25 July 2002
Trade and development: Doha agenda
Committee completes first step on special and differential treatment
The WTO Committee on Trade and Development agreed, 24 July 2002, on a report to the General Council on special and differential treatment for developing countries, a first step in a task mandated at the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar in November 2001.
The report also includes a summary of the discussions so far, with over 80 proposals tabled. And it includes a work plan (the “Way Forward”) for the coming months. It recommends that the General Council approve extending until 31 December 2002 the deadline for “clear recommendations for decision”.
Originally, WTO ministers had instructed the committee to make the recommendations to the WTO General Council by 31 July.
Because over 80 proposals have been submitted, the committee concluded that more time is needed.
“The Ministers mandated the CTD to ‘report to the General Council with clear recommendations for a decision by July 2002’,” the report says. “A large number of issues, including some that are complex, have been raised, both in the written submissions and the ensuing discussions, and while some recommendations can be made, a significant amount of work remains to be done before Members can agree on clear recommendations in a number of areas, in accordance with the Ministerial mandate”.
Agreement on this new deadline was one of the more difficult questions that the committee faced in preparing its report to the General Council. A number of developing countries felt that 31 December was the latest date they could accept. Some developed countries said the number of proposals to be examined would require work at least until 31 March 2003.
Committee chairperson Ransford Smith, the Jamaican ambassador, paid tribute to the “compromise and goodwill that were indispensable for us to be able to arrive at agreement on this text”. He reminded delegates that much difficult work remains to be done.
In addition to the question of dates, possible links between special and differential treatment under specific agreements and those that cut across all issues were also debated.
Ambassador Smith told delegates he believes the compromise text “preserves the various positions expressed by members who … wish to make cross linkages between the two areas of work, and to make inputs from one to the other as they consider appropriate”.
statement to the committee
I thank all members for showing the compromise and goodwill that were indispensable for us to be able to arrive at agreement on this text.
It has not been an easy exercise, but neither was it an easy task. And we must bear in mind that much difficult work remains to be done, for our work is not complete. It is nevertheless very important that we have been able to agree on the recommendations that are reflected in (the section on) the Way Forward. It suggests that with hard work and goodwill we should be able to move forward after the summer break to meet the deadline we have set.
I say this bearing in mind of course that at this point we are making recommendations, not taking decisions. The General Council will have to consider and take action on our report on 31 July 2002.
I wish to comment on two of the very difficult issues we faced in preparing and agreeing on our report. One is the relationship between the work to be carried out under paragraph 15 on agreement on specific proposals and paragraph 16 on cross cutting issues. The Chair is of the view that the manner in which the paragraphs now appear preserves the various positions expressed by members on that relationship. It also preserves the opportunity for members who so wish to make cross linkages between the two areas of work and to make inputs from one to the other as they consider appropriate.
Secondly, in relation to the deadline of paragraph 14, I recognize that some delegations strongly felt that the new deadline at the end of the year was impossible to meet. I realize that it is only in the spirit of achieving the necessary consensus in order to continue our work, that these members went along with the end of December 2002 deadline. These members have also expressed the view that they believe that the results achievable by the end of 2002 had to be assessed in the light of these views on the deadline.
Other delegations expressed their disappointment that the July 2002 deadline was not adhered to, given the importance they attach to this deadline in the overall process agreed to in Doha. However, I understand that the same delegations are willing to agree to a new deadline of 31 December 2002, as they see it as an appropriate and reasonable extension.
Let me conclude by saying that while we have agreed on the “Way Forward”, it will be necessary for us to agree on a detailed work plan. In such a work plan we should structure our work in a manner that is faithful to our mandate and to the elements we have agreed in the “Way Forward”. A detailed work plan will also allow us to organize our work in an optimal way, bearing in mind the deadline we have now set. We should turn our attention to this as a matter of priority immediately after the summer break.
Let me once again thank all members for the goodwill they have shown. Our report and its recommendations will be transmitted to the General Council for consideration on 31 July 2002.