15 May 2006

Lamy urges negotiators to find “second wind” in trade talks

Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his report to the General Council as chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee on 15 May, said trade negotiators “now need to push to the finish”. “We can achieve modalities — I am convinced of that, but it is going be hard work... as we all know, looking at the developments in the world around us, the stakes are too high for us to fail”.

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Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Since the last meeting of the General Council, the TNC has held two formal meetings on 28 March and 1 May. An informal meeting also took place on 24 April. In my report today, I would like to focus mainly on the two most recent meetings, and to report on the state of play in the negotiations as I see it.

At our meetings at the end of April and beginning of May, we collectively faced up to the fact that we had not been able to establish modalities in Agriculture and NAMA, or reach an agreement on the RTA Transparency Mechanism, by 30 April. We faced these facts squarely, but not sensationally. There was disappointment and a sobering realisation of what is at stake: the more we move into the year, the more we risk to fail in our endeavour to conclude the Round. We also shared a clear determination to work towards modalities in agriculture and NAMA in weeks rather than months.

The discussion at these meetings and the numerous contacts I have had with Ministers and officials at various levels in recent days have confirmed that WTO members remain fully committed to the Doha Round, and to making the concrete progress rapidly. I believe we all realise that we are now in the red zone, and that we are not far from the red part of this red zone.

Hence our resolve to work intensively, continuously, on texts and in Geneva.

The introductory remarks I made at our 1 May meeting are available to delegations in document JOB(06)/134. In those remarks, I provided updates on all the different areas of negotiations, and also touched upon some issues outside the Single Undertaking. I believe that, overall, the picture is by no means a bleak one. Progress has been made, notably on parts of the Doha agenda which are not headline catchers.

In the interest of transparency I would want to update you on the meetings that the Integrated Framework Steering Committee ( IFSC) and the IF Working Group (IFWG) held last week, mainly focussing on the preliminary recommendations from the Task Force on an enhanced IF. While there was general support for the policy prescriptions contained in the draft recommendations, it was made clear that in line with the mandate endorsed by Ministers in Hong Kong, all three elements of the mandate for an enhanced IF were intrinsically interlinked and could not be separated from each other. The three elements are: increased, additional predictable funding; strengthened in-country capacity; and improved decision making and management.

In terms of next steps, the Task Force intends to finalise its recommendations by the end of May. The IFWG and IFSC will thereafter need to review and take a decision, possibly in June, and start the next phase of operationalising the recommendations. It has been emphasised that the putting in place of transitional arrangements was important to ensure a smooth transition between the existing IF to the new structures.

But I wish to stress, once again, that all the effort and all the progress we have made across the whole negotiating agenda could be put at risk if negotiators fail to unlock the modalities in Agriculture and NAMA in the coming weeks.

Where are we today?

I believe that we have succeeded in placing Geneva at the centre of the process. We are in an intensive and continuous negotiating process under the leadership of the Chairs. Clearly the process they have put in place has shifted gear in the speed of the negotiations.

However, the engagement of members in bridging gaps and finding consensus must be improved. Members cannot rely on Chairs to produce convergence out of thin air. They need to actively participate in convergence-building by tabling papers, discussing hypothesis and simulations and definitively abandoning well-know positions. It is time for convergence towards production of texts for ministerial discussion in the coming weeks. The more time passes, the more we are all collectively responsible for ensuring that convergence takes place. We all prefer to reach this convergence through a bottom-up process, with no surprises. But in any event, we have to move on.

There is urgency. We have only a very few weeks ahead of us to achieve consensus where it is most badly needed. The Chairs must have the assistance of every one of you in achieving consensus.

Let me now turn to the subject of Implementation. As requested by Ministers at Hong Kong, I have continued my consultative process on all outstanding implementation issues under paragraph 12(b) of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, without prejudice to the positions of Members. I reported in detail to the TNC on 1 May, and I do not intend to repeat that detail today. The full text of my report was contained in the document I mentioned earlier, JOB(06)/134.

Since my last report to the General Council, good work has been done, notably in the areas of GI extension and TRIPS/CBD and this work is continuing. On all the other Implementation issues, the situation has not evolved significantly. In many of these areas, the ball is essentially in the court of the proponents. I think that the time is fast approaching when we will need to agree on which issues to continue to pursue. I will, of course, report again on Implementation to the next meetings of the TNC and General Council.

At our TNC meetings over the past months, we have heard many analogies on different themes, and last time the theme was sport. So let me add a sporting analogy of my own concerning — quite naturally, marathon running. In a race, it is always the last few kilometres which are the hardest. Even the most experienced and best prepared runner can “hit the wall”, and the trick in this situation is to find your second wind. It can be done and often is, and there are no special tricks. Obviously, physical preparation is crucial to running a marathon. I think we have had a lot of that. The missing part is not training. But without strong determination, without the mental resolve to overcome fatigue, the finishing line may never be crossed.

I believe we are in prime physical condition to finish this race. We are doing the preparatory technical work — but we now need to push to the finish, with determination. Someone said that running a marathon is 80% physical — and 80% mental ! Let's get our bodies and our minds focused on the finish line.

We can achieve modalities — I am convinced of that, but it is going to be hard work. We must just get our second wind. As we all know, looking at developments in the world around us, the stakes are too high for us to fail.

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Statement by TNC chair Pascal Lamy at the 15 May TNC meeting
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