Comité des négociations commerciales
Ministers, Mr. Secretary-General:
Thank you for the opportunity to join Luis Derbez in opening this very
important debate. OECD Ministerials are always significant events, but
this one in particular has the chance to make a real positive difference
at a crucial stage of the Doha Round.
I warned some time ago that the Round was facing imminent gridlock
unless focused political energy was applied to avert it. So far we have
avoided the worst, and I very much appreciate the responsible way in
which governments have handled the setback in agriculture at the end of
March. At the TNC earlier this month I urged participants to turn their
disappointment into determination, and the response has been generally
encouraging. Work in key negotiating groups such as Non-Agricultural
Market Access and in other areas of our work programme is continuing in
earnest. It has also been positive to see a number of demandeurs in
agriculture submit significant services offers.
However the fundamental concerns are still there, and my warning still
stands. Avoiding the worst is no substitute for real progress towards
success. Furthermore, we cannot pretend that the setbacks so far have
been cost-free. The problem of negative linkages is still very much with
us, and we must take care that we are not simply postponing the gridlock
to Cancún. The consequences of doing so would be very serious for the
Round as a whole.
From all of my contacts I have the strong impression that governments
remain committed to finishing the Round by the agreed deadline of 1
January 2005. The Cancún Ministerial is a very important point on the
way towards achieving that. It is not the end of the Round, but it has
to set up the conditions to enable negotiations to be concluded
successfully in 2004. This, I suggest, is the perspective from which we
should approach the preparation of the meeting, which must now move to a
more intensive and focused phase.
Together with the Chairman of the General Council and the Chairs of the
negotiating bodies, I am working to step up the Geneva process. We will
very shortly begin intensive consultations in informal Heads of
Delegation mode, backed up by a range of other contacts. At the same
time the negotiating group chairs are working hard to fulfil their
mandates. The aim overall is to focus our work on what needs to be done
in Cancún to maximize the chances of success thereafter.
Following the mandates agreed at Doha, there are around a dozen issues
requiring action before or at Cancún, ranging from agriculture to small
economies. One clear priority for our work in the immediate future must
be to reduce this burden to manageable proportions by reaching
understanding on as many of these issues as possible before the
Ministerial Conference. Those issues which remain outstanding need to be
presented in a clear and operational manner.
This is the aim of our work in Geneva, but to succeed it needs the
active involvement and support of political leadership at every step.
Putting together the right package for Cancún requires political choices
and the willingness to seek compromises in the common interest of
concluding the Round successfully and on time. I hope a sense of such
leadership will emerge from this meeting.
I also suggest you consider what you need to do at Cancún beyond the
specific requirements laid down at Doha in respect of various sectors.
An important aspect of the Conference will be to provide guidance for
the remainder of the negotiations as envisaged in the Doha Declaration.
We should be working towards a sort of “road map” which can help focus
the efforts that will be needed in the final year. This will also be an
element on which I shall be consulting. Once again, it is an element
which needs active and creative political input to develop usefully.
I urge governments to recall and reaffirm what unites them, so they can
work together more effectively to overcome their divisions. What I know
we all share is a strong commitment to a vigorous and effective
multilateral trading system that works for the benefit of all its
members. Governments acted on this understanding at Doha, and it is even
more valid in today's climate of uncertainty. Finishing the Round
successfully and on time would be not only an economic stimulus but also
be a powerful signal of international co-operation. On the other hand,
failure to do so could seriously weaken a vital piece of the
architecture of co-operation.
The negotiations launched at Doha were ambitious, not only in terms of
timeframe but also in terms of substance. It is vital to maintain and
live up to this level of ambition, however complex and difficult its
realization may be. Lowering our expectations for the Round's outcome
would not make an outcome any easier to reach; it could even make it
harder. It would certainly make it less worthwhile. On the contrary, we
need to maintain our ambitions across the board as well as in key
sectors. The crucial importance of a substantial liberalizing result in
agriculture is emphasized by participants at all levels of development.
We should also focus on the need for ambitious results in services, in
non-agricultural market access and in rules. After all, if so many
regional or bilateral agreements can envisage bold steps in these areas
why should the multilateral trading system lag behind?
Maintaining a high level of ambition also means keeping the development
dimension of the Round in the central place it was assigned at Doha. In
doing so we have to avoid either viewing it too narrowly or leaving it
too late. Developmental concerns feature in many places in the Doha work
programme. You as Ministers put them there for the good reason that
there is no single response to a multifaceted issue. It is also a fact
that issues of particular concern to developing countries have been
prominent among those where deadlines have so far been missed. TRIPs and
Public Health is a particular case in point. We must, therefore, make
progress across a range of issues, from special and differential
treatment to LDC accessions, while also making the most of the
development potential contained in the market access negotiations.
Finally, let me repeat my conviction that the Doha agenda is even more
important to the world than when it was launched. I am sure this is a
conviction widely shared in this meeting. The challenge we face is to
act upon it. I want to work very closely with you and other ministers in
the weeks ahead to accelerate progress in the negotiations. We must use
every opportunity presented by gatherings like this one and intensify
informal networking as well. I also hope that the OECD will continue to
underpin our efforts through its valuable analytical work.
There is also an increasingly urgent need to make sure that your
instructions to your negotiators in specific areas are consistent with
your commitment to a successful outcome overall. This — I must say
frankly — does not always appear to be the case, particularly in key
areas such as agriculture. I therefore appeal to all of you — and I
underline all — to ensure that from now on your negotiators have enough
flexibility to create the overall momentum we need to carry us through
Cancún to a successful conclusion.