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Chairman’s opening remarks


There is no escaping the fact that this meeting has failed. Members have been unable to bridge their differences.

We have all worked very hard for more than a week. The fact that Ministers and senior officials have been prepared to make this enormous effort is in itself a testimony to the value that we all place in the WTO system.

Much has been achieved this week. We were very close to finalizing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA. Across a wide range of problems which had remained intractable for years we have found solutions. Negotiators have been prepared to reach out beyond their entrenched positions and seek compromise. However, we have not been able to find convergence in the area of the Special Safeguard Mechanism. And we did not even get around to discuss cotton. As a result we will not be able to establish the Agriculture and NAMA modalities this week.

A difference in positions in the volume of imports and in the trigger in the special safeguard mechanism has led to failure. We had a mandate to create a safeguard to protect developing countries against import surges in food; those who feared that the safeguard would lead to a disruption of normal trade wanted as high a trigger as possible; those who feared that the safeguard would not be operational if it was too burdensome wanted a lower trigger. After more than 36 hours trying to find bridges between these two positions, today it became clear that the differences were irreconcilable.

I was hoping to come here to tell you that we had an agreement to slash and cap the level of trade distorting subsidies like never before; I was hoping to announce that beef, sugar, ethanol, tropical products or products suffering from tariff escalation would now see an improvement of their market access worldwide. I was hoping to tell you that tariff peaks on industrial products of interest for developing countries had been slashed; that Least Developed Countries would consolidate duty-free and quota-free market access in the WTO; that cotton subsidies in the EC and in the US had been slashed; that export support in the form of subsidies, state trading enterprises, export credits or food aid had been removed. I would have welcomed the disappearance of the Special Safeguard clause in Agriculture. And the list goes on.

It is too easy to overlook the value of what is on the table, not only in Agriculture and NAMA, but across the whole range of the agenda, whether in Services, which remains the fastest moving and most dynamic sector in most economies; Trade Facilitation; Trade and Environment; Rules — anti-dumping, subsidies and fisheries subsidies disciplines.

The reports of the Chairs of all these negotiating groups have provided the magnitude of the negotiations across the board. We will discuss that tomorrow. The reports also show the wide and deep range of benefits that the Round can provide, and I still am of the view after this week that what is on the table is two to three times more than any previous multilateral negotiation.

I guess that the dust will need to settle before we think about next steps and if you have ideas on this, please think about that for our discussion at the formal TNC tomorrow. We have heard in the Green Room, which was just before this informal TNC, a few wishes and a few ideas on what to do with the package on the table. For the moment the texts in Agriculture and NAMA, even if they are not agreed, are on the table. So is all the work done in all the other Groups. This represents thousands of hours of negotiation and of political investment by Members. What we heard in the Green Room and what we probably will hear tomorrow is that this should not and cannot be wasted. I will endeavour to maintain it and to try and guide the Membership through these difficult times, but let us be under no illusion about the consequences of the actions today.

Today's actions will not strengthen the multilateral trading system, which has provided you with an effective insurance policy against protectionism during the last 60 years. This failure will be yet another blow to an already fragile world economy. Not to mention the consequences for developed and developing countries in other areas of international cooperation like climate change.

On a more personal note, I am obviously deeply disturbed by not having been able to contribute to this modernization of the world trading system in a way that makes it work better for development, which I think, as far as I am concerned, is the core purpose of what we are trying to do. Before I conclude, let me thank the Chairs — Crawford, Don and Bruce — who have probably slept even less than I have, and the Secretariat teams for their contributions. As I told you at the beginning of this meeting, I do not intend to open the floor for comments. The discussion will take place tomorrow, after everybody has had a bit of time to think about what happened.

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