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Friday, 8 December 2000, 4 p.m.

China Working Party formal meeting

Chairman's note: WTO Deputy Director-General Paul-Henri Ravier

1. I call to order this formal meeting of the Working Party on the Accession of China to the WTO. As you are aware, intensive work has been conducted on a whole range of outstanding issues in this accession starting, in fact, from the morning of 5 December. My overall assessment of the results achieved is an extremely positive one. Considering the fact that the number of hours we have spent during this session of the Working Party are much less than we were able to devote during the November session, the series of textual breakthroughs achieved becomes even more significant. In sum, we have, this time, succeeded quite clearly in maintaining the momentum that we generated in November and, in fact, building on it in a tangible and substantial manner.

2. Coming to the specific textual breakthroughs achieved, let me mention them one-by-one.

  • First, we have been able to circulate a detailed text on Non-tariff Measures for inclusion in the next revision of the draft Working Party Report. Though it contains a few square brackets and some other unresolved concerns, it nevertheless represents a very important step forward.
  • Second, we have been able to circulate a text for the draft Report on services licensing and transparency which have been the subject of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral examination for many years. This text also has one square bracket and talks are continuing on this in order to clarify the issues involved. I believe this revised text is also a major step forward, and will lead to solutions falling into place in other areas of China's services regime. In relation to the other services issues, we have held consultations which will continue at the next Working Party meeting. I expect textual solutions to emerge when we next meet.
  • Third, I would like to turn to TRIPS. As you are aware, this was the subject of intensive work in November. Efforts have continued since then and have this afternoon resulted in my being in a position to circulate to you a text for incorporation in the next revision of the draft Report. This also contains a limited number of square brackets, but still represents a very tangible and concrete achievement. My clear feeling is that the remaining issues will rapidly fall into place as the bulk of the work has already been accomplished.
  • Fourth, I am also circulating today a text dealing with Industrial Policy, including Subsidies. As you all know, this has been one of the most critical hurdles facing this accession. The text before you, naturally, contains square brackets where positions are apart and cannot be reconciled by words or drafting. This text is still a very valuable piece of work for two important reasons: it provides transparency to all members as to where matters stand in an area which is of interest to all; and, it sets the stage clearly for the capitals concerned to review their positions and take the hard political decisions needed to find a solution before we meet next. Here, I urge China and the other delegations primarily concerned to take the needed steps to ensure that we have textual solutions to propose for multilateral approval at our next meeting.

3. Apart from these, we have also advanced work in a very major way on the other areas earlier subject to plurilateral discussion. I refer here to TBT, Trading Rights, Agriculture and Product Specific Safeguards/Textiles which concern both the draft Protocol and draft Report. In each of these areas the picture is now much clearer and efforts are now focussed on producing textual solutions for multilateral examination and approval at our next meeting. Indeed, if we fall short of this goal at our next meeting, I will consider that we have not lived up to the expectations we have set for ourselves.

4. This brief description of the work we have done this time leads me to conclude that the shape and substance of the overall package of results in the hardcore eleven issues is now clearly visible. The trade-offs have also now emerged, and the governments primarily concerned must take the political decisions necessary to bring the package together. Again, and I am repeating myself, this should and must be the goal for our next meeting.

5. While this is all to the good, I will not be fulfilling my duties as Chairman without reminding you again of the secondary, but equally vital, work that remains to be tackled in this accession.

6. The goods and services schedules have to be finalized, prepared by the Secretariat and circulated. Here, the responsibilities that you have as negotiators are well known. The Secretariat can and will advance this work on a priority basis but can only do so with your assistance and inputs.

7. The “cleaning-up” process of the other parts of the draft Report which have not been tackled will also be a time-consuming process and one which we cannot afford to delay any longer. Another example of the same kind is the cleaning-up and updating of the Annexes to the Protocol. You will recall that these were last considered at the Working Party level almost six months ago, and a lot has happened since.

8. Yet another critical area of work ahead of us is the harmonisation of the texts of the draft Report with that of the present Protocol, the removal of overlaps, conflicts and redundancies wherever they may appear. I need hardly tell you how delicate a task this can, and surely will be.

9. To conclude, December has been a good meeting because it has succeeded in maintaining and building upon the momentum we generated in November. But this is not the moment to rest, but rather the one to accelerate. Political decisions are still needed in key capitals in important outstanding areas, and we must have them for textual breakthroughs next time. It is only through these new political directions that we can hope to wrap up the core package of outstanding issues and then deal smoothly with the secondary ones.

10. This is my message, and it is in this context that I am today announcing that the next session of the Working Party will be a week long, from 10-17 January 2001. As usual this week-long session will be a mixture of informal and formal meetings with the organization of work planned in advance and in consultation with all.

11. I trust that this meets with your approval. Would any delegation like to take the floor?

[Floor to delegations]

12. Thank you for your comments. As usual, I will of course be keeping in close touch with Ambassador Pierre-Louis Girard to brief him on progress achieved and where we stand. I will also pass on, once again your best wishes for a speedy recovery.

13. The meeting is adjourned.