WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

> Chairman’s Remarks

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Delegations expressed support for the Chair’s consultations process, and agreed on the need for rapid progress in the preparations for the Conference, which will be held on 15-17 December 2011 in Geneva.

The European Union, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Thailand, Kenya on behalf of the African Group, Mauritius on behalf of the ACP Group, and Bangladesh on behalf of the LDC Group called for Ministerial action on trade and development issues, especially those that would benefit the least developed countries (LDCs).

Many delegations urged the Conference to send out a strong signal against protectionism, and to strengthen the WTO’s monitoring mechanism on trade measures.

Several delegations expressed support for various proposals being readied for the Conference, including on a work programme for regional trade agreements, and on improving guidelines for WTO observership of intergovernmental organizations.

On another matter, the Chair noted a consensus among members regarding the following new chairs of Doha Round bodies: Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture: Amb. John Adank (New Zealand); Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment: Amb. Hiswani Harun (Malaysia); and Negotiating Group on Rules: Amb. Wayne McCook (Jamaica).

 

Chairman’s Remarks
Informal meeting at the level of head of delegation

Thank you all for coming to this informal meeting.  The purpose of today’s meeting is transparency, in line with the FIT principle, which we agreed in February.  I attach the utmost importance to this principle, which is why I thought it necessary to inform you, the full membership, on the progress in my consultations concerning the Eighth Ministerial Conference (MC8).  Given the very limited time available to us before MC8, there is a clear need to advance rapidly in our preparations.  This is a shared responsibility of us all.  I would also like to inform you this morning of a number of other items related to next week’s General Council meeting, including organizational matters related to MC8 and the state of play in my consultations on the appointment of negotiating group Chairs.

Report on consultations on MC8

Let us now turn to my report on MC8.  With less than eight weeks remaining before the start of MC8, I would like to recall the overall objective for the Conference.  This remains as we defined it at the outset – to produce a successful Ministerial Conference.  Of course, definitions of what this would mean in practice might differ.  However we all want a Conference which, despite the current problems in the Round, will help to reinforce the value of the WTO system for all its Members. 

As you are aware, I have been holding extensive consultations in preparation for MC8 since May.  During this process, I have met repeatedly with all the Group coordinators, with a large number of individual delegations and with delegations in various group formats.  I have also coordinated this work with the Chairs of the Subsidiary Bodies.  As ever, my door has also remained constantly open for any other delegation wishing to meet me.

I have just completed a fourth Round of consultations, which I started just after the summer break.  Building on the agreements we reached at the July General Council on some principles for our work and in particular the “gentleman’s agreement”, I have attempted to take us forward by focussing on four questions.

Two of these questions concerned organizational matters.  First, with respect to attendance of Observers and NGOs at MC8, we have convergence on repeating past practice.  For Observers, this means inviting to MC8 those who attended MC7, and for NGOs it means continuing the Secretariat-based procedure we have used since the first MC and which was agreed by the General Council in July 1996.  I will be seeking the Council’s endorsement of my suggested approaches to these matters next week.

Second, I suggested that we operationalize the two themes we identified earlier in structuring the discussions at the Conference.  In this way we would have a Working Session on each theme, one on the 2nd day and one on the 3rd day of the MC.  In line with the FIT principle, this would allow all Ministers to have the opportunity to participate fully.

In my consultations, there was convergence on the principle of having two Working Sessions.  However, there was also a lack of clarity on the wording of their titles.  We will need to come back to this aspect later on in our work.

My next question was aimed at determining whether delegations were testing any concrete proposals on non-DDA issues, or regular work.  From what I heard from both delegations and from the respective Chairs of Subsidiary Bodies, I think we are advancing well along the track of work we have for these, which is based around the existing committee processes.

My final question was on a possible MC8 output document.  A number of those I consulted said we need a Ministerial Declaration, some mentioned a Ministerial Statement, while others believed a summary by the MC Chairman on his own responsibility may be all we can achieve.  However there was a wide acceptance that we can only determine what form the document (or documents) may take once we know what it contains.

In order to take us forward on this question, I designed a template aimed at clarifying what we have to do (see Annex).  Let me now explain what this template aims to do.

I started by asking myself what Ministers are expected to do at a MC.  Based on the WTO agreement and past practice, I identified three things which appear at the top of the template.  These are:

  • receive reports for noting;
  • take any necessary decisions;
  • provide political guidance.

On the left-hand side of the template I put the issues.  In my consultations, I heard quite a wide range of views on the issues Ministers might take up.  I was concerned that we could end up with an endless list of issues, which would be in direct contradiction to our wish to avoid the “Christmas tree” syndrome.  So I grouped them into three broad categories:

  • Importance of the Multilateral Trading System and the WTO;
  • Trade and Development;
  • DDA.

In my consultations, it was agreed that these categories are broad enough to accommodate any issue that Members agree should be taken up by Ministers.

At this stage, all the boxes in the template are blank, and the aim now is to see how these boxes can be filled in.

For the Reports for noting, we have processes in place so that the Subsidiary Bodies will as usual submit their reports to the GC.  Proposals for Decisions are now in the hands of the proponents, who have to find consensus on them by 2 November, in line with the “gentleman’s agreement”.  The contents of the boxes under these two headings will thus be determined through these processes.

In the light of this, there was wide agreement in my consultations that the focus in my process should now turn to the political guidance Ministers will provide.  I intend to start by asking Members to identify the core elements an output document would contain in terms of political guidance.

If we start to see convergence among Members on a number of such core elements, we will try to determine how to harness this convergence and develop it into drafting.  Depending on the progress we make in this regard, we could then look at how we could package what we have in a draft outcome document.  In this way, we would settle the question of the form of the outcome document.

As I said at the beginning of my statement, I am already starting my next round of consultations.  I will be soliciting delegations’ thoughts on possible elements for Ministers’ political guidance under the first two boxes in my template.  In this process, I will be looking for incremental, but rapid, progress and I count on the support of all of you.  That concludes my report on my consultations.          

MC8 organizational matters

In my further consultations, I will also take up the remaining organizational matters, including the Election of Officers for MC8.  In addition, I will inform the Council next week that I am holding consultations on the request for observer status at MC8 submitted by Palestine, which was circulated in document WT/L/822.

I will also inform the Council that a request for observer status as an IGO at MC8 has been received from the League of Arab States, which currently does not have observer status in any WTO body.  I will propose that we proceed in exactly the same way that we have in the past on any such requests from IGOs.  This entails that, unless any objection is received by the Secretariat from any Member by 15 November, the League of Arab States would be granted observer status to MC8.

As in the past, I will inform the General Council at its next meeting of the status of this request.  For transparency purposes, delegations will have an opportunity at that meeting to discuss this request.

Chairmanships of negotiating bodies

As I informed delegations by fax on 9 June and 23 September, I have been holding consultations on the chairmanships of the negotiating bodies in the areas of Agriculture, Trade and Environment, and Rules.

These consultations, which I conducted with the assistance of Ambassador Johansen (Norway), Chair of the Dispute Settlement Body and Ambassadors Matus (Chile) and Gero (Canada), former Chairmen of the General Council, have shown a consensus among Members on the appointment of the following Chairs:

Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture:

Amb. John Adank (New Zealand)

Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment:

Amb. Hiswani Harun (Malaysia)

Negotiating Group on Rules:

Amb. Wayne McCook (Jamaica)

Our colleagues will be elected as Chairs at the next formal meeting of the respective bodies.  I will make this announcement formally at next week’s Council meeting

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