WTO: 2006 NEWS ITEMS
10 October 2006
Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his report to the General Council on 10 October 2006 as chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, said that from his contacts with many trade ministers “it is now obvious that the cost of failure, and the missed opportunity to rebalance the trading system, would hurt developing countries more than others”. In a separate statement, he underscored the importance of moving forward on Aid for Trade despite the setback in the negotiations.
Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
At the last meeting of the General Council in July, I undertook to continue my contacts with participants at every level in order to facilitate resumption of the negotiations. This remains my top priority. I want to report today on the results of those contacts so far and on what, in my judgement, is still needed before the negotiations can usefully resume.
Since July, I have talked to many Ministers and officials across a broad range of the membership. I have attended the meetings of the G20, the Cairns Group and World Bank-IMF, and I have visited China and Nigeria. I will be going to Brussels and Washington this month. I have also met here in Geneva with the Negotiating Group Chairs, coordinators of regional and other groups, and various delegations.
In all these contacts, I have repeatedly stressed the costs if we fail to resolve the current impasse — to the global economy and the multilateral system which underpins it. I think we are all very much aware of what is already on the table in this Round, and of the potential benefits for every Member and for the global economy if we successfully conclude it. And it is now obvious that the costs of failure, and the missed opportunity to rebalance the trading systems, would hurt developing countries more than others, which is probably why it is developing countries who have been the loudest in clamouring for a resumption of the negotiations.
The General Council has just endorsed a very good set of recommendations on Aid for Trade. This is most gratifying, and we must now build on the progress and momentum that clearly exists. I have also reported on my own consultations to secure additional financial resources for aid for trade. I believe we must actively continue to work closely with both donors and beneficiaries to ensure that the initiative continues to gather momentum as an essential complement to a solid Doha Round outcome.
As I stated at UNCTAD Trade and Development Board meeting two weeks ago, the present time-out in our negotiations should allow us to think more creatively about how trade, development and growth can fit together into a coherent whole, and Aid for Trade is a key piece of that puzzle. It presents all of us with the major opportunity — and challenge — of translating our promise of greater global cooperation into concrete actions and meaningful results.
Given what is at stake in the Round, I have also urged governments to work hard in their own constituencies, although I am very aware of the political difficulties they face in doing so. But the fact remains that there is no acceptable alternative to the successful conclusion of the Round, and we all need to act upon that basis.
From what I have heard from different interlocutors, I can say that there appears to be no doubt whatsoever in anyone's mind that we must conclude the Round as soon as possible. The desire to come back to the negotiating table and to make a deal is widespread and genuine. We have now heard calls for a swift resumption of the negotiations from every quarters — ASEAN, the G20, the Cairns Group, the World Bank-IMF Finance Committee and many Presidents and Ministers around the world. The African Union is preparing its position to be discussed at the end of this month in Addis Ababa.
The next step, then, is to determine how and when we can bring everyone back to the table. This has been very much the focus of my recent meetings with Ministers, senior officials and Permanent Representatives here. I believe we have now established some of the parameters of our path.
First, we can only resume when substantive positions have changed on key problem issues, in particular in the key area of Agriculture which holds the key to unlocking the rest of the agenda. No visible indications of flexibilities until now. Unless and until it happens, we will remain deadlocked.
Second, when we resume, it must be across the board — the whole negotiating agenda must resume in step.
Third, the window of opportunity we have is limited. If we are to have a chance of finishing in 2007, the space to move is somewhere between November and springtime, which appears to be the latest time to get the breakthrough we need.
All our efforts over the next weeks must be dedicated to meeting these conditions. I am encouraged at the renewed informal contacts among governments and the seriousness with which Ministers and officials are tackling the challenge. There is also an obvious need to renew support for the DDA among the wider community, and in this respect I believe our recent Public Symposium was helpful. We have to combat complacency about the fate of the Round; there must be no doubt that it matters very much and that it must be brought to a successful conclusion.
The resumption of the negotiations, therefore, has to be something we all work to make possible, because resuming makes no sense if nothing has changed since July. I will keep up my engagement with the membership to facilitate the movement we need, and I have encouraged the Negotiating Group Chairs to do the same. This is no time for inaction but rather for discreet and quiet activity. This pause in the process must be a productive one, where we lay the foundations for success. I urge all of you to continue technical work, discreet calculations, private sounding to prepare the ground. I do not believe anything else is acceptable to the global community.
That concludes my report on this occasion. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.