Good morning everyone,
I would like to welcome you to the 22nd Geneva Week event organised for WTO non-resident Members and Observers. I would also like to welcome the representatives of regional economic organizations and members of other specialised bodies who are participating in this week’s activities.
This Geneva Week is happening at a critical time for the Doha Round and for the WTO in general. Less than two weeks ago, the Negotiating Group Chairs and myself circulated texts and reports representing the progress achieved in the negotiations so far. The package comprise more than 600 pages and includes all the market access areas in agriculture, industrial products and services as well as the entirety of the regulatory agenda. For the first time since the round was launched nearly 10 years ago, Members have the opportunity to consider the Doha package in its entirety.
The content of these documents is both heartening and sobering. It is heartening because it represents the significant progress that has been made over the past 10 years on many difficult issues. But the overall result of the package is also sobering. There remain gaps, at least one of which is critical to bring the round to a successful conclusion: the amount of reduction in industrial tariffs for the Members applying the formula, ie around 40 members and representing around 90% of world trade.
The package offers many potential benefits. They are evident both in terms of the new market access opportunities and in terms of the improved trade rules that would be more reflective of today’s trading realities. Another immense benefit would be to show that the spirit of multilateral co-operation is alive and well. That Members believe one of the best ways to tackle complex international challenges remains the multilateral track and that trade is better regulated at the multilateral level rather than through a multitude of bilateral arrangements.
So what is missing for us to conclude the Round? As you will see from the Easter package, some gaps remain to be bridged in addition to industrial tariffs, and no deal will be reached without all of them being solved given that we operate under the single undertaking. You will hear from all Chairpersons about these gasp in detail. But my frank assessment is that under the right conditions of temperature and pressure a deal would be doable, were it not for NAMA, where the magnitude of the gaps among the major players is effectively blocking progress in other areas and is putting into serious doubt the conclusion of the DDA this year.
At the TNC we held last Friday all Members stressed the grave risks of the present stalemate, not only for the Doha Round but for our WTO system at large. No Member is ready to throw in the towel and lose what has been achieved in the talks so far. No Member is ready to let the Doha Round drift away. There was agreement that we need a new approach that goes beyond “business as usual”, and that leads to results this year. Various ideas for such a new approach have been suggested, starting with, but not limited to, solving the NAMA impasse. From the discussion it was clear that there suggestions need further elaboration, further discussion, including at political level. In short, Members are clear about what they do not want and are open to ideas on the way forward. I intend to keep consulting Members to test suggestions on the way forward before the next TNC scheduled for 31 May.
Tomorrow you will have the opportunity to participate in a meeting of the General Council. I look forward to receiving your views on this question either at tomorrow's meeting or during this Geneva Week.
Other subjects that you will have the chance to explore more in depth this week include the United Nations’ LDC IV Conference in Istanbul, the preparation of the technical assistance and training plan for 2012-2013, preparations for the 3rd Global Review on Aid for Trade this July and the WTO's 8th Ministerial Conference in December.
Together with DDG Rugwabiza and a team of Secretariat staff, I will be attending the LDC IV conference next week and will deliver the message that trade can serve as a key pillar of the development strategies of least-developed countries and that it can be a key driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation. I will underline the importance of capacity building initiatives so that more LDCs are able to take advantage of the increased market access opportunities. Such initiatives will help developing countries, and especially LDCs, market their internationally competitive and tradable goods and services.
During your stay in Geneva we are also looking forward to receiving your input for the elaboration of the technical assistance and training plan for 2012-2013. We will also want to update you on our work to improve measuring the effectiveness of the WTO’s training and technical assistance through results based management.
This brings me to the preparations now underway for the Third Global Review on Aid for Trade which will be held in Geneva on 18 and 19 July. The key question for this year’s Global Review is whether Aid for Trade is showing results. Is it having the impact that we desire on the ground? Is it living up to its promise?
The Aid for Trade initiative has successfully placed the spotlight on trade as a centrepiece of development. Recently released figures from the OECD Creditor Reporting System database show that resources for Aid for Trade reached USD 40 billion in 2009, a 60 per cent increase from the period 2002-2005. Many of your countries have benefitted from this assistance from donors and have made use of these funds to reform their trade policy regulations, to train their officials or to improve infrastructure. You will be hearing more about these aid flows and also the challenges ahead for Aid for Trade. You will also be given an update on the completed questionnaires and case stories we received from your respective governments on how Aid for Trade is working in your country and how it is being implemented on the ground. The input received has been remarkable. There is a wealth of information in the 146 questionnaires and the 269 case stories which the Secretariat together with the OECD is now examining. Thanks to the excellent on-going collaboration with the OECD, the analysis of the results will be published in a new edition of the joit WTO-OECD “Aid for Trade at a Glance” publication.
Finally, a few words about the WTO’s 8th Ministerial Conference which will take place in Geneva on 15-17 December. The meeting will provide an occasion for Members to steer the course of the multilateral trading system for the two years to come. We would like the non-residents to fully participate. For this reason, we plan to make the next Geneva Week event a bit shorter but to hold it during the same week as the Ministerial so that all of you have the possibility to fully participate at the Ministerial.
Let me conclude on a positive note. This week will mark the conclusion of the negotiations for the accession of Vanuatu to the WTO, who will become its 154 Member once all the necessary procedures have been completed. With the accession of Vanuatu the WTO shows its commitment towards the accession of LDCs. Certainly good news as we prepare to travel to Istanbul for the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs.
I hope this week will be a productive and informative week for all of you.
Thank you for your attention.