Talking points for the Director-General
Thank you all for coming to this meeting. Now
that we have had a few weeks of renewed activity, I think it is useful
to review, before the General Council next week, where we are in the DDA
negotiations and consider the next steps.
We are meeting at a time of global financial crisis. This gives added
importance and urgency to our work here. The WTO has over 60 years of
solid experience in regulating trade opening. At a time when there are
renewed calls for a better regulation in the financial area, the WTO
system provides an example of how the lessons of history and experience
have led to the construction of a system of international governance.
And we have an opportunity to send a signal of our desire to strengthen
it by concluding the Doha Round.
Against this sombre backdrop, it is encouraging that negotiators here
have got back to work quickly and seriously after our July setback. We
have two new Negotiating Group Chairs, and I would like to welcome
Luzius and Trevor to their new roles as NAMA and TRIPS Chairs
respectively. They will both be working in key areas of the negotiations
and I know we can count on them to provide the necessary leadership. I
would also like to welcome the new colleagues who have joined a number
of delegations since the summer break.
When we last met at the end of July, many delegations signalled very
clearly their determination to press ahead with the negotiations and not
to throw in the towel. Since then, the responses I have had in my
contacts with a wide range of members have been measured and
constructive. The collective commitment to the Round remains strong.
Nonetheless, it is clearly necessary to face the reality that the Round
cannot be concluded this year. However, 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.
Since July, I have had intensive extensive contacts with Ministers and
Senior Officials in all regions, including during my visits to Delhi and
Washington. I will continue this campaign with the objective of keeping
the focus on the need to advance the Round. Looking back in history, we
can see that the type of uncertainty which is now infiltrating the
international scene can be a precursor to rising protectionist
tendencies. Raising barriers at the frontier, starting with barriers to
trade in goods or services, is often a tempting political option under
such circumstances. The role of the WTO as a firewall against
protectionist responses is thus vital. It is not so much about any
direct effect on markets as for sustaining confidence in global
co-operation and institutions.
The financial crisis may also be having an impact on developing country
access to financing of imports and exports. As you know we have held a
number of meetings on this issue at the WTO with both multilateral
institutions and private banks, the last one last April, 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 welcomed
announcement yesterday by the World Bank IFC of an increase in its trade
financing programme by $ 500 million, I have today convened 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.
We will follow this up in the Working Group on Trade Debt and Finance at
the end of November, together with Martin Glass. 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 the GC Chairman on the possibility of convening a GC
meeting on our Coherence mandate. Let us keep the situation under
review, and act as necessary.
Apart from the financial crisis, there are other external influences
which are tending to affect our work here, or perhaps the optimism with
which we are investing ourselves in it. Maybe any of these factors could
provide an excuse to be tempted to throw in the towel, but in fact the
reverse is true: they are all the more reason to do the deal rapidly.
The increasing level of activity in the negotiations shows that you
share this view.
Governments have also been very active in their contacts among
themselves and they continue to be. Everyone is aware of the G7 Senior
Officials' meetings two weeks ago. They made some progress, but not yet
enough to contribute possible solutions on key issues. However, the
governments involved have shown the commitment to keep working together
and with others.
The main item on their agenda was the SSM in Agriculture. It is, of
course, important to resolve this question, but we all know it is not
the only issue in Agriculture, and Crawford has now taken up the
gauntlet again in this area. There are also key issues in NAMA and the
other areas of negotiation which all need attention.
I continue to work with the Negotiating Group Chairs and the General
Council Chairman to coordinate our activities. I also continue to
consult regularly with members here, both individually and in groups.
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 — a step-by-step and bottom-up approach. All
the Negotiating Groups have programmes of meetings and consultations
over the coming weeks. Agriculture and NAMA remain key to further
progress across the board, so I will shortly give the floor to Crawford
and Luzius so they can outline their plans in their respective areas.
We do not have much time available — the end of the year is approaching
rapidly. Work will continue in the Negotiating Groups over the next few
weeks, and any ministerial involvement which might be necessary will
take place when the moment is right. Considerable progress has been
made, in July and earlier, and I believe a renewed effort can bring us
to the point where agreement on modalities is possible.
There should be no doubt — we are working on Plan A, establishment of
modalities. Our chances of achieving our goal are clearly less than they
were in July, but they are still good enough to warrant a major effort.
Speculation about other possible scenarios may be going on, but I would
suggest that this is not where we should focus our minds as long as we
have a realistic chance of achieving our primary objective — which we
Before I open the floor for your comments, I would like to invite
Crawford and then Luzius to take the floor.
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