13 October 2005

Lamy says the engines of negotiations are “buzzing” again

Director-General Pascal Lamy, in a statement at the meeting of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee on 13 October 2005, said that the trade talks have gained “a new momentum” with the agriculture proposal by the United States. He added that “it is essential that the development aspect of agriculture negotiations be kept at the centre stage, as it is for the Round as a whole”.

Chairman's statement

I would like to welcome delegations to the twenty-first meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee.

I would like to start by recalling the roadmap to Hong Kong we discussed during the previous meeting of the TNC. By mid-October we would need to start approximations for landing, using pilot language, while by mid-November the chairs of the negotiating groups would have to have produced texts for the first version of the draft declaration to be adopted in Hong Kong.

But Hong Kong is only a stop-over before we land in our final destination end of 2006. To get there and starting January 2006 we would need to go from the general formulae to specific commitments. Let me give you an example and briefly run through what will be needed taking the example of Agriculture, once we achieve the successful results in Hong Kong:

  • First, and before each country starts drafting its own list of detailed commitments, we need to agree on a format that all countries will follow; this would take us to the end of January

  • Second, during around 3 months, each country will draft schedules of commitments on the basis of the formulae agreed in HK

  • During this period there will continue to be bilateral negotiations among members, as well as broader negotiations on a number of leftovers from Hong Kong, including in the rules area

  • The following 2 to 3 months will go into verifying the draft schedules produced

  • And a further 3 months into legal drafting

  • this means a total of 10 months in the best case scenario. Just 2 months of margin of manoeuvre which is very thin if we consider the similar steps to be taken in parallel in areas such as NAMA, services, rules ... not to mention the limited capacities in many developing countries

But for all this to start in January 2006, we need to achieve a quantum of progress by Hong Kong, without which we would have missed the 2006 plane.

Where are we today? With developments this week I think the engines of the negotiation plane have been switched on again. This is no guarantee that the engines will be able to lift the plane to the necessary altitude to start the approximation to Hong Kong, since a lot of work remains, but at least the engines are buzzing.

I will focus very much on Agriculture, because I think we all recognize that this is the engine that has to lift the bulk of our plane. If that engine is log-jammed, as it has been, the plane gets stuck on the tarmac.

The new momentum has come firstly from the important proposal on domestic support made by the United States. I think all participants, whatever their positions, recognize this as an important contribution to advancing the negotiations. The US has now crossed the line of a reform of its agriculture policy, which is after all what we all agreed should be the aim of the agriculture negotiations when we subscribed paragraph 13 of the Doha Declaration. This puts the domestic support pillar in a position more like the export competition, that is, in “negotiating shape” so to say, even if there are still elements in it which will need further approximations such as criteria for the blue box, the overall cap or the de minimis.

On market access, momentum has also come from the proposals which have been tabled by the G-10, EU, US, G-33 and finally G-20. However, positions in this pillar are still too far apart for the real negotiations to commence. Members will need to approximate their position on the level of ambition needed in this pillar before negotiations can commence.

It is also essential that the development aspect of the agriculture negotiations be kept at the centre stage, as it is for the Round as a whole. It also means working on the Special and Differential treatment component in an inclusive and effective way, and making every possible effort to advance the Cotton dossier.

Let me now turn to NAMA, where I believe there is consensus emerging on the use of a Swiss formula, with a limited number of negotiated coefficients, even if we are not yet there. For the Mid-November text, we need a range of numbers (coefficients) for the formula; comparable detail on flexibilities; and agreement on how to fix the base rate for unbound tariffs. This is the bare minimum, before we go to issues such as preference erosion, sectorals and NTBs.

In the negotiations on Services, we must not spend time discussing why we have not gone further towards that goal. Instead, we must work out how we will reach it after Hong Kong, by defining in Hong Kong our level of ambition, which must match the rest of the negotiations, and the roadmap leading to it.

On rules, we must intensify the on-going text-based negotiating process, so that by Hong Kong we have undertaken a rigorous consideration of proposed amendments to the agreements. In Hong Kong we need a clear commitment to work towards achieving a comprehensive text in all areas of the Rules mandate.

On development, the greatest gains will stem from each one of the pillars of the negotiation and it is therefore by advancing in these pillars that we will start to see the contours of the development package. The WTO Secretariat has produced a first paper on the development aspects in each of the areas under negotiation which has been discussed with you in the Committee on Trade and Development. We await now your input so that we can have a second discussion on this paper at a next meeting of the Committee, which I intend to attend personally as a sign of the importance that I attach to ensuring development is mainstreamed throughout the entire Doha Agenda.

In the work on Special and Differential Treatment, it is still possible and necessary, in my view, to harvest a good number of Agreement-specific proposals, starting with those submitted by the LDCs.

We must also ensure that the issues of Implementation — I will say a word on this now - and TRIPS and Public Health are taken up in an appropriate way in the lead-up to Hong Kong. And we must ensure that we build the necessary base for an Aid for Trade package for the end of the Round.

What are the next steps?

The Chairs of the different negotiating groups, who will now briefly report on their work, should start working to refine their agenda and focus on the main items for Hong Kong.

On agriculture, I hope that the meeting of some members ministers scheduled for Wednesday/Thursday next week will use the momentum created this week to approximate positions on market access, so that the crux of the negotiation can take place in the agriculture negotiating group on all three pillars.

I have made it clear to those involved in this meeting that the aim of their consultations must be to bring back fresh ideas and opportunities to the membership as a whole in full transparency and inclusiveness. Such processes are essential as a catalyst to the progress we urgently need, but they are of course no substitute for the deliberations of the full membership.

For my part I will continue to reach out to the different groupings to listen, consult and ensure transparency with all members.

A word on the issue of implementation. I would like to inform delegations that, in line with the mandate given to the Director-General in the July 2004 Decision which was renewed by the General Council in July of this year, I am undertaking a consultative process on all outstanding implementation issues under paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, including on issues related to the extension of the protection of geographical indications provided for in Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement to products other than wines and spirits.

This process will be carried out in my capacity as Director-General and is without prejudice to the positions of Members. I will be assisted by a number of the Chairpersons of concerned WTO bodies acting as my Friends and by two of my Deputy Directors-General — Valentine Rugwabiza will take up the TRIMs issues and Rufus Yerxa will be taking up the issues of GIs and TRIPS/CBD. I will, of course, report to the TNC and to the General Council on progress in this process at their upcoming meetings.

Finally, let me recall our shared commitment to a “bottom-up” process, where text for the Ministers in Hong Kong must grow out of convergence among negotiators. I see no-one wanting to change that. However, there is no escaping the severe pressure that process puts on the negotiators to deliver concrete progress in a very short time. We now have days, rather than weeks or months.

Let me also mention that over the weekend I will be visiting Hong Kong China to check the premises of the Ministerial Conference and to engage in a discussion with non-governmental organisations on the Doha Development Agenda.

I believe we should stand by our target of circulating a comprehensive draft text in mid-November, which is essential for governments to prepare themselves properly. That is about 30 days from now, counting every day as a working day. The amount of ground to be covered in this very short time is very large. But I am convinced it is not impossible. It can be done, and I believe that a number of issues are ripe for rapid movement once other sectors unblock.

Highlights from the 13 October 2005 press conference
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Reports by chairpersons of bodies established by the TNC
Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture: (TN/AG/20)
Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services: (TN/S/22)
Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Environment: (TN/TE/13)