WTO: 2008 NEWS ITEMS

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Chairmanís opening remarks

  
 

At our informal meeting yesterday, I reported on the events of the last few days. That report will be put on the record of this meeting, and I will not repeat it but just highlight a few points.

There is no escaping the fact that the intensive efforts the whole membership has been putting in over the last days with the aim of establishing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA have failed. Members have been unable to bridge their differences despite more than a week of hard work.

Much has been achieved this week. We were very close to finalizing modalities in Agriculture and NAMA. A very few issues, which had not been there, led us not to establish modalities, but a huge amount of problems which had remained intractable for years have found solutions. Negotiators have been prepared to reach out beyond their entrenched positions and seek compromise, which they did. However, as I explained in detail in my statement yesterday, we were not able to find convergence in the area of the Special Safeguard Mechanism. And we did not even get around to discussing Cotton. As a result we have not been able to establish the Agriculture and NAMA modalities this week.

Yesterday, I outlined what this could cost the membership. I am sure you have all done the analysis for yourselves. I trust that Members will resolve together not to lose these benefits, even if it takes longer.

You all know 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, the fastest growing and most dynamic sector in most economies, or in Trade Facilitation, just to take two examples.

Over the past few weeks, the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups have circulated reports on the state of play in their respective areas including reflections on the way forward. The Agriculture and NAMA Chairs will also shortly be circulating reports capturing the work of the last few days. We are working on this.

Overall, the Chairs reports underline the breadth and depth of the progress we have made right across the Single Undertaking. The reports also show the wide and deep range of benefits that this Round can provide ó two to three times more than any previous multilateral negotiation, and I have not changed my number on that. My own sense is that we need to build on this, and your own sense of whether you believe we need to build on this is the determining factor.

We can also clearly see progress in other areas, such as the Dispute Settlement negotiations and S&D. Good work has also been accomplished over the past few days in the area of TRIPS thanks to the very good process which Jonas StÝre led and the constructive spirit of delegations. I would also like to highlight the Services Signalling Conference which was held on 26 July. My report on this Conference will be circulated later today.

I think we all now need to engage in serious reflection on the next steps in our collective endeavour which is the Doha Development Agenda. I believe we have a collective responsibility to begin this process of reflection right now.

Perhaps the dust needs to settle a bit before we can have a clear idea of those next steps. But my view is that the progress we have made in Agriculture and NAMA and in all the other Groups should be preserved. This represents thousands of hours of negotiation and serious poltical investment by all the Members of the WTO. This should not be wasted.

All Members need now to seriously reflect about if and when we can jump the obstacle of what was not possible this week. Where there has been deadlock, we must find new ideas and new solutions.

Our immediate priority is to reaffirm our commitment to the multilateral trading system which comes out of this week dented. All Ministers present here over the last 10 days have underlined how vital this system is, in terms not just of trade, but also of the stability of the international system. The task then, after the necessary reflection, is to translate words into deeds. The comeback should begin today. I would like to encourage you in your interventions not to dwell upon failure, which is a reality and which needs to be acknowledged, but to look forward to how we can do better next time. And I am convinced that there will be a next time, which is why I said yesterday that I was not throwing in the towel.

Finally, I thank you all for your hard work and cooperation. I would like to pay tribute to the many hours of work of the Chairs of the negotiating groups, and in particular Crawford, Don and Bruce as well as Jonas StÝre. A final word for the staff in the Secretariat, including my office, who have put countless hours of work in helping you in your negotiating endeavour.

The floor is open for your comments. If any of you wish to have your statement posted on the WTO website, please send it electronically to the Information and Media Relations Division.

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