28 June 2006

Chairman's statement at the informal TNC meeting of 28 June 2006


Welcome and thank you all for coming to this meeting. I would also like to thank all of you, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives, for your cooperation during these busy days.

The purpose of this meeting is to set out the next steps in our process towards establishing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA on the basis of the texts circulated by the Chairs of these two negotiating groups on 22 June, and particularly in view of the anticipated presence in Geneva of a number of ministers this week. I would also like to inform you of my activities over the past few days.


To begin with, as you know, the draft texts on Agriculture and NAMA were circulated in line with our discussions at the informal TNC meeting held on 30 May, and my fax of 16 June to all TNC participants regarding the next steps in this process. Following their circulation, the texts were taken up for initial discussion in open-ended informal meetings of the negotiating groups which were held last Friday, 23 June.

As I have said on several previous occasions, our present focus on Agriculture and NAMA does not in any way detract from the many other important elements on our negotiating agenda. We are, and will remain, working under a Single Undertaking, but, as we have discussed in the past, modalities in Agriculture and NAMA are two vital operational decisions that need to be taken now — and I repeat now — in order to unlock other areas of the negotiations, provide the parameters to allow each of you to draft schedules and to enable us to conclude the Round on time.

I would like also to reemphasize that establishing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA does not mean that the negotiations on these two issues are over.

The texts circulated by the Chairs have been developed in line with our commitment to a bottom-up and transparent process. As a result, they contain no surprises or "invented" solutions, and reflect fully the reality of where we are at this stage, for better or for worse.

As I anticipated in my Fax of 16 June, I saw the need, starting this week, to move to a more integrated overall consideration of the key issues which remain to be resolved in these texts. Accordingly, I have been consulting very closely with the Chairs of the General Council and the two negotiating groups, as well as with a number of delegations, on the most appropriate way to move the process forward.

Also, in view of the quite substantial number of issues left to be settled in the two draft modalities papers, and in order to provide a structure for the discussion among Ministers, I have held consultations with delegations this week aimed at focussing the overall list as it appears in the Chairs' texts for a first discussion. I will say a few words about this discussion later.

Let me add that, yesterday afternoon, I also attended a meeting of ACP Ministers in Brussels, which gave me the opportunity to consult with a large number of our Members.

I have urged all the participants in these discussions over the past few days to share what has been discussed with those not present at these meetings. Managing these negotiations is our collective responsibility, and while we all, I think, recognize that small-group meetings are useful in making progress, we have to avoid any notion of a privileged circle. I will be playing my full part in this process.

Further Process

A few words now about the process over the coming days.

As mentioned in my Fax of 16 June, I intend this consultative process to take place in various formats, with open-ended informal TNC meetings at its core. Today's informal TNC meeting is part of that process.

I also intend to hold these informal meetings frequently, and culminate in a formal meeting of the TNC, which has been convened initially for Saturday, 1 July, and which could be continued on subsequent days as necessary.

As I mentioned earlier, a number of delegations have indicated to me that Ministers will begin arriving in Geneva today to take part both in the informal consultative process and in the formal TNC meeting. In order to provide all delegations and ministers with adequate time to coordinate, consult and plan, I have considered it more productive to keep today and tomorrow free of any WTO meetings except for this informal TNC.

I intend to begin small-group consultations involving a number of Ministers and their representatives on Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. This will be followed by an informal TNC meeting at HODs level at 11 a.m., in order to ensure full transparency in the process.

In the late afternoon of Friday, I intend to reconvene the ministerial consultative group. For the purposes of transparency, I can inform you that the ministerial consultative group has been composed along the lines of the group that met in Hong Kong, in order to ensure representation of as much as possible of the Membership.

The focus of these meetings will be to help build bridges on the key outstanding issues which we need to do in order to move formally to establishing the modalities in agriculture and NAMA. I anticipate that on both Saturday, 1 July and Sunday, 2 July we may organize further meetings of the ministerial consultative group as well as informal open-ended HODs.

At this stage, it is probably premature to predict the precise number of informal open-ended meetings we will have, but I believe we need to establish a fairly regular rhythm between small group consultations and the open-ended process. I have discussed this need for transparency with both negotiating group Chairs as well as the Chairman of the General Council and we all agree that every effort must be made to ensure a transparent process, underpinned by a constant information flow. I would therefore be grateful if all delegations could be on call at very short notice this week, and to watch the notice-boards for timings of the informal open-ended meetings.

I also intend each day to leave most of the afternoons free to allow delegations to meet among themselves and in regional and other groupings, and also to allow me and the Chairs to meet with individual delegations and Ministers, as necessary.

As we enter this intensive period, I cannot over-emphasize the urgency of our task and its significance in terms of the Round as a whole. The Chairs and I will make every effort to respect the capacity constraints of delegations, especially the smaller ones.

I would also hope that all delegations are fully aware of the specific security and logistical arrangements that are in place in the context of this week's meetings, particularly in light of the anticipated presence of a number of ministers. An Information Note in this regard was circulated to delegations on 16 June (WT/INF/111). If you have not yet provided the information requested in this Note, please do so as soon as possible.

Substantive Issues

Let me now turn very briefly to substance.

As I mentioned earlier, I have held consultations with delegations to see how we might prepare the discussion among Ministers, given the quite substantial number of issues that remain to be resolved in the two draft texts on the Agriculture and NAMA modalities. Delegations recognized in these discussions that certain key issues — such as for example the level of ambition, which includes flexibilities — must be resolved before one can move to resolving other issues.

As a result, I have concluded that Ministerial discussion should be focussed, in the first instance, on a number of issues considered to be key in both areas. This is what we will do. However, it must be clearly understood — and I wish to underline this — that this is intended only to pave the way for a second round on other issues, and that all topics contained in the two draft texts are important to one constituency or another and will all have to be addressed. This is purely a question of sequencing, and not a ranking by importance.

The sequencing I have adopted is as follows.

In agriculture, initial discussions should concentrate on market access, including the formula for tariff reductions, the number and treatment of sensitive and special products and the special safeguard mechanism; on domestic support, initial discussions should concentrate on the overall reduction of trade distorting support, reduction in AMS, Blue Box and de minimis, disciplines in AMS and blue box and cotton. These topics should be followed by export competition, tariff capping, special agriculture safeguard, tropical products, preference erosion, recently acceded members and LDCs in market access and green box in domestic support.

In NAMA, initial discussions would concentrate on formula and coefficients, the treatment of unbound tariffs and flexibilities for developing Members subject to the formula. This would be followed by LDCs duty-free and quota-free, flexibilities for developing Members with low binding coverage, small and vulnerable economies, recently acceded members, non reciprocal preferences and implementation period.

This is the sequence on which we will be working with Ministers. This is no more than an organisation of the work ahead of us to ensure that an orderly discussion allows us to establish these much-needed modalities and move to the next stage of the negotiations in these areas, which is draft schedules.

> Lamy outlines schedule for ‘moment-of-truth’ meetings

Highlights from the press conference following the 28 June TNC meeting

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