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Trade Negotiations Committee, 31 July 2002

Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

I am pleased to report to the General Council that the TNC held its third meeting on 18-19 July and that it was a constructive and fruitful meeting. We have made a good start to the negotiations, better than many predicted outside, and our meeting was also better than some people were suggesting a few days before it and even during the morning session on 18 July.

We were pleased to have a number of capital-based officials amongst our ranks. I was also pleased to be able to welcome Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi to our meeting. As I noted, the transition process is going smoothly.

Our first agenda item concerned the reports to the TNC by the Chairpersons of bodies established by it. I believe we all owe our thanks to all the Chairs for their hard and difficult work over the last few months. Although they had all issued written reports before the TNC meeting, they were all good enough to take the floor to share the latest information on the work of their groups. Almost 40 delegations commented on these reports, and my sense of the discussion was that everyone is committed, and even optimistic.

It is only natural that problems crop up — this is part of the very nature of the negotiations we have embarked on. When I opened the TNC meeting, we still had one major unresolved issue — the market access programme of meetings. But thanks to the hard work of that Group's Chair, and the cooperation and flexibility shown by participants, an acceptable solution was reached. The Negotiating Group met directly after the TNC on 19 July and adopted its programme of meetings.

Other problems still remain. On the issue of IGO observerships, some creativity in this area will be necessary. We are not yet near a solution to this problem, and I urge delegations to continue to seek a creative and pragmatic way forward.

Overall, the work is moving at a steady and deliberate speed. All of us are aware that time is the only thing we can't replace or recycle. So I think we cannot indulge in the luxury of spending too much time in the next few months over issues of process. Our focus here, in capitals and at Cabinet tables must be on substance, and on the Doha Development Agenda.

Many delegations touched on our second agenda item — Future Work — in their statements under agenda item 1, so our discussions here were shorter. You will recall that at the last TNC meeting in April, I said by the time of the July meeting, we should have a more precise road map to Mexico. To facilitate discussion at the TNC, I circulated, in document Job(02)/78, a timeline from here to Cancún showing in a concise way key dates and deadlines established so far. I believe that road map is clear, that we know the deadlines, and that everybody here is committed to meeting those deadlines. It is now about substance, about real negotiations.

I have talked to a number of Ministers about Ministerial-level involvement in the work, and I believe that it is also important that senior officials continue to be closely involved in Geneva from time to time, so as to allow this Member-driven, ministerial-led organization to achieve what Members want it to achieve by the next Ministerial Conference. I have passed on my best advice concerning the road map to my successor.

Finally, in closing the meeting, I outlined the dates of future TNC meetings. After consultation with Dr. Supachai, I informed participants that the next meeting will be held on 3-4 October. Thereafter, we would foresee at least one more meeting this year on 4-6 December.