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> Supachai Panitchpakdi’s speeches
Rufus Yerxa's report
As I mentioned in the convening Fax, the purpose of this meeting is to
prepare for the forthcoming May General Council meeting and to enable me to
update Members on consultations since the February Council.
I would also like to touch on where we are under the DDA work programme, and
to have a first exchange of views on the shape of the product we might aim
for by the end of July.
DDA Work Programme: Where we are
Let me begin first with
where we are, and how we arrived here.
At Cancún, as you know, Ministers instructed that we continue work on
outstanding issues, and that this work be coordinated by the General Council
Chairman, in close cooperation with the Director-General, with the aim of
taking the action necessary by December last year to enable us to move
towards a successful and timely conclusion of the negotiations. Ministers
also undertook to maintain the high level of convergence on texts in those
areas where this had been reached.
Accordingly, in October 2003, Members agreed that initial work would focus
on four key outstanding issues, without in any way lessening the importance
of the other issues within the DDA. Many delegations had at the time
emphasized the importance of a number of other specific development-related
issues in the DDA, and the Chairman had noted that full attention would need
to be given to these issues in 2004, in line with the Doha mandates.
At the December General Council, the Chair proposed that all of the DDA
bodies should resume work early in 2004, to build on the elements that had
emerged in our work both at and since Cancún. This proposal has been
implemented, and the bodies have resumed their work.
At the recent TNC meeting, there were encouraging signs of commitment to
progress as well as some warning signals. There was also a widely-based
informal understanding that the aim is to reach agreements at a framework
level by the summer, and the DG and I both sense a clear willingness to work
hard to reach this aim. The DG's own comments at the TNC provided a clear
sense of the magnitude as well as the urgency of the task that faces us if
we are to grasp the window of opportunity that still exists to move the
negotiations forward significantly this year, and of the Ministerial-level
determination to meet the challenge, as well as the risks of not achieving
positive and early results.
Before I turn to the possible shape of the July product, I would like to
give you a brief update on consultations that both DDG Mr. Yerxa and I have
had recently on the Singapore issues.
As you know, we agreed in
December last year that we would build on the general acceptance of the
unbundling of the Singapore issues, and explore possibilities of agreements
on a multilateral approach on trade facilitation and transparency in
government procurement, and that this work would take place at the level of
the General Council with assistance from DDG Mr. Yerxa.
At my request, Mr. Yerxa is holding various technical consultations in order
to consider how to proceed with the issue of Trade Facilitation, and the
parameters for possible negotiations in this area.
I wish to ask Mr. Yerxa to give a brief report on his consultations after
On the broader issue of how to proceed with these issues that I have myself
been conducting, let me share with you some of my observations.
While there have been considerable flexibility and pragmatism demonstrated
by all sides, there is still a range of positions on the table and there is
not yet a convergence on any of the possible scenarios. To be more specific,
major questions of which of the issues, if any, should be within the single
undertaking, and of what should be done with those issues to be put outside
the single understanding are yet to be resolved.
I have therefore been urging delegations to talk among themselves, and in
particular with those having differing views, with the aim of coming to some
I will continue my own consultations in the coming weeks, as appropriate,
taking a cautious approach being mindful of the sensitivities on all sides.
With regard to the shape of
the July product, since the TNC meeting, the DG and I have each been
exploring this matter further in contacts with Chairs of WTO bodies and with
delegations. In our conversations so far, we have heard a range of views.
However, there equally appears to be a shared commitment to use our limited
time to the best advantage. This means that we have to reconcile the need to
produce a balanced and acceptable set of results with a realistic
appreciation of what can be achieved in the time we have before us, counted
in weeks, rather than months.
One recurring theme I have heard is that we could aim for an outcome that
focuses on 4-5 key issues and which addresses other issues as necessary in a
more generic manner, providing a sense of political commitment and
direction. Under this scenario, there also appears to be a fairly broad
recognition that, in addition to the 4 issues identified in October last
year, others with a particular developmental interest, such as S&D and
Implementation, need to be addressed appropriately.
As we begin collectively to consider the shape of the July product, I
believe a practical question to keep in mind is: what is the minimum
tangible outcome before the summer break that will enable us to keep up the
momentum of the DDA work programme and to provide guidance for further work,
given that this is not the end of the Round.
It will also be useful to keep in mind that our task is not to prepare a
Ministerial Declaration as we were doing for Cancún. Rather, we are aiming
to take the action necessary at this stage, at the level of the General
Council, in order to ensure the continued progress of the negotiations and
the work programme as a whole.
I hope that today's discussion will help us to reach a shared understanding
of the format of the package as early as possible so that when we continue
negotiating the substantive content, like Agriculture and NAMA, we have a
clear picture of its shape towards which we will be working.
A few words now about the process to July.
Process to July
It is imperative that our
focus remain firmly on the substantive issues that confront us. The need to
resolve these must govern the way the process evolves, and we need to allow
ourselves an appropriate degree of flexibility. However, it might be useful
if I outline what I see as a few key points along the way.
Working back from our July meetings (and taking into account the 10-day rule
for circulation of documents), we will need any text for the General Council
to be in a well-developed form in the earlier part of July.
In order to get there, the DG and I believe that we need to start to see a
clear picture of the elements of the July substantive package — not
necessarily drafting, but a sense of the parameters for drafting — emerging
by the end of May. This will allow us a short time in June and early July to
produce the necessary text or texts. The precise articulation and sequencing
of progress from negotiating bodies through the TNC to the General Council
is a point we shall have to keep under review as we go forward, and of
course informal processes, like today's meeting, will need to be used more
frequently as we approach the July Council.
We also know that, realistically speaking, there may be some points which
are not resolved until the end of the process. However, we need to work to
keep these to the absolute minimum. They cannot be allowed to block progress
We also know that there will be a cluster of Ministerial gatherings in May (LDCs
in Senegal, OECD in Paris, African Union in Rwanda), through which we hope
to receive high-level inputs on key issues. Nevertheless, we need to keep in
mind that the Geneva process remains the principal vehicle for making the
kind of progress we will need by July. And it is only in Geneva that the
July outcome will be finalized.
Also, as we move forward in the coming weeks, we should keep reminding
ourselves that it takes time for others to digest and react to changes in
positions, and therefore that brinkmanship should be resisted.
May Council meeting
The May General
Council meeting will follow on the heels of a number of the Ministerial
meetings that I mentioned earlier, and will be an important opportunity to
provide a sense that we are back on track and that there is progress on key
issues. There will be occasion to address these issues under the DG's
regular report to the General Council as TNC Chair, and under an update I
will be providing on recent consultations on the Singapore issues.
To keep the General Council meeting brief and allow delegations to get on
with other work, I want to maintain a business-like approach where we do not
hear repetitive statements, and focus rather on statements of new positions
and on building bridges and resolving difficulties. Let us remember that we
are not aiming for any key decisions from this May meeting, but rather to
come out with a positive sense of progress and that we are going to work
hard to deliver concrete results by July.
Let me recall also that, at the May Council meeting, we will be reverting to
the request by Iran for accession. At the February General Council, a number
of Members spoke in support of early positive action on this long-standing
item on the Council's agenda. The Chairman said he would inform his
successor on the content of the discussion and was certain that the latter
would consult with delegations on this issue before the next General Council
meeting. I would like to inform you that I have recently held consultations
on this matter with a group of delegations, which included the coordinator
of the Informal Group of Developing Countries. At that meeting, it was clear
that, politically, this continues to be a difficult matter for at least one
delegation, and a satisfactory resolution in the near future seems unlikely
at this stage. I will report along these lines to the May Council.
I would also like to inform delegations that the IMF Executive Board has
recently approved a Trade Integration Mechanism aimed at mitigating concerns
by some that implementation of WTO agreements by others might give rise to
temporary balance-of-payments shortfalls. The TIM is aimed at providing
access to its resources in order to meet a BOP need associated with
trade-related adjustments. In order that WTO delegations may be fully
briefed on this initiative, the Acting Managing Director of the IMF, Ms.
Anne Krueger, has agreed to make a presentation on the TIM at the Council
meeting. This will take place on the morning of 18 May.