8 July 2005

Introductory Remarks by the General Council Chairman

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi called on ambassadors in an informal meeting on 8 July 2005 to immediately change gear in the trade negotiations, stressing that “progress is nowhere near sufficient in terms of our critical path to Hong Kong”. He said that there is still a “slender chance” of averting a crisis, “but every hour must be made to count”.

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I would like to welcome delegations to this informal HODs meeting.

Following the terror attacks in London, allow me on your behalf and mine to express our sympathy and profound condolences to the British people and Government. We are outraged by the sheer magnitude of the destruction and senseless loss of innocent life. We pledge our solidarity and support during this difficult period.

I also want to express our sincere condolences to the delegation of Egypt whose colleague, the Ambassador to Iraq, has been brutally murdered. We feel his loss as a professional colleague and a brother.

As the Director-General and I mentioned in the convening Fax, the purpose of this meeting is to have a discussion of progress in the negotiations and I would add to exchange views on the way forward.

I would like to begin by inviting the Director-General, as Chairman of the TNC, to give us an assessment of the state of progress in the negotiations.

The DG has given his candid assessment of the situation in the negotiating areas as he sees it at this stage of the process. I am grateful to him for that clear and factual assessment. I am sure that Members will express their views and positions on, and support for, the assessment by the DG. The present evident challenge is that it is unlikely that we will have agreed elements of text by the end of July in any of the main areas of the negotiations. It is my understanding that a similar situation prevails in other areas of the DDA work programme. As Chairman of the Council this situation is most regrettable. However, we must not dwell on regrets. We must focus, as the DG has said, on moving forward.

I think it is important that we distinguish between our goals for Hong Kong and what we seek to achieve by the end of July. Although July has understandably been seen as an important marker in our process leading up to Hong Kong, our main focus must remain on the Ministerial Conference itself. Following the candid assessment by the DG in each of the areas of negotiations, may I say that I have carefully, and independently, sought the views of several and have carefully reviewed the outcomes of recent informal Ministerial gatherings and exchanges. I believe we now would require clear guidance to the extent possible from the membership on what we need to do for the end of July.

Let me say a few words about the further process and the Council meeting at the end of the month.

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Further Process

I believe it is imperative that we keep the focus firmly on making progress on the substantive issues before us. With this in mind, I envisage that work ongoing in each of the individual areas of the DDA work programme will continue intensively through the remainder of this month, and that delegations as well as Chairs will continue to use every opportunity to advance our work on substantive issues. The informal Ministerial meeting in China next week will be one such opportunity.

The Director-General and I will continue to meet with delegations in various formats to facilitate further progress, and will also be in contact with Chairs of negotiating groups and other bodies in their ongoing work. We will also consider when we should meet again in this open-ended format.

The process this month will culminate with a meeting of the General Council scheduled for 27 July, which will be the opportunity to take stock and register progress on the basis of all work done since July 2004 and of the reports from various bodies — including from the chairs of negotiating groups. The reports of the Chairs will be made available to the membership.

At that meeting, the DG will provide a further assessment on the progress of the negotiations in his regular report as Chair of the TNC, taking into account individual reports from Chairs of negotiating groups which will be submitted to the meeting of the TNC to be held prior to the General Council. The Council will also receive a report from the Director-General on his consultative process on all outstanding implementation issues under paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.

Furthermore, the Council will receive reports on the Work Programme on special and differential treatment from both the Chair of the Special Session of the CTD and from the Chairs of subsidiary bodies to whom a number of S&D issues were referred in 2003. Also, the Chair of the Dedicated Session of the Committee on Trade and Development will report on progress in the Work Programme on Small Economies. The Council will, in addition, receive a report from the Chair of the TRIPS Council on the implementation of paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health.

Our objectives for Hong Kong are clear. These are the objectives around which a consensus has been built since the July 2004 framework, namely that we must agree to modalities in the key areas of the negotiations, if we are to close the round in 2006.

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Beyond July

I believe that it will also be useful at this stage to look beyond July and to recall the elements that have to come together by the Hong Kong Ministerial. It is essential that we work towards an ambitious and balanced outcome at Hong Kong. This must include not only negotiating modalities for Agriculture and NAMA, but also real progress on substance and process for market access and rule making in Services, significant and substantial progress in Rules and Trade Facilitation, and tangible development gains in accordance with the mandate of the DDA.

At the same time, we musn't forget that there are a number of other elements of the Doha work programme — which include a number of points of particular interest to developing countries — on which there must be concrete progress by Hong Kong.

These issues range from the Work Programme on Small Economies to the Working Groups on Trade, Debt and Finance and on Transfer of Technology, and from TRIPS and Electronic Commerce to the work on environment in the regular Committee on Trade and Environment, as well as the commitments we undertook in respect of least-developed countries. Although developing countries have thus far been very forthcoming in agreeing that attention should be focused initially on what many consider to be the key areas for the negotiations as a whole, they have put us on notice that they wish to see progress on these other elements by Hong Kong. We must ensure that the development dimension of the negotiations yields concrete results in accordance with our mandate. I would also like to recall that last July we extended the Doha moratoria on TRIPS non-violation complaints and e-commerce duties until the Hong Kong Ministerial, and we will need to take these issues also into account in the preparation of any text or texts in the autumn.

The summer break should allow us all a period of serious reflection. I envisage that, following the summer break, work will begin in earnest at the very earliest opportunity. As the DG has mentioned, we have 13 weeks from the beginning of September until 1 December, which is the scheduled date of the final General Council meeting prior to the Ministerial, by which time we should aim to have a broadly agreed text to present to Ministers.

Let me emphasize that we are all now looking to conclude the negotiations in 2006, using the Hong Kong Ministerial as a platform to take us into the endgame. Failure to get there will be a major setback for growth, development and the multilateral system. You, the Members, will have to decide whether that is an option.