> WTO news archives
> Supachai Panitchpakdi's speeches
> Introductory Remarks by the General
As you know, I have just returned from the G8 meeting in Scotland, so I
would like first to give you some of my impressions of this important
event. The leaders put much emphasis on the vital role of trade in
development, especially — but not only — in Africa. This is what the
Doha Round is all about, and this is what we are meant to be doing right
Frankly, it is sobering to pass from the high level of expectations and
hopes that I have encountered in Scotland to the reality of the
negotiating process here in Geneva. Against this background, let me now
give you my assessment of how we are doing in the negotiations.
I would like to start by recalling the numerous warnings I have issued
at successive TNC meetings about the state of play in the negotiations
since the beginning of the year. In March, I sounded a note of caution —
that we were not yet in a crisis mode, but that we certainly needed more
sense of urgency. This message did not seem to be heeded, so in April, I
warned that we were very close to a crisis. I said that, at the current
pace, we were not going to make it by July, and possibly not by
December. I said I was still not pushing the alarm button, but that my
finger was hovering over it. I asked you all to prove me wrong.
The May TNC meeting took place against a somewhat brighter background,
even though substantive progress continued to be rather limited. I said
that this was still not good enough, and stressed that we absolutely had
to make concrete progress across the board.
So where have we got to since then? Has the picture improved? I regret
to say that the progress up until today remains far from sufficient, and
I regret even more that my earlier warnings seem more valid than ever.
Let me briefly review the state of progress in key negotiating areas:
Some progress has been made in Agriculture. While the AVE issue has
been unblocked, this has not yet sufficiently galvanized the
negotiations on the most fundamental element of the market access
package, the tiered formula for tariff cuts, although some progress has
just been made on other aspects of the market access pillar. Some
progress has also been made on domestic support and, to a lesser extent,
on export competition. Of course, it remains important to advance work
on all three pillars, although some sequencing is necessary for that to
In the NAMA negotiations, there were some hopeful signs in June, but
now positions appear to be hardening. I fear that the obvious constraint
here is still the lack of progress on Agriculture.
In the Services negotiations, while the situation has improved since
the May TNC in terms of numbers of initial and revised offers, the
quality of the offers continues to be poor. It remains for the
membership to see how to take these negotiations forward to Hong Kong.
In the Rules areas, including Trade Facilitation, we still need to
consolidate the wide range of ideas on the table to prepare the ground
for further progress in most areas. That said, some useful progress has
recently been made on Trade Facilitation and in the RTAs track in the
In the work on S&D, there is some hope that progress is possible on
the Agreement-specific proposals, starting with those submitted by the LDCs, and I certainly hope that some can be harvested soon.
It is true that some progress has been made in certain areas of the
negotiations. But let us be clear: this progress is nowhere near
sufficient in terms of our critical path to Hong Kong, and it is not
being seen in the key issues which would help unblock progress across
the board. Overall, there seems to be a renewed sense of blockage and
frustration. We are also seeing a resurgence of sterile debate about
process, rather than negotiations on substance.
I am afraid we have to face the facts. These negotiations are in
trouble. Very little of the political support which has been shown at
successive Ministerial meetings has been turned into concrete progress
in the negotiating groups. Everyone has a generalized commitment to
progress, but when it comes to the specifics, the familiar defensive
positions take over.
There remain some limited but important possibilities of renewing the
momentum this month. The Chair of the Agriculture group has produced a
paper which clarifies the areas where movement is needed, and the Chair
of the NAMA group will also be issuing a similar paper today. A number
of Ministers will be meeting informally in China next week, and they
will be faced with some key questions. We look to them for clear
guidance on crucial political issues, although we are all aware that it
is only here, in a fully inclusive forum, that real convergence can be
I have not given up hope of substantive progress in areas such as
Agriculture and NAMA by the end of this month, though clearly we should
not expect a package of formal decisions like last July. At the very
least, there is a need to establish a good base for the intensive work
that will surely have to be done in the last quarter of the year.
It is important to keep in mind that the Hong Kong Ministerial is not
far away. From the beginning of September, we will have 13 weeks to
prepare it. Ambitions remain high for significant results across a broad
range of issues by then, and this is necessary if we are to have a
chance of finishing the Round in good time. Hong Kong must take us into
the last lap of the negotiations. This in turn means that Ministers have
to be presented with a manageable set of key decisions to consider
there. If we go to Hong Kong with a Christmas tree, no-one will be happy
with what they get.
So we need to change gear in the negotiations, but even more to change
our mindset and our approach. The time is long overdue to pass from
identifying to solving problems; from the technical to the political
level; and from generalities to specifics. Bearing in mind the principle
of the Single Undertaking, where nothing is agreed until everything is
agreed, negotiators need to show greater willingness to reach out to
each other's needs. We need to apply less creative energy to deciding
whose fault everything is and more to finding solutions that everyone
can share in.
This change needs to happen now, not in September or October. It may
well be too late by then. I began by reminding you of my warnings about
impending crisis. The crisis that threatens is all the more menacing
because it is not a crisis of dramatic divergences or headline-grabbing
conflict — it is a crisis of immobility. I think there is still a
slender chance of averting it, but every hour must be made to count.
This concludes my statement.