Tuesday, 10 June 2003

Africa urges end to cotton subsidies; Supachai warns “time running out” on Cancún preparations

Opening remarks of TNC Chairman

I would like to welcome delegations to the tenth meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee.

Thinking back to our meeting in May, I remember the very constructive statements we heard and the definite political momentum which was evident. Since then, we have witnessed more encouraging signs of high-level political commitment to the Round and to finishing it on schedule. This has been made clear in recent days by the G-8 Heads of State in Evian and by the other heads of State and Government present there. This commitment was also clearly expressed by APEC Trade Ministers at their meeting in Thailand. The importance of the Round was also recently underlined at our meeting with IMF Managing Director Horst Köhler and World Bank President James Wolfensohn here at WTO.

I welcome these pledges of support and these reiterations of commitment to a successful and timely conclusion to our work. But we must now transform these words into action.

We are all aware that, at the end of May, two more target dates passed. However, it is important that we keep these in perspective, as I believe most delegations are doing. In Non-agricultural Market Access, good work has been done and I believe that further progress will be made before Cancún under the very able guidance of Ambassador Girard. His paper forms a good basis for this, and I believe it provides the right elements for reaching agreement in this vital area of our work.

Much progress has also been made in the Dispute Settlement negotiations under the leadership of Ambassador Balás. Once we have heard and discussed his report, I may have some suggestions to make concerning possible ways to maintain the momentum in this area.

Since our last meeting we have also moved ahead with another important aspect of our work – Implementation-related issues. Following an open-ended consultation at Heads of Delegation level on 14 May, at which we discussed possible next steps on these issues, I held another such consultation in my capacity as Director-General on one important issue under this heading – issues related to the extension of the protection of Geographical Indications to products other than wines and spirits.

I intend to convene further Heads of Delegations meetings shortly, so that we can take up all of the outstanding Implementation issues in line with paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Declaration. I will, of course, also take up the other areas of the TNC's work in the same format and in close co-operation with the General Council Chairman.

However, time is running out. The Cancún Conference starts in a little over 90 days in total, and we are due to consider our reports to Ministers at our next meeting in mid-July, a little over a month away. As I have said before, we cannot afford to transmit too many unresolved issues to Ministers. We now have to put every effort into reaching agreement wherever possible. And where this is not possible, we must be able to indicate to Ministers where their attention is needed and provide them with solid bases for their consideration. If we do not do this we will be failing in our duty to them.

Let me conclude by agreeing with the G-8 leaders that continued trade opening, combined with stronger international trade rules and disciplines, represents the optimum path to global growth, both in their countries and elsewhere, and particularly in developing countries.

Before opening the floor for statements by delegations, I would like to say a few words about the situation concerning the DSU negotiations.

Ambassador Balás' report has shown that a significant amount of progress has been made in this complex and vital area, even if it has not been possible to reach agreement by 31 May. Clearly the question we now face is what should be the next steps in respect of these negotiations. I understand from Ambassador Balás and from consultations carried out on my behalf by DDG Yerxa that there is general support for continuing our work towards an agreement, building upon the progress reflected in the draft Chair's text and in other submissions by Members. However, there still remains some differing views on the exact timeframe and scope of future work.

With respect to this latter point, it is clear that any decision about a new timeframe for the negotiations is for the Ministerial Conference, or the General Council under its delegated authority, to take. My sense is that it may well be possible to resolve this at the General Council level. Accordingly, with the TNC's agreement I would plan to recommend to the General Council Chairman that he undertake consultations with a view to addressing this issue as appropriate at the Council's July meeting.

In the meantime, our consultations indicate acceptance that Ambassador Balás could hold a further informal meeting of a technical nature between now and the July General Council.
Any continuing work of this nature should be undertaken in full respect of the resource constraints and pressure of work on delegations. It would represent simply a pragmatic, interim means to maintain momentum, and would be undertaken without prejudice to any delegation's position on the formal status of these negotiations.

I hope that you will be able to endorse this approach, which seeks to safeguard everyone's position while enabling us to continue doing useful work in this negotiation of great systemic importance.