Wednesday, 30 June 2004

Dr. Supachai: Ministerial support must be translated into Geneva progress

Chairman's opening remarks

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

I would like first to refer to the fax I sent to delegations on 24 June, as this particular meeting of the TNC will have an important role in the process of developing the substance of the July outcome. In my fax, I pointed out that the agenda for our meeting today, which is the same as that for previous TNC meetings, in fact understates its importance. This is a very important meeting because it provides us the opportunity for a kind of reality check on substantive progress towards our July outcome. I expect delegations to use it to develop an overall picture of where we are going in our work for July and of the broad parameters of the possible outcomes next month.

Since our last meeting, I have attended the Third LDC Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, the OECD Ministerial meeting in Paris, the Conference of the African Union Ministers of Trade in Kigali, Rwanda, the meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade in Pucón, Chile and UNCTAD XI in São Paulo, Brazil. I have just recently returned from an official visit to India where I met the Prime Minister and key Ministers of the new government. From this intensive ministerial-level activity, we have a strong political commitment. However, we still face the problem that it is not being translated into progress here in the negotiations. This is increasingly worrying.

It is also worrying that delegations are still underestimating the time constraint. July begins tomorrow. We need to use our time more efficiently, starting with this meeting, so I urge all delegations to be substantive but succinct, and not to repeat well known positions.

We have before us today reports by the Chairs of the bodies established by the TNC on the state of play in their respective areas. I have encouraged the Chairs to make their reports as substantive as possible. I thank them on behalf of us all for their dedication. These reports, and the views of delegations in reaction to them, should give us a good sense of where we are heading overall.

Seen in this light, the significance of today's meeting becomes all the more obvious. I urge delegations to use it as an occasion to send constructive signals to build convergence. We need the flexibility which shows a real willingness to negotiate, not rigid positions which will inevitably serve to widen divergences and make our collective task more difficult. Progress has been made recently, but not yet enough. We need urgently to make faster progress towards convergence in key areas.

Immediately following this meeting, the Council Chairman will hold a Heads of Delegations meeting to complement the picture from the overall General Council perspective.

Taking account of the discussions over these two days, as well as the continuing work on specific issues, the Council Chairman and I intend to circulate a first overall draft text of the July outcome within the next two weeks. There may, of course, still be gaps or brackets in the text or its annexes at this stage, but, as I have said repeatedly, these must be kept to an absolute minimum.

None of us should be under any illusion about the nature of this first draft. It cannot offer a magic solution to existing problems. On the contrary, it will reflect the state of convergence — or divergence — as it exists. Only you, the negotiators, can bridge the remaining gaps. The first draft will, of course, not be the end of the process, but rather the launching pad for the last phase in which you will work to finalize the July product. To facilitate your efforts to reach agreement, the General Council Chairman and I will hold an intensive process of consultation leading up to the meetings of the TNC and of the General Council towards the end of the month.

In recent days, some key Ministers, from developing as well as developed countries, have once again suggested that they see a July deal as quite achievable and have pointed to signs of convergence at the political level. Let me be frank here. The political guidance and direction which we need to be able to move ahead is there. The onus is now fairly and squarely on negotiators in Geneva to do the deals that our political leaders clearly want us to achieve.