2 December 2005

Conference Chair announces slate of facilitators

The Chair of the Sixth Ministerial Conference, Sec. John Tsang, on 2 December 2005 urged members to be “fully engaged in serious negotiations” in Hong Kong, and “set the platform” for the conclusion of the Round in 2006. He promised “an open, transparent and inclusive process”, and announced the names of Ministers who will assisting him as facilitators.

Statement by John Tsang — Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Hong Kong, China.

Thank you Madam Chair,

Let me start by saying how pleased I am to be here. I realize that the last couple of weeks has been a period of intense activity preparing the draft Declaration for the Sixth Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong. My thanks to you all.

It is not a secret that many of us would have liked to see agreement on full modalities in Hong Kong, but I am not going to agonize over that now. Multilateral negotiations have a life and a rhythm of their own. As with baking, you cannot force the pace without risk of spoiling the cake.

From Hong Kong, China’s point of view, what is important is that we add value to the process. The Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong will not be just an occasion for stocktaking. We will be fully engaged in serious negotiations. We will aim to ratchet up the extent and quality of our convergence, and set the platform for the next stage of our preparation towards the conclusion of the Round by the end of 2006.

Pascal is fond of aeronautical metaphors. So let me say that our aim is to emerge from the ministerial meeting refueled, re-charged and re-focused with an unambiguous flight-plan for the final leg of the journey. To my mind, that has always meant that we must concentrate colleagues’ minds on key issues in each area and secure decisions, which clear the way for the final stage of negotiations here in Geneva.

In that context, allow me to say a few words about how we plan to run the meeting in Hong Kong. The strategy for the preparatory work is a bottom-up process with no surprises. That is exactly how I intend to run the Hong Kong meeting: bottom-up and no surprises. We want to have, indeed, we need to have, an open, transparent and inclusive process, with nothing new or novel, nothing untried, nothing untested or nothing unfamiliar.

I fully understand that communication amongst delegations and groups of delegations is a key ingredient for an effective ministerial meeting. We will, therefore, be adhering to past practice in having two daily one hour slots, morning and afternoon, to facilitate this sort of coordination. I will also ask the coordinators and spokespersons of various groupings to assist me in disseminating information on the latest developments to their respective constituencies to ensure that everyone is up to date on the state of the discussion and that the process remains as transparent as possible.

Madam Chair, I understand that you intend to say a few words later on about the organization of work, and I have no wish to duplicate this. However, let me just emphasize that after the formal opening of the Conference on the afternoon of Tuesday 13 December, we will move quickly to the business session of the conference at which we will need to adopt an agenda and agree on the organization of work. I have been in close touch with the Director General on this over the last few weeks, and I will communicate with delegations more formally on detailed arrangements shortly. Allow me today simply to say that the informal process in Hong Kong will essentially mirror the process you are familiar with here in Geneva. There will be regular informal Heads-of-Delegations meetings, at least once a day.

As part of this, I believe that, like my predecessors, I will need the assistance of a number of colleagues to facilitate the process in Hong Kong. I have, therefore, approached a number of them to ensure, initially, that they are both willing – you will understand me when I say that there are few volunteers for this sort of work (!) – and that they are available. I am happy to say that I have secured the services of six courageous colleagues. They are:

  • Humayun Khan of Pakistan, who will deal with NAMA;

  • Mukhisa Kituyi of Kenya, who will deal with Agriculture; and

  • Clement Rohee of Guyana, who will deal with specific development-related issues.

For Services, Rules and other issues, I have secured the assistance of three other colleagues who will serve as facilitators at large. They are:

  • Hyun Chong Kim of Korea;

  • Jonas Støre of Norway; and

  • Ignacio Walker of Chile.

So there it is, my slate of facilitators who will assist me in Hong Kong. In choosing them I have borne in mind the five core areas of work, which we have pursued since the beginning of this year, and the need to be even-handed. I also have in mind the need for some flexibility in the organization of work as negotiations evolve during the conference. I will be giving further thought to this in the time remaining between now and our meeting in Hong Kong, but I thought it best to share my broad thinking with you at this earliest possible moment.

I can assure Members that all facilitators will provide opportunities for every delegation to make its views known, and will keep transparency and inclusiveness close to their hearts.

Madam Chair, preparations for the Hong Kong Ministerial are complete. Logistically, everything that can be done to facilitate a successful meeting of ministers has been done. Hong Kong, China, looks forward to welcoming you all and to making every aspect of your stay with us as comfortable and enjoyable an experience as possible. What we cannot do is guarantee success; we cannot do your work for you. Success is something for which we have a collective responsibility.

We are all fond of repeating that the WTO is a member-driven organization; the agenda is member-driven; the process is member-driven; and so success must also by definition be member-driven. Hong Kong, China is delighted that we have been given the opportunity to host the coming conference. We hope that it will help move negotiations forward, but a successful conclusion of this Round depends on you, the members, having the global vision and the individual courage necessary to drive determinedly through the Ministerial and onto the final stage. For sure, colleagues, the world will be watching.

In conclusion, Madam Chair, let me say how pleased I am to have had the opportunity of being with you all at this meeting of the General CounciI this morning. It has been immensely valuable in helping me think through my final preparations for the task ahead. Thank you for taking the process this far; I look forward to seeing you all in Hong Kong and working with you all collectively towards a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round.

Thank you.