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Trade Negotiations Committee, 18-19 July 2002

Moore: The roadmap and deadlines for Cancun Ministerial now “clear”

Director-General Mike Moore, at the conclusion of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting on 19 July 2002, said that “road map and deadlines are now clear” for the Fifth Ministerial Meeting next year at Cancun, Mexico, and that the work of TNC bodies “is now about substance and real negotiations”.

<2h>Agenda item 1: reports by the Chairpersons of bodies established by the TNC back to top

At the invitation of the Chairman, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi attended the meeting and made some brief remarks.

The Chairpersons of the bodies established by the TNC made brief statements to update participants on the state of work in their respective groups. The Chairman of the Negotiating Group on Market Access reported that it had not been possible to reach a consensus on a “Programme of meetings” in his group (specifically on the target date for agreement on the modalities for the negotiations), but that new ideas being advanced might lead to a solution. During the afternoon session, he was able to report that consensus had been reached on this issue. The TNC took note of and welcomed the positive understanding that had emerged, encouraged the Chairman to follow up as necessary with his group to make it operational, and to reconvene a substantive meeting as soon as possible.

The Chairman said that the work was moving at a steady and deliberate speed, and everyone was aware that time was the only thing that could not be replaced or recycled. He sensed a constructive mood among participants, and he thought a good start had been made on the negotiations — far better than many predicted. He reported that a solution on the question of IGO observerships was not yet near.

In commenting on the Chairpersons' reports, 39 delegations spoke; many of them also addressed the question of the work in the period to Cancún (agenda item 2). The tone was generally optimistic, although one participant said there was no room for complacency or satisfaction regarding progress, calling on the General Council and the TNC to meet more often to check progress. Another participant welcomed the common sense of purpose that was evident amongst delegations to meet deadlines. A developing-country participant, although acknowledging that much work had already been done, warned that process and substance were linked, since a bad process could affect substance and it drew attention to its joint proposal on the preparation and running of Ministerial Conferences. It expressed concern about the likelihood that the July S&D Work Programme and implementation deadlines would be missed — a view reiterated by several other developing countries. The view was also expressed that the implementation paragraph of the Doha Declaration was being reinterpreted by delegations.

Many delegations referred to the negative effect that external events could have on the negotiations. Respecting deadlines was often mentioned as an important way to ensure that progress was achieved, in particular those in March 2003. Adequate technical assistance was once again highlighted by developing and developed countries alike as being essential to progress. Most delegations reiterated their positions on key issues in the Chairpersons' reports, some also referring to the importance of other issues in the Doha work programme (Work Programme on Small Economies, TRIPS/Public Health and implementation) and some expressing either their ambitions for or opposition to yet other issues (Singapore issues, trade and environment, and other TRIPS issues including additional protection under geographical indications).

A number of recently-acceded countries suggested that credit for their accession commitments should be given in the negotiations, with one participant also specifying that such commitments should not be taken as an excuse to force others to undertake the same level of commitments.

The reports submitted were:
Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture: TN/AG/2; Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services: TN/S/2; Negotiating Group on Market Access: TN/MA/2; Special Session of the Council for TRIPS: TN/IP/2; Negotiating Group on Rules: TN/RL/2; Special Session of the Dispute Settlement Body: TN/DS/2; Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment: TN/TE/2; Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development: TN/CTD/2; the Chairman noted his understanding that the last report was without prejudice to the position of any Member on the nature of the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development.

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Agenda item 2: Future work

The Chairman recalled that at the last meeting in April, he had said by the time of this meeting the TNC should have a more precise road map to Mexico. He believed that the road map and deadlines were clear, that everybody present was committed to meeting those deadlines, and that an important deadline would be 31 July. The work was now about substance and real negotiations. He had talked to a number of Ministers about Ministerial-level involvement in the work, and he believed that it was also important that senior officials be closely involved in Geneva from time to time, so as to allow this Member-driven, ministerial-led organization to achieve what Members wanted it to by the next Ministerial Conference.

In addition to those who touched on future work under agenda item 1, three delegations spoke. One participant stressed the development dimension of the work, saying that progress, however small, should be made by the time deadlines were reached on the issues of importance to developing countries. It warned against moving the process out of Geneva by holding small meetings of Ministers. In contrast, another participant stressed the importance of the involvement of Ministers, and also capital-based officials, and hoped that not too many issues would be left to Ministers at Cancún – for this all deadlines should be met. The third participant to speak agreed with the first speaker on Cancún, again drawing attention to its joint proposal on Ministerial Conferences, and stressed that there should not be two categories of deadline. It also agreed with the second speaker on small meetings of Ministers.

In closing the meeting, the Chairman outlined the dates of future TNC meetings — the next meeting would be held on 3-4 October, and thereafter at least one more meeting would be foreseen this year on 4-6 December.