WTO: 2014 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

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Thank you. Good morning everyone.

Reinforcing your statement of yesterday, Mr Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to bid a very warm welcome to Yemen, as our 160th member. Congratulations on completing the process — it’s great to have you here now in the General Council, and I look forward to working with you.

I would also like to welcome Liberia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Axel Addy, who is observing proceedings again today. It is our honour to have you here with us.

Since the last meeting of the General Council in May, the TNC has held one informal meeting on 25 June 2014.  At that meeting, we continued our discussions on the DDA work programme, focusing on the three pivotal and interlinked areas of agriculture, NAMA (non-agricultural market access) and services. 

My statement and the oral reports of all the Negotiating Group Chairs were issued in document JOB/TNC/39.  I would request that they form part of the record of this meeting.

In giving you this report today I am not going to discuss the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

What happens there will have a significant influence on the progress that we are able to make in our other post-Bali work, and particularly on the DDA work program.

But this will be dealt with under a separate item on the agenda. 

So I will focus now solely on the encouraging engagement that I had been seeing on the DDA — and which had been increasing throughout the year. 

I think it was clear from the discussion we had at the TNC in June that members remain committed to advancing the Doha negotiations on all fronts.

At that meeting we heard from all the Chairs on their consultations and plans for future work.  They each expressed their readiness to continue to provide a forum for Members to engage at a more specific level.

Since then, the Chairs have continued to consult delegations in different formats and configurations. And my own consultations with members on the DDA issues were encouraging. 

In addition to the work I outlined at the TNC, I have been engaging with many delegations, including the regional coordinators, to seek their views and hear their ideas. 

This has confirmed my view that we need to focus on the three key areas of agriculture, NAMA and services in the first instance — but that we also need to remain mindful of how to move other negotiating issues forward as well. 

I want to be clear that the attention on agriculture, NAMA and services is not at the expense of other issues. It is just that members have been telling me that this is where the critical logjams are, and so they will need to be addressed before other negotiating issues can also come into play.

My discussions with regard to each of the 3 areas have been positive and encouraging, but are still at an early stage. 

I have welcomed the willingness of members to think creatively and to be open to new ideas. They also recognise and take account of the significant progress that has already been made in the negotiations thus far, much of it reflected and consolidated in the 2008 texts. 

A major challenge will be striking the right balance between agriculture, NAMA and services in an overall sense. 

We can no longer sidestep the tough negotiating issues — for example, the need to tackle all forms of trade distorting agricultural subsidies; to find market access solutions on agriculture and NAMA; and to look at services in greater depth. 

Here we need to recognise that the 2008 texts will need some adjustment, notwithstanding my belief that much of what is in those texts, including the overall architecture and goals contained in those texts, can still be maintained.

By talking about agriculture and NAMA together I believe we will be better able to find a way through this conundrum.  Trying to sequence the conversation, expecting to solve one issue before we tackle the other, is not going to work.

We need to recognise that the level of ambition in agriculture will be related in part to the level of ambition in NAMA, and vice versa.  And this balance will inevitably have some kind of impact on overall ambition.

Of course the Chairs have also been actively advancing this work in the negotiating groups.  They will circulate fuller reports to you, as they deem appropriate, but here is a brief overview based on the reports of the Chairs to me:

On Agriculture, since the last TNC on 25 June, the Chair has pursued his informal consultations aimed at clarifying the perspectives that members have on the way forward for unresolved issues in this area. 

The Chair held two open-ended meetings of the Special Session, on 3 July and 23 July to provide for transparency and full participation concerning discussions on the agriculture negotiations, and to provide for an exchange of views on progress towards the work programme mandated at Bali. 

Two technical workshops were held by the Secretariat to help deepen understanding at the technical level of issues that have come up in the course of the negotiations so far.

During the Special Session on 23 July, three proposals were officially introduced by the G-33 — one on Public Stockholding, one on Special Products and one on SSM.  Most Members used this opportunity to confirm and reaffirm their readiness to engage without delay on the work programme towards the identification of a permanent solution for the public stockholding for food security issue. 

Members also had a first opportunity to answer questions circulated by the Chair, in advance of the meeting, seeking to further clarify Members’ views on key elements in the domestic support and market access pillars, particularly as they relate to levels of ambition and flexibilities. 

The questions concerned these two pillars as recent discussions had highlighted that both areas require more in-depth consideration by Members. 

The fact that Members addressed the questions constructively, sometimes in significant detail, was positive and sets the stage for more concrete discussions after the summer break, including on the most challenging issues.

Of course this focus does not exclude Export Competition or Cotton. Rather, all of the elements within the DDA agriculture framework are inter-related and there seems to be a general acceptance that they will need to be dealt with as an overall package. 

In NAMA, an open-ended meeting of the Negotiating Group was convened on 9 July.  The purpose was for the Chair to report on his consultations and to have an open discussion on the way forward. The Chair’s report was circulated to Members in document TN/MA/26. 

The focus of his recent consultations has mainly been on those members that have previously been described as the “formula applying members”.

The Chair reached the conclusion that in order to strengthen the process, a meeting of minds among members on the goal of these negotiations would first be required. 

For example: were members striving to level the playing field in respect of concessions granted by different members? Did members want substantial reductions in trade impediments? Or were they seeking a result which would bring more homogeneity and strength to the multilateral trading system? 

The chair stressed that in establishing such goals members had to take into account the assumption of trade-offs between the different negotiating pillars. Some members underlined that the aims and ambition of members were often different in the 3 key areas of agriculture, NAMA and services — which could potentially cause difficulties.

On Special and Differential Treatment, the Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development Special Session convened an informal open-ended meeting on Monday.

At that meeting the proponents informed Members that they were still working on an overall assessment and review of all the Agreement-specific proposals with the objective of identifying those which they would like to bring to the Special Session. 

The proponents have indicated that they hope to complete this exercise soon and to table the results of this work just after the summer break.

In the other negotiating areas, the Chairs have continued to make themselves available to any delegations wishing to discuss issues or make their views known.

So I am pleased to report that Members were engaging and, increasingly, we are talking about substance.

But, as I see it we are taking only very small, tentative steps forward. There is an old saying — you can’t cross a chasm with small steps. Sometimes you have to take a leap.

We need to be prepared to do that — to go further into the substance of the issues that we have before us and explore possible trade-offs.

There is a great deal still to be done. I urge you again to engage directly with each other. You have to start having those tougher conversations — to discuss what you can put on the table that would make trade-offs possible.

So I ask you to reflect long and hard on what the next steps will be.

As we move forward everyone must be involved in these conversations about the future.

We have had a very good level of engagement so far.

Whether, and how, that continues is likely to depend on other items on the agenda of our meeting today.

So how we move forward now is in your hands.

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

 

Agenda Item 3
WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility

 

Thank you Mr Chairman.

As all of you will be aware, I launched this new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility on Tuesday this week, alongside the Coordinators of the ACP, the LDC and the African Groups.

The Facility is a response to concerns which the Coordinators had raised about LDCs and developing Members being able to access the necessary support under section 2 of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Its purpose is to answer these concerns and ensure that these Members receive the support they need in order to reap the full benefits of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The Facility does not seek to replace existing assistance programs. Rather, it is meant to complement and enhance them — and to ensure that no one is left behind.

Our partner organizations have been very supportive of the initiative and we plan to deepen our dialogue with them in the months ahead.

I mentioned on Tuesday that we have been working particularly closely with the World Bank.

We are planning to hold an event together — the WTO and the World Bank — in Washington in the autumn. The aim will be to ensure that their trade facilitation work operates in an efficient and expedited way, so that their support reaches those developing countries that need it — and to ensure that their work and the work of the WTO Facility complement each other fully.

If this plan moves forward, we will provide more information on the event in due course.

As you know, other institutions are also getting engaged with, and excited about, this work.

In fact, the Annex D Plus organizations issued a joint statement on Tuesday, recognizing the development potential of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and pledging their co-operation and support for its implementation.

In addition to the World Bank, the statement is signed by:

  • The ITC,
  • OECD,
  • UNCTAD,
  • The World Customs Organization
  • And the United Nations Economic Commissions for:
    • Europe;
    • Latin America and the Caribbean;
    • Asia and the Pacific;
    • and Western Asia.

As we begin our work and mobilise resources I have no doubt that more organisations will get involved.

This initiative was conceived just a few weeks ago, and I think it’s clear that we’re off to a great start.

The WTO Facility will add value to the trade facilitation funding and support that is currently available.

So let’s look very briefly at some of its specific functions:

First, the Facility will support LDCs and developing countries to assess their specific needs and identify possible development partners to help them meet those needs.

In this way, our current needs assessment work will be brought under the Facility — as will our other TFA-related technical assistance programs. We will expand these programs — to include, for example, assisting Members with preparation of notifications and scheduling.

Second, we will ensure the best possible conditions for the flow of information between donors and recipients by creating an information-sharing platform for the demand and supply of TFA-related technical assistance

We will compile information on assistance providers, share implementation experience and collate training materials. And we will continue to organize periodic meetings to facilitate exchanges between beneficiaries and donors. 

Put simply, we will ensure that Members know what assistance is out there and will also know how to access it.

Third, we will do everything we can to match Members with donor funds to implement their projects.

And if the process proves difficult, under the Facility you will be able to formally request me, as Director-General, to act as a facilitator in securing funds for project implementation.

Fourth, the Facility will provide funds for the exceptional cases where countries have made thorough attempts to find assistance but have failed to receive the support that they need. 

The facility provides for two types of funds to fill this gap.

The first is a grant for the preparation of projects. These funds may be given when a Member has identified a potential donor but has been unable to develop a project for that donor’s consideration. 

The second type of fund is for project implementation — specifically for “soft infrastructure” projects, such as modernization of customs laws through consulting services, in-country workshops, or training of officials. 

If a country finds itself in the situation where it simply cannot find a donor — even with our help — then they can apply to the Facility for this type of grant.

So, in simple terms, that is what the Facility will do.

I set this out at the launch event on Tuesday and I was very pleased with the response.

The Group Coordinators made strong statements of support and I received very positive feedback from a wide range of members and donors.

The Facility will be funded on a voluntary basis by WTO donor Members. A number of members have already pledged funds — and I’m delighted to say that more funding has been pledged even since the event on Tuesday.

So we are in a very good position. We have momentum on that front at least.

The Facility is ready to start work.

It will become operational the moment the protocol of amendment is adopted.

So, again, how we move forward is in your hands.

Thank you.

 

 

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