WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

Summary of the General Council meeting

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MINUTES:

Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Since the last meeting of the General Council, the TNC has met in informal mode on three separate occasions. On 8 and 29 March participants reviewed developments in the Doha Development Agenda since the beginning of this year and in anticipation of the package that was circulated by me and the Negotiating Chairs on 21 April. Last Friday, on 29 April, the TNC met again to consider the next steps in our process.

My remarks at the informal TNCs in March were circulated to delegations in documents JOB/TNC/8 and 9 and I do not intend to repeat what I said then.  Suffice it to say that delegations used both meetings to express their concern at the lack of substantive progress in key areas of the negotiations and to call for a collective demonstration of compromise to assist the Negotiating Chairs in preparing their texts before Easter.

On 21 April, the Negotiating Chairs and I in my capacity as Chair of the TNC circulated to all participants documents which represent the product of the work in their Negotiating Groups over the past months. These documents were accompanied by an introductory cover note by me as well as a report on the consultations I have been conducting on NAMA sectoral negotiations.  For the first time since 2001 Members have the opportunity to consider the entire Doha package, including all market access areas as well as the entirety of the regulatory agenda.

At the informal TNC last Friday I emphasized the gravity of the situation for the Round and for all of the efforts and aspirations it embodies. I also emphasized the heavy collective responsibility, not only for the Doha Round but for the multilateral trading system as a whole. There is no individual clever escape from this collective responsibility. While I do not wish to repeat my statement to the TNC which was circulated last Friday as JOB/TNC/10, I do wish to stress my call to Members to listen to each other and to focus constructively on our way ahead. This is a time, if there ever was one, to think and act systemically.

Members approached our discussion last Friday in a realistic, yet positive manner and I think a number of important points emerged upon which we can build our further process.

First, all Members are aware of the grave risk of the current stalemate — for the DDA and for the WTO system more generally.

Second, no Member is ready to throw in the towel in terms of the what we have built so far, nor is anyone ready to let the DDA drift.

Third, there was general agreement that a new approach beyond the business-as-usual was required and that such an approach should lead to results in 2011, in particular bearing in mind the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference taking place in Geneva on 15 to 17 December.

Fourth, various ideas, including, but not limited to solving the NAMA impasse, have been floated. These and other ideas need further discussion, sooner rather than later, including at the political level.

In sum, Members are clear about what they do not want and are open to ideas on the way forward. This is our priority in the weeks ahead.
           
Last Friday’s exchange of views represented a first step on our collective journey towards defining an appropriate way forward. Over the next weeks trade ministers will be meeting — first at ASEAN, APEC and subsequently at the OECD — and this will allow for them to provide a political input to our discussions here in Geneva.  As I said last week, I intend to keep consulting with individual and groups of Members over the next few weeks to follow up on the views and ideas expressed at the TNC. On 31 May I will be calling another informal TNC to inform you all on these activities.

The weeks ahead will be intense and will again put to the test our ability to deliver collectively. Starting next Monday when we will be meeting in Istanbul for the fourth United Nations Conference on Least-developed Countries. The last such conference took place in 2001, just some months before the launch of the Doha Development Round. For this Conference just like for the Doha Round it is not a question of words, it is a question of deeds. It is a question of delivering on the mandates that were agreed almost ten years ago. It is about showing that the international community can deliver.

 

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