8 February 2006

Lamy calls on negotiators to focus now on “numbers and texts”

Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his report to the General Council on 8 February 2006 as chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, underlined that the “only way to make progress across the board in these negotiations is focus on the two main elements we must now develop — numbers and words, texts”.

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Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Since the Sixth Session of the Ministerial Conference, the TNC has held one formal meeting on 7 February 2006. This first meeting of what can only be a crucial year for the negotiations launched at Doha, confirmed three clear messages I had received from my contacts with a wide range of Members since the beginning of the year:

  • first, that there is widespread commitment to making good on what was agreed at Hong Kong,

  • second, that there is a shared intention to move ahead across the whole of the DDA, making progress on all issues, and

  • third, that all interlocutors understand that they will all have to move from their current positions and are willing to do so by moving “in concert”.

Obviously, Agriculture (in particular market access and domestic support) and NAMA remain the flagships of the convoy, but no-one is in any doubt that our convoy is a large one. These two issues have an important role in leading the convoy to port, but we all know that the convoy must arrive together, this is the very essence of our common principle of the “Single Undertaking”.

From what was said at the TNC, it was also clear that everyone attaches the highest importance to making progress in all the various areas of our negotiations in keeping with the Single Undertaking. For everyone, the calendar of work set out by Ministers in the Hong Kong Declaration clearly governs the work ahead of us.

Most delegations saw the paper on timelines which they had received ahead of the TNC meeting as a useful working tool, and a number of suggestions were made as to how it might be improved. But as I underlined, this paper should not become an item of negotiation in its own right, it does not impose any new obligations on Members and it was not proposed for adoption by the TNC. It is simply a tool to focus minds. As also expressed during yesterday's meeting, the only way we can improve in the area of timelines is by accelerating the work in the different negotiating groups.

On process, we all share the view that our work must continue to be based on a bottom-up approach. We also believe that the process should be open, transparent and inclusive. I think it is only fair to say that much has done in improving the functioning of the process and ensuring a good balance between efficiency and legitimacy. I am also certain that there is room for improvement and indeed we should all continue to try to improve it.

Finally, and as I said in my concluding remarks at the meeting, we cannot just continue to talk about calendar and process, we must now turn to substance. The only way to make progress across the board in these negotiations is focus on the two main elements we must now develop – numbers and words, texts. It is only by making progress on these two crucial components of the final outcome of the negotiations that we can ensure that the Round is a success. And the only way to do this is to reduce our remaining differences, but not at the cost of the overall level of ambition.

Let me now turn to the issue of Implementation, and make my first report in my role as Director-General, as mandated in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration. Ministers have asked me to intensify 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 have also been asked to report to each regular meeting of the TNC and the General Council, and the Council is to review progress and take any appropriate action no later than 31 July 2006.

I have already started intensifying the consultative process, with the assistance of a number of the Chairpersons of concerned WTO bodies acting as my Friends and two of my Deputy Directors-General, Valentine Rugwabiza who will take up the TRIMs issues and Rufus Yerxa for the issues of GIs and TRIPS/CBD. I have already met with my Friends and asked them to resume informal consultations as early as next week. I will report on progress achieved at the next TNC meeting in March and at subsequent General Council meetings.

The report I made on these issues to the last TNC meeting in November 2005 showed that the situation had not evolved significantly since July, when the General Council renewed the mandate given to the Director-General in the July 2004 Decision. It was for this reason and with the aim of fulfilling the commitment on this issue they undertook at Doha, that Ministers instructed that we continue this process. They also reiterated their instructions to all relevant bodies to find appropriate solutions as a priority. As I have said before, we will need both flexibility and creativity in our approaches to these issues if we are to be able to respect our mandate. I count on the co-operation of all of you in this task.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

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