way
forward that are suggested in that report were considered as useful for
future discussion, the view was expressed that they should not be used
as a basis for negotiations nor as a reason to continue rhetorical
debates on certain issues such as the meaning of “to facilitate
protection” or “multilateral system”. It was generally agreed that the
Special Session would proceed by clusters of issues as has been done in
the past and that technical work on practical examples of, or concerns
with, the implementation of the different proposals in different
countries would be most useful. Several delegations indicated
willingness to make or further develop case studies, examples and
scenarios. The Special Session will hold a formal meeting on 4 March
well ahead of the stocktaking.
Turning to the two TRIPS issues on which I
have been mandated to pursue consultations as Director-General, not as
Chair of the TNC — the relationship between TRIPS and the Convention on
Biological Diversity and the extension of Article 23 GI [geographical
indications] protection — I would like to refer to the report I made at
the 17 December 2009 meeting of the General Council. It is my intention
to convene another round of consultations on 5 March and to report to
delegations at an open-ended informal meeting on 12 March.
Mr Chairman, I believe this overview should
leave nobody in doubt about the determination with which our Negotiating
Chairs pursue their work in the respective areas. In each of our
Negotiating Groups there is a forward-looking agenda which will ensure
that the Geneva process remains ready to translate political movement
into concrete and substantive progress.
I will, of course, continue to meet frequently
with the Negotiating Chairs as we move towards the stocktaking. At a
time when many members in this organization are getting frustrated at
the time it takes to realise the gains of this Round for them, the
Negotiating Chairs and I can and will chart a path for your engagement.
But however good this path is, you yourselves have to walk it by
engaging in negotiations with each other. It is also necessary to
underline once more that bilateral contact, important though it may be,
cannot be a substitute for a strong multilateral engagement at all
2010 cannot be a wasted year and my
consultations last week confirmed that the determination to ensure that
we use this year wisely and fruitfully is very present among