19 October 2005

Lamy: “We need to act now”

Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his report to the General Council on 19 October 2005, said he will stress to Ministers meeting informally in Geneva that “we are under severe pressure of time” in the negotiations. He said the Ministers must build on last week’s momentum “to allow us to advance on all issues across the board”.

> More on the General Council meeting of 19th October 2005

Chairman’s Statement

Since the last meeting of the General Council, the TNC has held two meetings. In the interests of transparency, the remarks I made at both meetings were made available to all participants directly afterwards in the form of Job documents.

At the first meeting, on 14 September, I presented a precise diagnosis of the essential key issues which were, in my view, those that participants would have to resolve if they wanted to achieve a coherent outcome in Hong Kong. This list of issues was not intended to be an exhaustive one, but was rather aimed at identifying areas which were strategic and had to be settled if participants were to turn the vicious circle they were in at that time into a virtuous one.

I urged participants to try to properly target each one of the crucial subjects and focus on the proper sequence of those subjects in order to move forward.

At our second meeting on 13 October I reported to you that following some much-needed political involvement at the highest levels, the negotiations had gained new momentum with a number of important proposals in agriculture. On the domestic support pillar, a solid contribution from the United States had injected new momentum to the work and brought this pillar closer to that on export competition, so that real negotiations could start. However, on the market access pillar, despite new proposals tabled by the G10, EC, US, G33 and G20, I said that position were still too far apart and I stressed that Members will need to approximate their positions on the level of ambition needed in this pillar before negotiations on numbers can commence.

It is clearly essential that we keep up the pressure in Agriculture, and this week's meetings are important in that respect. But we also need solid progress in the other key areas of the negotiations and I clearly identified urgent progress needed on NAMA and services as well as on rules. As far as development is concerned I explained that the greatest gains will stem from each negotiating area and reported on the development paper prepared by the Secretariat and intended to outline how development is mainstreamed along the entire Doha Agenda.

At the TNC last week, I set out the minimum elements in each area which I believe are needed for Hong Kong. Hong Kong has to take us two thirds of way on the path to a successful conclusion. If this does not happen, our prospects of concluding the Round by the end of 2006, when our window of opportunity closes, will be seriously jeopardized.

In 2006, we will need to go rapidly from general formulae to specific commitments, and I set out the steps this would entail, using Agriculture as an example. Next year, our margin for manoeuvre is going to be very slim, perhaps just a couple of months, which is all the more reason why we must achieve the objectives we have set ourselves for Hong Kong.

The interventions by delegations at the TNC, some of which were by Ministers and senior officials, converged on a number of points, namely the diagnosis of the overall situation, the concerns about transparency and inclusiveness which you know I share and I am trying hard to address, the centrality of development and our next steps. I also detected a strong sense of urgency. We all know we need to move forward in all the key negotiating areas in parallel, and we must ensure that political-level attention remains focussed on our process.

We have a shared commitment to a “bottom-up” process, where text for the Ministers in Hong Kong must grow out of convergence among negotiators and our target is to circulate a comprehensive draft text in mid-November. This means we are under severe pressure of time — we must now think in terms of days, rather than weeks. We have a huge amount of work to do in very little time. This weeks discussion on agricultural market access must build on last weeks momentum to allow us to advance on all issues across the board. We need to act now. This is the message I will be sending to the Ministers I will be meeting with later this morning and in the afternoon.

Finally, let me say a word about Implementation. I informed the TNC that I am undertaking a consultative process on all outstanding paragraph 12(b) implementation issues 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.

This process is being carried out in my capacity as Director-General and 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.