WTO: 2005 NEWS ITEMS
2 December 2005
TRADE NEGOTIATIONS COMMITTEE
Lamy says improved draft text will help ministers in Hong Kong
Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his report to the General Council on 2 December 2005 as chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, said that an intensive consultative process in the past few days has produced a second Draft Ministerial Text in response to a clear message from ministers that they expect to receive a “workable basis” for the deliberations in Hong Kong.
Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Since the October meeting of the General Council, the TNC has held one formal meeting on 30 November 2005. I have also convened two informal meetings, on 3 and 10 November, to review the state of play in the Doha Round and to discuss how our work could be taken forward across the board.
In conjunction with you, Madam Chair, we have also convened two informal Heads of Delegation meetings on 26 November and 28 November. At the meeting on 26 November the first draft Ministerial Text, was introduced to delegations. Delegations then had a first opportunity to have a comprehensive exchange of views on that draft at the meeting on 28 November. For the sake of transparency I also briefed them on the initial consultations on some parts of the first draft text that you and I had held with a number of delegations, as we had prefigured at our HoDs on 28 November.
The TNC meeting on 30 November was an opportunity for delegations to hear from each of the Negotiating Group Chairs their report on work in their respective areas before a revised draft text was submitted to the General Council for consideration. It was also the first opportunity for delegations to place their views and comments on the record following the informal HoDs meetings.
A large number of delegations made comments on the first draft text in a very substantive and in general, positive manner, both at the TNC on 30 November and at the informal HoDs meeting on 28 November. A considerable number of delegations expressed appreciation to the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups for the very hard work they had done in guiding the process and for producing reports. A wide range of concerns and issues were expressed, including specific suggestions for revision of certain paragraphs in “draft text form”. Comments were also made on the different approaches used in preparing the text.
A large number of delegations expressed appreciation for the “bottom-up” approach and the principle of no surprises which has been guiding our work from the very start. In line with these principles and the need for transparency and inclusiveness, the aim was for all delegations to feel ownership of the draft text.
Madam Chair, from the consultations you and I carried out, there was a
sense of emerging convergence that the most difficult issues —
Agriculture, NAMA and S&D should continue to focus the attention of the
membership since wide divergences remained on them. Some delegations
also made the point that in the areas of Agriculture and NAMA, key
questions or issues should be identified to serve as guide for
negotiations by Ministers in Hong Kong
At both the HoDs on 28 November and also at the TNC on Wednesday, I expressed to delegations my sincere hope that Members at today's General Council would be able to agree on the text that would go to Ministers. I stressed this because, in my conversations with Ministers over the past week, I had received a clear and unambiguous message that they expect to receive a workable basis for their future deliberations at Hong Kong, which is 11 days from today.
I informed delegations that I was convinced that we had a collective responsibility to do our utmost to ensure that Ministers could arrive in Hong Kong with a clear idea of where they needed to focus their work. I stressed that it was important to keep in mind that although we may have “recalibrated” the specific level of ambition for the meeting in Hong Kong, it must nonetheless provide the launching pad for finishing the Round in 2006.
I also informed delegations that the overall text mirrored and would continue to mirror the reality of the situation prevailing, once again in line with the “no-surprises” principle.
Madam Chair, as you are aware, we have in the past few days intensified our consultative process with the aim of collectively improving the situation and the quality of the work that we present to our Ministers in Hong Kong. I would like to thank all delegations for their commitment, hard work and cooperation in this process. I particularly express my appreciation to smaller delegations.
As a result of these consultative processes, a revised version of the text was circulated to delegations yesterday. This draft incorporates amendments made in light of the views expressed by Members in our consultations and in the recent Heads of Delegation and TNC meetings. Once again, this is a no-surprise draft and one that has fully taken into account the bottom-up approach that we have been following strictly. It has tried to capture in a better way the current situation in the negotiations without trying, in anyway, to push the envelope. Well, to be honest with you, I do have a “small surprise” in the text and that is that the brackets on paragraph 53 relating to the completion of the accession negotiations by Tonga can now be dropped and the number of outstanding accessions can be reduced to 29. We continue to enlarge the family: two new members in less than a month. This is the fourth Pacific island state to join us. I hope we can soon welcome more members into the world trade family.
Going back to the declaration, let me first outline what we have not done in producing this revised draft. We have not taken on board the totality of the suggestions for amendments that were made in our meetings over the past few days. This is because, in keeping with the principles on which we have been operating, we could not include something which reflected one side of a controversial issue, or seek to force a top-down convergence where none existed. Many of the issues on which amendments were proposed were ones which have been extensively discussed in the negotiating groups and the WTO bodies, but which so far remain unresolved. It is not through a text like this that we will resolve them but by continuing to address them in a bottom-up manner. Our aim has been to carry issues needing political attention to the political level, in as user-friendly a form as we could.
So this is not an encyclopaedia of positions. On the other hand, it does not pretend, either, to be definitive or agreed. It does not prejudice your positions and of course it leaves your Ministers in Hong Kong full freedom to raise or add any issues that they wish.
Let me now move to what we have done. We have, firstly, taken on board a number of specific drafting suggestions where these appeared non-controversial and went in the direction of a more useful text for Ministers e.g. adding a reference to JITAP in the section on Technical Cooperation. We have included a few elements which not only enjoyed wide support from Members but also reflected the reality of our work. This is the case, for example, of the new paragraph 38 on the TRIPS Council's work under paragraph 19 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.
The main focus of our work to improve the draft, though, has been on Agriculture including cotton, NAMA and development issues, because this is where your main focus has been. We have held intensive consultations involving a broad range of the membership with the aim of producing texts to put before the Council which would better equip your Ministers to make progress in Hong Kong on these key areas.
Concerning specific development-related issues, we have consulted on ways to make Annex F on S&D proposals for LDCs more manageable. Not to decide right now on the issues it contains, but to help Ministers to decide in Hong Kong. It has not been possible to find more straight-forward text in all points of Annex F, but what you see there now is certainly easier for Ministers to come to grips with.
In Agriculture and NAMA our efforts have focused on seeking convergence on wording which would add to the Draft Text a fair and concise account of the real progress we have made since July 2004. This is the text you now have in paragraphs 4-9 and 12-18. The Cotton text in paragraphs 10 and 11 reflect divergences as well as progress, but this is our reality and I hope it also transmits a sense of urgency.
In these areas, also, we have consulted on the formulation of a number of basic questions that might be useful to the Ministers in Hong Kong. These are not included in the text, since they are simply a device to assist debate rather than an element for debate in their own right. They are:
List of issues to be addressed in light of the Doha mandate and the July 2004 Framework:
1. What are the elements of the formulae for the reduction
commitments in trade-distorting domestic support? And what are the
disciplines that should complement the reduction commitments?
2. What are the elements of the formula for tariff reduction commitments and other elements to support it? And what are the flexibilities that should accompany the tariff reduction commitments?
3. What agreement is needed regarding parallelism in order to determine an end-date for elimination of all forms of export subsidies?
4. What are the elements necessary to deal with cotton ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically in all three pillars?
5. What are the elements of S&D necessary in all three pillars?
List of issues to be addressed in light of the Doha mandate and the July 2004 Framework:
1. Can Ministers agree on all the elements needed to finalize
the formula and other elements that support it?
2. Can Ministers resolve remaining differences about flexibilities?
3. On unbound tariffs, can Ministers agree that a mark up is the way forward?
These questions are available in written form outside the meeting room. Our intention is to convey them to Secretary Tsang, the Chair of the Conference, to use as appropriate to assist his work on these important issues.
We will convey them these questions as part of a letter which we intend to send early next week to Secretary Tsang, and copy to all Members, along with the Draft Text. I wish to stress that in this letter we shall also include the key points from the cover page to the revised draft, which responds to the concerns raised by a number of delegations about the status of the annexes. The letter will clearly state that the texts in all annexes, with the exception of the Trade Facilitation which was agreed by the Negotiating Group, are presented on the responsibility of the respective Chairs. We shall also make it clear that significant differences persist among Members in various areas, differences which this Draft does not gloss over but rather seeks honestly to reflect. You can be assured that we will represent the situation we have reached in Geneva objectively and fairly. For the Ministers as well, our motto is “no surprises”.
To conclude, Madam Chairman, I think the membership can feel some satisfaction at the work we have done together. The result is not a particularly symmetrical or elegant construction, but I believe it is robust enough to serve the Ministers as a platform from which to launch a successful concluding year for the DDA. And more importantly, I hope it will show the “family spirit” in which we have tried to work these last weeks. We may not be proud of the progress made in the negotiations but I think we can be proud of the text being a fair and honest mirror of our situation.
Finally, I wish to report on my work on Implementation. As Members will recall, 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 have been undertaking consultations on the paragraph 12(b) implementation issues in my capacity as Director-General, including on issues related to the extension of the protection of geographical indications (GIs) provided for in Article 23 of the TRIPS Agreement to products other than wines and spirits. In accordance with the Decision, the process I have undertaken was without prejudice to the positions of Members on any of the outstanding implementation issues.
At Wednesday's TNC meeting, I reported in detail on my consultative processes. I do not intend to repeat it in full today, but I would like to highlight some elements.
I have been 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 has taken up the TRIMs issues and Rufus Yerxa who has been consulting on the issues of GIs and relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Overall, I regret that the situation has clearly not evolved significantly since my predecessor reported to the General Council in July. Therefore, with the aim of ensuring that we can fulfil the commitment we undertook at Doha, paragraph 33 of the draft Ministerial text which is now before you, proposes continuing this process and reiterates the instructions given last July to all relevant bodies to find appropriate solutions as a priority. But as I have already stressed to TNC participants, we will need both flexibility and creativity in our approaches in order to respect our mandate.
A last word, Madam Chair, to all delegations who are now finalizing preparations for the Hong Kong Conference: in just a few days, Ministers will be gathering in the Convention Centre by Hong Kong harbour and will be called to decide on a variety of far-reaching issues, contained in almost 40 pages of Declaration. It is our collective responsibility to provide Ministers with an objective, balanced and tranquil evaluation of the current situation of negotiations, which will allow them to take well-informed decisions. I therefore appeal to all of you to make the best of this unique opportunity to help achieving an strengthened, improved and fairer multilateral system.
Thank you, Madam Chair.