WTO: 2013 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

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Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Since the last meeting of the General Council in October, the TNC [Trade Negotiations Committee] has held three informal meetings on 14 and 25 October and 12 November.  In conjunction with you, Mr Chairman, we also held an informal HoDs [heads of delegation] meeting on 1 November.

I would ask that my TNC statements — JOB/TNC/23, 26 and 27 respectively — be placed on the record of this meeting.

Before I start I would like to thank the Chairs and the Secretariat for their work over recent weeks.

Mr. Chairman, Heads of Delegations,

When I accepted the position of Director-General I told you that one of my priorities would be transparency and inclusiveness. I had often heard that truly productive meetings could only happen with a small number of delegations, behind closed doors.

I never accepted that. I always felt that all delegations had to take part in the decision-making process. Of course meetings in smaller configurations are needed to speed up the process, but the results of these meetings had to feed into a more open, transparent and inclusive process.

I have put these ideas into practice as the list of meetings for October and November shows.

In recent weeks we have completed over 150 hours of negotiations in rooms W, D and E meetings alone.

Our very last meetings were open-ended [ie, open to all members] in Room W. It was not the most efficient way of doing things and I apologise for that. Our last meeting started on Sunday at 10am and finished at 7am yesterday.

I thank you all for the tremendous effort carried out over the last couple of months. I hope you will forgive me for having pushed so hard and for trying to get efficiency through unorthodox procedures like the 60-second rule.

I would like to think that these often unpleasant procedures were necessary to help us cover so much ground over such a short period of time.

I believe we achieved a lot and we did so hearing all voices and allowing for a process where everyone knew what was happening and where the trade-offs were accessible to all. More than that, each one of you had a chance to defend your national interests to the fullest extent.

I am proud of that. Particularly because this inclusive process did not prevent us from making progress. In fact we have made more progress in just the past few weeks than we have over the past five years. The ship almost sank a few times, but we managed to keep it afloat and on course.

Over the last few weeks I saw the WTO the way it should be.

“Over the last few weeks I saw the WTO the way it should be. You were negotiating. You were dynamic. You worked hard to get an agreement: engaging capitals, seeking common ground, making compromises”

You were negotiating.

You were dynamic.

You worked hard to get an agreement: engaging capitals, seeking common ground, making compromises.

You worked through weekends, around the clock. You lost sleep.

I have not seen such effort and engagement since July 2008. And in contrast, back then, just a few delegations were active actors throughout.

As a result of your effort and engagement we managed to conclude negotiations in a large number of difficult and sensitive areas.

The texts before you today show this quite clearly. The set of documents circulated to you this morning includes the following:

    • Agriculture General Services — JOB/TNC/28
    • Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes — JOB/TNC/29
    • Export Competition — JOB/TNC/31
    • Tariff Rate Quota Administration — JOB/TNC/30
    • Monitoring Mechanism on Special and Differential Treatment — JOB/TNC/34
    • Duty-Free and Quota-Free Market Access for LDCs — JOB/TNC/33
    • Preferential Rules of Origin for LDCs —  JOB/TNC/24/Rev.1
    • Cotton — JOB/TNC/32
    • Operationalization of the Waiver Concerning Preferential Treatment to Services and Service Suppliers of LDCs —  JOB/TNC/25/Rev.1

These ten texts were negotiated as a package. Members made compromises and showed flexibility with the understanding that their contributions would be reciprocated in other areas of the negotiation.

As you know, we have not finished our work in all negotiating areas and, therefore, none of these texts could be understood to be fully agreed. Each one of them has a square bracket [indicating text that has not been agreed] at the beginning of the text and another at the end.

The documents before you are simply a snapshot of where we are at this point in time. They consolidate the progress we made so far. They do not incorporate anything that happened after 7:00 AM yesterday. They are the documents you negotiated in the open-ended meetings in room W.

Many have asked for adjustments of the texts where they felt further progress could be made, or where there were specific difficulties in some areas.

I did not make the requested adjustments, because other members did not have time to comment on them. I therefore kept the texts intact as they were at 7am yesterday.

In full transparency, I must disclose that there is one slight change made to the export competition text in order to take on-board some of the language proposed by Cuba as we were finishing our last meeting we had on that issue.

As we did not have the opportunity to come back to that text in our negotiating process, I took the risk of including some elements of the Cuban proposal to the text even though I had not had the chance to test it with other Members.

As members had not discussed the proposal in that meeting I did not apply the full scope of the proposal, but I thought some elements were useful and appropriate as they referred to special and differential (S&D) treatment for LDCs and NFIDCs [net food-importing developing countries]. I hope I have not upset the balance you were seeking. Nonetheless, as I said before, none of the texts are fully agreed so you may revisit these adjustments in due course.

Since we will not have further open-ended meetings between now and Bali, the documents will not be revised.

I nonetheless encourage Members to continue seeking convergence wherever this is possible. Any further results will be taken to Bali and may be incorporated in the consolidated texts at the appropriate time.

In my assessment, after the hard effort we put into the negotiations, we have good news and bad news.

The good news is that we came very close to fully agreed texts. As far as the Geneva process is concerned, we managed to get convergence in almost all areas. Except for the Trade Facilitation text, the other documents are either entirely or mostly clean of square brackets.

They are not agreed texts but they are “stable”.

Delegations may want to revisit them, but in our process — here in Geneva — we managed to conclude negotiations.

Even Section II of the Trade Facilitation text — our largest iceberg until a couple of days ago — is now virtually “clean”. We still need to conclude work on some of the provisions for LDCs, but otherwise we have a stable and finalised text.

I'm afraid the same cannot be said of Section I. We cleaned much of the text but some issues remain unresolved. I don’t think the challenges in those issues are insurmountable. On the contrary, I believe the landing zones are discernible to us.

The bad news, however, is that over the last few days, we stopped making the tough political calls. And this prevented us from getting to the finish line. We are indeed close, but not quite there.

What remains to be negotiated is not something that can be easily managed by the ministers in Bali. Although we can discern the landing zones in most — if not all — of the pending issues, the bracketed areas are too many and too technical in nature.

“Holding negotiations in the short time we'll have in Bali would be simply impractical with over 100 ministers around the table. I don’t believe that small negotiating meetings behind locked doors would do the trick either. Anyway, they are not an option”

Holding negotiations in the short time we'll have in Bali would be simply impractical with over 100 ministers around the table. I don’t believe that small negotiating meetings behind locked doors would do the trick either. Anyway, they are not an option. Even at this critical juncture, I don’t believe Members would be ready to abandon the transparent and inclusive nature of our negotiations.

Moreover, many Members expressly stated that Bali must not be a negotiating Ministerial Conference. I agree with them. It would not be feasible. It would not be successful.

We are not going to Bali with a set of finalised documents that could allow the ministers to announce to the world a set of multilaterally agreed outcomes — the first since the WTO was created.

At this point in time we cannot tell the world that we've delivered.

And I will inform the ministers that we have failed to find convergence. I will tell them that we came truly close to a successful outcome, but that, once more, the finish line eluded us.

Failure in Bali will have grave consequences for the multilateral trading system. Most of you know this.

We will fail not only the WTO and multilateralism. We will also fail our constituencies at large, the business community and, above all, the most vulnerable among us.

“Not a single human being living in poverty anywhere in the world will be better-off if we fail in Bali.”

We will fail the poor worldwide. Not a single human being living in poverty anywhere in the world will be better-off if we fail in Bali.

What we have on the table for Trade Facilitation would deliver jobs and opportunities in times of unemployment and slow growth. It would also deliver technical assistance and capacity building for the better integration of developing and least developed countries into global trade flows.

What we have on the table would deliver for the least developed countries in several areas:

  • Improvement in market access schemes of duty-free-quota-free;
  • Simplified and more accessible rules of origin for their exports;
  • Improved market access for the services sector;
  • And a renewed push for the cotton negotiations.

What we have on the table would deliver a mechanism for the review and strengthening of S&D provisions in all WTO agreements.

And what we have on the table would deliver on very significant agricultural issues. In this pillar, the results would:

  • Set us on track for a reform of export subsidies and measures of similar effect.
  • Provide for a better implementation of tariff rate quota commitments.
  • And provide a temporary shelter for food security programs and put in place negotiations that would address concerns regarding the sustainability of legitimate food security and food aid programs.

The worst of it all is that we would fail — we would lose all of this — for no justifiable reason. Nothing that is on the table requires any Member to go beyond what is doable. One may not get all that he seeks, but no unmanageable contribution is required from anyone.

“We should not accept the inevitable simplistic assessments that will show up over the next few days about why we are at an impasse. This is not about developed versus developing countries. This not a North — South divide. We all tried. We all tried hard.”

Above all, we should not accept the inevitable simplistic assessments that will show up over the next few days about why we are at an impasse.

This is not about developed versus developing countries.

This not a North — South divide.

We all tried. We all tried hard. I saw the developing and least developed fully engaged and showing the impetus and flexibility required for a successful conclusion of the negotiations. Only those that truly want an outcome would show such a disposition.

I also saw developed Members trying hard to get to the finish line.

The negotiations on Section II of the Trade Facilitation text made it abundantly clear that both sides want a successful outcome. Sure; it was a rough, tough and bloody endeavour. That’s how negotiations are in here. But I was proud of the effort and of the engagement.

Both North and South want this to end successfully.

This is also not about lack of time. If we had a few more weeks, we would still not make it. Over the last few days I began to see signs of backtracking and inflexibility. Time would not remedy this situation.

Again, this is not about a North-South divide. This is not about shortness of time.

This is about specific, localised difficulties. All of them perfectly workable if the will is there. The landing zones are reachable.

But we have proved we can't cross that final yard with normal negotiating practices.

No, we are in a new stage now. The final few steps must be taken together by members.

You will need to talk to each other over the next few days, to figure out a way forward.

I will be consulting members and I will do everything I can to facilitate discussions.

But it is up to you to find the solution that we all want to see.

We are almost there.

If we are to get this deal over the line it will need political engagement — and political will.

Ministers will need to decide what future they want to see — both for the issues on the table here today — and for the WTO.

It aggrieves me to have to say this again. I'm sure it stings for us all to be in this position. So close, but not quite there.

We have been in this situation before. We let the opportunity go by. And we sorely regret it.

If we miss the opportunity we were given this time around, we will regret it a lot more, for the costs will be even greater.

We have reached the end of the process in Geneva. We have come as far as we can.

I am sure you will brief your authorities on the situation we face. Your ministers will have an opportunity in Bali to address it.

Therefore my recommendation, in light of the nature and shape of the documents before us, is that the General Council takes note of the documents which I would simply use to brief ministers on the state of play as of now — but not as agreed texts for adoption.

Thank you.

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