WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

General Council, 13 February 2002

Report to the Council by the Director-General

Colleagues, I believe this is the first time I have been in a position to brief you collectively since Doha and to update you on progress on our roadmap to implement the Doha Development Agenda.

I have met personally with over 30 Ministers since Doha and spoken to many more on the telephone. I have reported in writing to all Ministers at least twice. Ministers have expressed a desire to be closely involved in our important work.

At a meeting I was able to convene recently in New York on the margins of the World Economic Forum, the 15 Ministers present were pleased with our progress here in Geneva. Many Ministers are likely to attend the forthcoming Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, the OECD Ministerial in Paris and the important Conference on Sustainable Development in South Africa. All these meetings are opportunities to report to Ministers on our work and seek their input. You, the Chairman and I have worked hard and with much success, especially when you compare progress since Doha and the time it took after the Uruguay launch to put in place structures, systems and timelines.

Ministers are pleased that an early decision has been taken on the venue for the next Ministerial Conference. Minister Derbez has already visited Geneva to begin preparations. A WTO mission will visit Mexico over the next few weeks to report on facilities. Ministers want us to turn good words and good news into good deeds.

Thank you also for deciding on the TNC structure. We now need to decide on the various chairs and in this we all need your advice and cooperation; we need decisions as soon as possible.

No matter how impressive the TNC structure looks on paper, unless we move swiftly on capacity building in capitals and here in Geneva, we will not be able to do what is necessary to enable our more capacity-constrained Members to participate in the substantive negotiations. The Doha Development Agenda saw some developing countries put "conditionality" on further progress. The condition of further progress on the development dimension of many new issues is capacity building, to ensure the next Ministerial makes progress and we conclude on time as promised. This is understood by major donors and supporters. This is why many Ministers visited Geneva so quickly after Doha and why our new budget was approved. This is good news. Further good news is that our Pledging Conference for the Doha Development Agenda Global Trust Fund will be held on 11 March; invitations have been extended, and the agenda is being given a final polish.

Let me report that we have also moved quickly on coherence issues. I have met with the heads of other agencies to ensure there is maximum cooperation and a minimum of duplication. I will be continuing the dialogue in the period ahead.

On 26 February, a meeting of agency heads will be convened in Washington, hosted by Jim Wolfensohn of the World Bank, to advance all the good work done by the Technical Cooperation Division on the Integrated Framework.

On 27 February, in Washington there will be a meeting under the umbrella of the Inter-American Development Bank of all the Trade and, hopefully, Finance Ministers of the Americas and the Caribbean to discuss capacity building and how resources can be most effectively deployed. In preparatory meetings with the IDB, we have suggested that representatives of other regional banks and the secretariat of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) also be invited as observers and I suggested as well that consideration be given to inviting some ambassadors who coordinate regional groups here in the WTO. This will save time because we think the “model” of cooperation that could come out of the Washington meeting will be an appropriate one to take to other regions and development banks. We also hope to have a meeting in Geneva of all the regional banks and stakeholders in April.

I have reported to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on progress and have expressed appreciation for his leadership and the cooperation of his Agencies. I hope to brief him personally again very soon.

I also met with Mr. Malloch Brown of UNDP, as well as his local representative when in the Ivory Coast. They and the Banks have people on the ground and in capitals; we do not. Therefore they can be important partners as we develop our country file project.

Let me explain our country file concept.

It is our ambition to have a country file for each of our Members who need capacity assistance. Then I would like to report directly to Ministers and Ambassadors every three months or so on progress or otherwise in our efforts to assist these Members.

This initiative, supported by many agencies, will help us maximise resources and avoid duplication. It will also impose transparent disciplines on everyone – ourselves, donors, other institutions, and those who need capacity assistance. We need to know what other institutions and donors are doing, not to control, but to put these efforts into a transparent, accountable framework. This will allow capitals to be informed on how we are doing and where we are falling behind, the better to measure our results.

We must impose strict time limits and checkpoints on ourselves, to audit progress and ensure delivery as promised. By early March, after consulting other agencies, we will produce the first draft framework on the country files. These will be issue headings only. In early May we will report directly to you and will have filled in, hopefully, most of the subject areas. It will expose where we must do more work. Thereafter we should report to each capital every three months on how we are, with other partners, achieving our objectives on capacity-building based on the Doha Development Agenda as instructed by Ministers.

We see ourselves as a clearinghouse and I have instructed Divisions to seek out strategic partners, e.g. perhaps UNCTAD on investment or perhaps UNIDO on trade facilitation. Competition, government procurement and transparency need new capacity resources and we need partners to assist us. These are also important development issues.

This work has implications for observer status of some institutions who so far have been denied such status. We need tolerance and acceptance to unblock these problems because they are about our own internal and external coherence.

When I was in New York and Africa I repeated our core message that trade must be mainstreamed and it is vital that capacity building is put into Poverty Reduction Strategy papers because this is the basis for World Bank and IMF funding decisions in the future.

The Technical Cooperation Division has already put up staff proposals to handle this complicated job. The Development & Economic Research Division has been strengthened and recruited three interns, one from Mali (an LDC), another from China, and the third from Zimbabwe. These temporary staff resources will be used to build up an information base on research and policy analysis to assist delegations.

I can further report that over the past week I visited the Ivory Coast, the OAU in Addis Ababa, Ministers and leaders in Ethiopia, Botswana, Kenya and South Africa. In meeting African leaders, I was deeply moved by the public support they offered, because they all said they now see the WTO positively since Doha.

Since Doha, as instructed by Ministers, we have strengthened the Accessions Division and I have personally visited Vietnam, Cambodia and Ethiopia to offer encouragement and technical assistance for their respective accessions. I had a meeting a few weeks ago with all the Ambassadors resident in Geneva who are seeking accession, in order to update them. I will have such meetings frequently.

This is my update. I want to thank Members, the Chairman and our staff for their hard work and focus as we move ahead with the Doha Development Agenda. This process must be Member-driven and Ministerial-led so we can maintain the momentum to conclude these negotiations on time, as instructed by Ministers.