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Chairman’s opening remarks


Good morning and thank you for coming to this informal meeting of Heads of Delegation.

I am particularly pleased to welcome Ministers, Vice-Ministers and Senior Officials, some of whom have travelled long distances to be present with us this week.

This session marks the start of an intensive process of meetings, aimed at the establishment of modalities in Agriculture and NAMA. We have a clear objective before us — but the road to it is going to require a lot of effort from all of us. We are at the beginning of an uphill journey, which will take us a few days. But I remain convinced that with patience and determination we will be able to get to our collective objective.

Together with the negotiating group Chairs, your delegations have put in a great deal of hard work on the negotiations. Over the past several days, there has been intensive activity among Senior Officials, which has usefully clarified a great number of issues. As a result, we are within reach of a major step in our drive to conclude the Round this year, which is the desire of your governments.

I can think of no stronger spur for our action than the threats which are facing the world economy across several fronts, including rises in food prices and energy prices and financial market turbulences. There is widespread recognition that a balanced outcome of the Doha Round could in these circumstances provide a strong push to stimulate economic growth, providing better prospects for development and ensuring a stable and more predictable trading system. Heads of State and Government across the world have repeatedly expressed their overwhelming commitment to this endeavour, and we must not let this opportunity slip.

The objective this week is therefore to prepare the formal establishment of modalities in Agriculture and NAMA while providing assurance that other issues are also advancing within the Single Undertaking, including through holding a Signalling Conference on services.

Establishing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA does not mean that the negotiations on these two issues are over. Let me again stress that the establishment of modalities is, instead, a necessary stage to allow us to proceed to the preparation of schedules, and to accelerate the negotiations in the other areas.

The process of getting from where we are today to the establishment of modalities will be the same as we have followed in the past. No surprises, intensive informal consultations in a variety of configurations — bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral — with the same basic principles: that decisions can only be taken by the full membership; that transparency and inclusiveness are fundamental; and that, while consultations in various configurations are essential to narrow differences, any convergence emerging from them must feed back into the multilateral process in a continuous loop.

Therefore, informal HODs meetings such as this one will be held each morning throughout this week to ensure transparency and to review developments at our multilateral level. A Services Signalling Conference is scheduled for Thursday.

The HODs meetings will be supplemented with continuing dialogue with regional and other groups as well as with smaller group consultations, which are most likely to take place in the afternoon of each day. The composition of these meetings will, as before, ensure that the full spectrum of Members' views and interests is represented. Some degree of variable geometry may at times be needed depending on the issues being discussed, but again this is nothing new. Adequate time will also be set aside each day for coordinators to meet with their groups for consultations.

In order to make the most efficient use of our limited time, the negotiating group Chairs will supplement this process with continuing work at Senior Official level, focusing on resolving more detailed technical issues, so they synergise with the process at the Ministerial level.

The starting point for this work will be the negotiating group Chairs' revised texts of 10 July. Some further progress has been achieved on these texts since they were issued. In NAMA, broad convergence has been found on the subject of Members with a low binding coverage, the details of which will be circulated by the Chair later today. The end product should be sufficient convergence on key points to enable final draft modalities to be established.

We have tentatively scheduled a TNC for this on 26 July, but it could well take place later depending on progress this week and bearing in mind the need to provide sufficient time for each and every delegation to consider the final product.

The formal TNC scheduled for 26 July will also have before it reports and roadmaps from other negotiating group Chairs and from myself on the Services Signalling Conference, so Members can situate the modalities agreement in the context of the Single Undertaking. As DG, I will also be reporting on consultations I have been undertaking with respect to the issues of GI Extension and TRIPS/CBD, under the mandate I received from Ministers in Hong Kong.

We have obviously an ambitious task ahead of us. Much work remains to be done this week, and we need to use our time more efficiently, starting with this meeting. So I urge all delegations to be substantive but as succinct as possible. The focus now must be on what is new — new developments, new ideas — and on what can bring us to convergence. If you wish to have your full text circulated, please contact the Secretariat and we will do so, thus allowing you to make a concise statement during this meeting. As for the organization of our work this morning, my intention is to break at 1 pm and reconvene tomorrow morning at 10 am. If there are Delegations which have not been able to take the floor today, they will do so tomorrow.

The time has come to move from “discussions” to “negotiations”. We have talked the talk, now we have to walk the walk to finish the Round. We need positive results from this week's engagement, and all need to approach it with a clear objective in mind.

In a meeting with me yesterday, a minister compared the task ahead of us this week to climbing the Mont Blanc together. I totally agree with him. Like Horace de Saussure, the Geneva born physicist who organized the first ascent to the Mont Blanc, we have prepared ourselves for this excursion, we have made provisions, we have prepared maps, we have exercised our legs and our lungs. Also, climbing the Mont Blanc can only be achieved as a team endeavour. We must help and understand each other all along the climb. The only way to reach the top is understanding each others' interests and limitations.

Let us therefore be inspired by the view of the Mont Blanc and by the example of Horace de Saussure and aim for the top.

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