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Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Since I last reported to the General Council in July, work in the DDA negotiations was taken up again at the level of the Negotiating Groups following the summer break. The TNC held an informal meeting last week, to take a look at where we are in these negotiations and to consider the next steps.

In my opening statement at that meeting, which was subsequently circulated to delegations in document Job(08)/100, I noted that it was encouraging that negotiators here had got back to work quickly and seriously after the July setback. However, I also noted that it was necessary to situate these encouraging signs against the sombre backdrop of the global financial crisis, which has given added importance and urgency to our work.

In my July report, I highlighted the fact that many delegations had signalled very clearly their determination to press ahead with the negotiations. Since then, the responses I have had in my contacts with a wide range of Members have confirmed that the collective commitment to the Round remains strong. Although it is clear that the Round will not be concluded this year, I believe it is still possible to reach agreement on modalities and the Ministers with whom I have spoken are all determined to push ahead. As underlined by many of you, considerable progress has been made, in July and earlier, and I believe a renewed effort could bring us to the point where agreement on modalities is possible.

The work in the Negotiating Groups has now resumed in earnest. The focus is now, as it should be, on the multilateral process, which will continue in all areas of the negotiations in the spirit with which we have worked up to now Ś a step-by-step and bottom-up approach. All the Negotiating Groups have programmes of meetings and consultations over the coming weeks, in particular Agriculture and NAMA which remain key to further progress across the board. Any ministerial involvement which might become necessary will take place when the moment is right.

Let me now come back in more detail to the financial crisis. I suggested at the informal TNC that this may also be having a direct impact on developing-country access to financing of imports and exports. As everyone is aware, we have held a number of meetings on this issue at the WTO with both multilateral institutions and private banks, the last one in April this year, to check availability of trade financing at affordable rates. Up until then, the situation seemed to be stable with volumes and rates at normal levels. But just this week Brazil brought this issue to the forefront.

Given the deterioration of the financial landscape, and despite the welcome announcement last week by the World Bank International Finance Corporation of an increase in its trade financing programme by $500 million, I have reconvened major providers of trade finance to a meeting on 12 November to examine this issue and find ways to alleviate the situation if it was to deteriorate. One third of the world economy, mainly in emerging countries, still has a big growth potential and we must try and make sure that this engine can work through trade.

We will follow this up in the Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance at the end of November. I have also constituted a Task Force within the Secretariat to follow up the effects of financial crisis on our different areas of work. If there are indications that the financial situation could be having serious implications more generally for trade or the trading system, I shall consult with you, Mr. Chairman, on the possibility of convening a General Council meeting under our Coherence mandate. I suggest we keep the situation under review, and be ready to act as necessary.

Finally, yesterday trade took centre stage with the award of the Nobel economics prize to an economist who has spent a great part of his life trying to better understand trade and its economic underpinnings, the relationship between trade and inequality or the relationship between multilateralism and regionalism. I see this as an encouraging signal to all of us.

That concludes my report today, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.


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