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> Supachai Panitchpakdi’s speeches
Mr. Chairman, Ministers, Mr. Secretary-General.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to join you in this very
important session. I am grateful that the OECD Council at Ministerial Level
has again agreed to focus on the Doha Development Agenda. I am also pleased
to see a large number of OECD non-members, including some very important
developing-country Members of the WTO, present today.
Your meeting here exactly one year ago provided a significant contribution
to our efforts in Geneva to get the Doha Round back on track following our
disappointment in Cancún the year before. The impetus provided by you then
was instrumental to our success last July, when the WTO General Council was
able to adopt the decision known as the July Package.
The negotiations in Geneva since then have gone ahead on the basis of the
frameworks contained in the July Package, and I am grateful to all your
negotiators for the hard work they have put in since its adoption.
This meeting comes at a crucial moment for the Doha negotiations. We are
fast approaching the time when we should be able to start to see the outline
of potential outcomes at our Sixth Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong,
China in December. In this regard, the work of your negotiators in the next
few weeks will be critical for the remainder of the Round. It follows that,
in order to see ambitious results emerging from the Geneva process, your
continuing close involvement will be essential.
I would like to start by recalling the targets we have set ourselves at the
beginning of this year looking forward to the Hong Kong Ministerial. From
the process of collective reflection I undertook with Representatives in
Geneva, and the first Ministerial gathering of the year in Davos, it quickly
became apparent that there was a strong desire to keep ambitions for Hong
Kong high, so that the results from that Conference would take us into the
end-game of the Round. I sensed the commitment on all sides, and I still
sense it, to work towards an ambitious outcome so that the Round could
conclude in 2006.
I detected a high level of convergence on the need for a substantial
breakthrough in Hong Kong in five key areas, which are:
modalities in Agriculture
modalities in NAMA
a critical mass of market opening offers in Services
significant progress in areas such as Rules and Trade Facilitation, and
a proper reflection of the development dimension.
The month of July was set as a marker in the process, when we should be able
to judge across the board whether we are on course for a significant outcome
for Hong Kong. This would entail seeing the elements of the potential
outcome emerging from the negotiating groups by early July at the latest.
So here we are in early May. Only a few short weeks remain before the July
TNC. The question now is whether we are on course or not. I am afraid that
the short reply is that we are not. If we do not move ahead rapidly in the
key areas of the negotiations, we will certainly be facing a major problem.
Convergence is not built overnight, and time is running out quickly.
A large amount of hard work continues to be put in by everyone in Geneva,
but the progress which has been made is slim. Issues which are primarily
technical in nature are nonetheless proving hard to resolve. I am
increasingly concerned that we are getting bogged down on issues of this
sort despite the clear sense of engagement in the negotiations we have seen
since the beginning of the year and, most of all, the strong political
commitment on all sides.
In the Agriculture negotiations, for example, we appear to have stalled on
the first difficult issue — ad valorem equivalents. This issue is a gateway,
as it has been called, to being able to move on to discussions on
agricultural market access. Instead of solving it rapidly and then moving on
to the next in a long list of issues to be addressed, we are still very much
just at the start of the process. We also do not know what other surprises
might lay ahead. As we speak now, our colleagues are still huddled together
in an effort to resolve the AVE issue. It is unimaginable to me that we
could leave Paris without resolving this issue.
In the negotiations on non-agricultural market access, or NAMA, we now have
a good number of proposals. This is good, but we should now draw the line on
the submission of new proposals and start substantive discussions on the
basis of what is on the table. A major concern here is the tendency to make
negative linkages to Agriculture. We simply cannot afford to wait for
Agriculture to move forward before making progress here.
The Services negotiations, which had initially moved ahead with a strong
sense of momentum, seem to have fallen into a sense of torpor that seems
difficult to escape from. There is an urgent need for not only more offers
on the table, but also substantive improvements in those already submitted,
in line with the agreed deadline which falls at the end of this month. The
rule-making parts of the Services negotiations also need an injection of
In the Rules areas, including Trade Facilitation, much activity has been
taking place over the last few weeks, with many new proposals being
submitted. However, with such a wide range of ideas on the table, we must
now try to consolidate them to prepare the ground for progress in these
In the area of Development, the S&D Work Programme has met with
difficulties. The last meeting of the Special Session had to be suspended
because of differences in views on the proposed agenda. We were stuck on
procedure, not on substance. Efforts are now being made to revive this
stalled process, but the work must start in earnest as soon as possible,
since the deadline for part of the work in this area is in July.
This overall picture must be cause for concern. The negotiations are poised
on a very fine balance. If we do not make progress in the immediate future,
particularly in Agriculture, I fear that we may not be able to stop the
balance from tilting us backwards. This may have severe consequences not
just for our ambitions for Hong Kong but for the Round overall.
In spite of all this sombre news, I am convinced that it is not too late.
Time is not on our side, but if we act quickly, the situation can be
remedied. This will require action on the part of each one of you. Let me
make three points in this respect which you might like to consider.
First, our approach in the weeks ahead must be balanced. All of us are aware
of the negative linkages that can be made at the first sign of trouble in
any given area, but I would urge all of you to avoid letting this happen.
This is not the same process as last year, when we were developing
frameworks. We now have agreed frameworks and the aim is to flesh them out.
We must start moving ahead across the board, and we can wait no longer to
see this happening. We do not have time to resolve all these issues in Hong
Second, I have hear it said repeatedly, including at the TNC meeting last
week, that there is a real need for a greater sense of urgency. I would
fully agree with this. Despite some signs earlier in the year that we were
about to move to real negotiations on substance, we seem to have stalled at
the first difficult issue confronting us. We just cannot afford to waste
time in this way.
Third, our work must be more result-oriented. I think it is also important
to show greater unity of purpose at every level of our work. It has struck
me that compared to the same period last year, we are not seeing the same
collective determination among the membership when it comes to putting into
practice the aims we all subscribe to. We must start to see results emerging
from our work which live up to our shared commitments.
With all due respect, I urge all of you in this room to play a role in
ensuring that we avoid setting ourselves up for major problems at Hong Kong.
You, the Ministers, will be there and you will have some decisions to take.
You can act now to influence whether those decisions will provide the
platform for a successful conclusion of the Round or not.
I would suggest that after a renewed sense of urgency, what we also need is
greater coherence. We need greater coherence between yourselves and your
negotiators in Geneva, and greater coherence among you as Ministers. This is
why I believe that opportunities such as this, when you can meet and turn
your attention to the key issues, provide essential impetus to the work in
Geneva. As I said at the start, last year's meeting did exactly that, and I
am counting on today's meeting to do so again. We should not say “wait a
while” — we do not have time.
The Round was launched as a collective endeavour by you. A successful
outcome would have a substantial positive effect on the world economy and on
your peoples. Failure would be a major setback for growth, development and
the multilateral system. I urge you all to take the necessary steps to
ensure that the progress of the negotiations this year, up to and including
Hong Kong, sets us up for a timely and successful conclusion to the Round.