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13 February 2002
Report to the General Council by the Director-General as the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee on its first meeting

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As you will all be aware, the Trade Negotiations Committee held its first meeting on 28 January and 1 February. At that meeting, the General Council Chairman reported on his informal consultations on the tasks facing the TNC which he had outlined in his statement at the meeting of the General Council held on 19-20 December 2001. As he said at that time, these tasks included:
  • appointment of a Chair for the TNC;

  • decision on the structure for the negotiations; and

  • election of the chairpersons of the bodies under that structure.

In order to facilitate the work of the TNC, the statement the General Council Chairman intended to make at the meeting was circulated as an informal paper to all delegations in an informal Heads-of-Delegations meeting on 31 January. In this statement, he set out his understanding of the broad lines of opinion that had come out of his consultations, identifying some practices and principles for the work of the TNC and the negotiating bodies, and making a number of proposals. On 1 February, the TNC took note of and endorsed this statement, and agreed to the proposals set out in it.

On this basis, the Director-General has been appointed ex officio to chair the TNC until the deadline of 1 January 2005 established in the Doha Declaration. The TNC also adopted a structure for the work ahead, and agreed that the General Council Chairperson would consult on the chairmanships of the individual negotiating bodies, and he has already reported to you on these consultations. Following the TNC meeting, the General Council Chairman's statement was issued in document TN/C/1, dated 4 February, and it will also be reflected in the minutes of the TNC meeting.

At the meeting, delegations had the opportunity of expressing their views and understandings of the sense of the points the General Council Chairman had put forward in summary form in his statement, and their statements will also be recorded in the minutes.

I think our thanks are due to the General Council Chairman for having paved the way for the negotiations to get off to a good start. The Chairman has worked hard and I am sure he appreciates your dedication, patience and, even more, flexibility during his consultations, and I agree with him that he needs everyone to maintain the momentum in the months to come. There is a lot at stake for everybody in both the negotiations and the overall work programme, and I am sure we all want to make good progress on all fronts.

Many delegations have expressed, both to me and to the General Council Chairman, the importance of moving rapidly into the negotiating phase in line with our mandate in the Doha Declaration. This is what Ministers expect of us, and we are almost in a position to do this.

Finally, I would like to note that the TNC will be reporting to the General Council at each of its regular meetings. I will advise delegations of the date of the next TNC meeting in the near future.