Let me recall my report to the General Council on 7
February. In it I identified several points which were widely seen as immediate priorities
not excluding any further action that Members may decide to take in due course on
other areas of interest and concern. These points were, as you are all aware, measures in
favour of least-developed countries; reinforcement of technical co-operation and its
funding; transition periods and implementation issues in general; and internal
transparency and effective participation of Members. I have also been encouraged to see
what more we can do for non-residents and how we can better involve smaller missions whose
workload is so overwhelming.
the LDC issue in particular, I undertook to report back on progress before the Easter
break. However, in the interests of transparency and of the confidence-building to which
we are all committed, I would like to give you as full a report as I can today on all the
points, bearing in mind that consultations are continuing not least today - and so
my report cannot be taken as definitive.
Before moving to the specific points
it might be helpful to refresh our understanding of what we are working towards. These are
issues which have been seen by Members as addressing urgent needs and as making a positive
contribution to building confidence. This is not a mini-Round, nor a substitute for a
Round. This is equally not a package, where trade-offs among elements are envisaged
and where progress in one element may influence progress in others. These elements are for
consideration in their own terms I pointed out, for example, at the February
Council that the measures in favour of LDCs were never to be seen as a trade-off or
leverage, and many Members endorsed this point.
This means that we should not
encourage artificial expectations that all of these issues will necessarily be at the same
state of evolution by the time of the 3 May Council. Personally I hope we will have solid
results to show in all areas by then, and I am working hard to this end. I suggest,
though, that we will maximize our chances of consolidating the confidence-building work of
recent months if we continue to let our ambition be guided by realism and pragmatism.
Now let me turn to the specific
points on which we have been consulting.
First, measures in favour of
least-developed countries. I can report that there appears to be wide agreement to
improve market access opportunities. A number of major traders are prepared to provide
tariff- and quota-free access consistent with domestic requirements and international
agreements under their respective preferential schemes for essentially all products
originating in LDC Members. Other Members, both industrialized and developing, have also
indicated their willingness to enhance LDC access to their markets. I hope others will
soon do so, and I encourage them to. I need fresh information and news from capitals as
soon as possible. Today would be a good opportunity.
Clearly, we need now to move to
widen the participation in these actions as far as possible, and to agree as necessary on
the terms within which they will operate. We will also need to bear in mind the concerns
raised by other developing countries about possible trade diversion. A provision for
regular review of the effect of these access measures has been suggested in this context,
as has a suggestion that we monitor or register progress on expanding access
Other Members have expressed the
view that the measures proposed should be seen as steps in a process, and that the
membership's commitment to further action to improve LDC market access should be
reaffirmed. Such a forward-looking indication would, I suggest, be especially important in
view of the fact that it does not seem possible to go as far to open up access for LDC
exports right now as the LDCs themselves - and others - had hoped. But we must start. We
have much to gain from a dynamic, progressive, evolving attitude.
Of course many Members - including
LDCs themselves - have emphasized that market access is only part of the picture. This is
why it is important that the other measures we have been discussing, to help with building
capacity to trade and to participate more fully in the trading system, are put into
effect. The need to make the Integrated Framework deliver better results has been stressed
in our consultations, and I can tell Members that improving the WTO's input to the IF is a
top priority for me. I discussed the improvement of the IF a week ago with Geneva-based
agencies, then with the UN Secretary-General and other UN agency heads last week, and I am
going to Washington tomorrow to take it up with the heads of the World Bank and the IMF.
We will be discussing new ways in which we can get assistance in training and technical
assistance with these partners; I want to see us live up to the high ideals of coherence
expressed so often by political leaders.
I think it would be useful for
Members to consider what additional elements we might consider for the LDC package,
bearing in mind the proposals submitted by the LDCs themselves in the run up to Seattle.
The LDCs' own proposed action plan provides many constructive ideas.
I will now move to the second issue.
Capacity-building through technical co-operation is of key importance not only to
LDCs but to developing countries as a whole and to economies in transition. Here I think
we are within sight of an expansion of the resources Members enable us to devote to this
vital activity, within the content of an improved planning and monitoring framework. There
are clearly problems with bringing the necessary funding for this activity into our
regular budget, as many had hoped would be possible. However, there are indications that
Members are keen to pursue as a priority the means of meeting our needs on a stable and
predictable basis, taking into account the continuing importance of voluntary
extra-budgetary contributions and of programmes undertaken in co-operation with other
international institutions. We need to plan ahead for programmes not just projects and
make more effective use of taxpayers money in a targetted, accountable cost effective
manner. This I believe we will be able to do.
Thirdly, implementation and
in particular transition periods. This is, I believe, a key area in
terms of consolidating confidence across a wide spectrum of the membership. The results of
our consultations so far on transition periods, together with the work that has been done
in the relevant Councils and Committees, have been to narrow the scope of the outstanding
problems. But there is more work to be done. The TRIMs area, for example, remains one
where we still need to find acceptable ways of reconciling individual and multilateral
considerations, and we will be carrying out further intensive consultations in
co-operation with the Chairs of the General Council and the Goods Council. We will also
need to consult further on issues raised by some Members in connection with other
On the wider question of how to
handle the broader range of implementation-related issues raised by Members, I see growing
acceptance of the principle of a procedure or mechanism under the General Council. In my
view this is a very positive development. What we need to work out more clearly is how it
would operate, its terms of reference and time-frame, and the respective roles of the
General Council and the subordinate bodies within the framework.
Furthermore, the major trading
partners to whom I referred earlier have also suggested possible action on a number of
technical and procedural measures relating to the implementation of the agreements on TBT,
SPS, Agriculture and Services, in order to address a number of developing-country
Lastly, there is the issue of internal
transparency and more effective participation of Members, on which the Chairman held
an informal Council on 28 March. We have received and continue to receive
thoughtful inputs from Members on these issues and others which they see as related. I
think there is a lively and productive discussion under way. How far it will produce
specific points of agreement by 3 May is not yet clear, but I know the Chairman will be
continuing consultations and I think we can already take some satisfaction from the areas
of common understanding that have shown up so far.
For example many delegations
expressed the view that as much as possible we should do our work in full meetings such as
this. That smaller meetings (and we have had many) are simply held to help facilitate
understandings to take to the full membership. That's why we are having this informal
meeting, to be as transparent as possible, to involve as many as possible. That's why I
hope this discussion is positive, that delegations express their needs and report what
they can do.
That is my report on the present
state of our consultations, Mr. Chairman. In co-operation with you I will be continuing
consultations to develop the various elements I have mentioned, so that we can present as
soon as possible more concrete points to the General Council for its consideration. We are
making useful progress in a number of areas, but there is more that we can realistically
hope to achieve in others. My colleagues and I will be working hard over the next days to
do so, and I would encourage delegations to intensify their discussions among themselves
as well as with the Chairman and me.