Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee
Since my last report to the General Council on
17 November the WTO has seen a couple of Senior Official Weeks as well
as a fully fledged Ministerial Conference.
In my last report I provided you with a detailed review of the year's progress in each negotiating area, including the state-of-play and outlook beyond 2009. Today I would like to update you on the activities of the last couple of weeks, as well as the outlook for our work during the first months of 2010.
First and foremost, I think we all agree that the 7th Ministerial Conference represented a welcome opportunity for members to get together and review the entire waterfront of activities of this organization. A word of praise for the Chair who should be credited with all the positive feedback from you about the Ministerial. A big thanks also to the Secretariat team led by Evan who ensured excellent preparation and logistics. Thanks also to our Swiss and Geneva hosts. The number of bilateral and plurilateral meetings among Ministers in the Conference Centre alone reached more than 250 and I think this is a good indicator of how our political masters appreciated this occasion to “catch up” and exchange ideas. Similarly, the level of activity on the sidelines of the conference was impressive with some 340 representatives of non-governmental organizations and 210 accredited journalists providing for a wide range of interesting workshops.
The meeting provided the kind of reality check — on the substantive as well as political level — that we regularly need here in Geneva. On the substantive level, the conference sent a strong signal of convergence on the importance of trade and the Doha Round to economic recovery and poverty alleviation in developing countries. The centrality of the development dimension was stressed. Ministers reaffirmed the need to conclude the Round in 2010 and for a stock-taking exercise to take place in the first quarter of next year. Similarly, there was wide support for asking Senior Officials to continue to work to map the road towards that point.
The Ministerial Conference also provided political impetus in the area of trade capacity building. At a breakfast on the Enhanced Integrated Framework for LDCs [least-developed countries], Ministers stressed the need for ensuring effective delivery and impact on the ground; ensuring predictable funding, which is needed now more than ever before; and the need to move from an interim to a substantive Board, early next year. This has now translated into action in Geneva.
Over the past two weeks since the Ministerial Conference several of the negotiating groups have been meeting, including these past few days during the Senior Officials Week. Let me provide you with a brief overview of the latest developments.
In Agriculture, on templates, Step 1 has moved toward initial outcomes with some outstanding issues taken up in the week of 7 December; and delegations are starting to consider Step 2, on drawing up the draft templates. Separately, there was a start to the verification process of some base data. On modalities, the Chair consulted on continued technical work on the SSM [Special Safeguard Mechanism] and work was done on tariff simplification. The Chair intends to continue with the work on templates in the second-half of January 2010 and to resume his consultations, in various formats, on the bracketed or otherwise annotated issues in the present version of the draft modalities in the first two weeks of February and March.
Since my last report, a NAMA [non-agricultural market access] week took place during the week of 7 December. Progress was made in clarifying some of the issues relating to the NTB [non-tariff barriers] texts under discussion. Work on this issue is focused and detailed. The next NAMA week has been fixed for early February where the NTB texts will be discussed again. The Chairman has called for specific input by 20 January and I hope that members will respond to that call.
On Services, earlier this week, the Chair held a further Enchilada among senior officials at which there was positive engagement on a number of service topics. On domestic regulation, text-based negotiations continue, with the completion of a detailed discussion of the chapters of the Chair text, including consideration of a new proposal by several members. In the second half of January, an open-ended informal meeting of the Special Session will be convened in order to discuss an expected draft proposal for a text of a waiver for the implementation of LDC modalities.
Regarding Rules, the Group met with the participation of Senior Officials and heads of delegation on 25 November. The discussion was constructive and there was general support for the Chair's work programme. Last week, the Chair held a meeting cluster on anti-dumping, horizontal subsidies and fisheries subsidies. The Group advanced its review of the draft Chair texts, and finished its consideration of the fisheries subsidies roadmap. The Group will hold further meetings in January and February 2010, at which it will complete its first review of the draft texts, take up new proposals on subsidies and fisheries subsidies, and continue the AD [anti-dumping]/CVD [countervailing duties] transposition exercise. In short, no breakthroughs achieved or expected, but solid technical discussions continue.
With respect to Regional Trade Agreements, negotiations on systemic issues of RTAs have, as I reported earlier, unfortunately not progressed this year. The Chair discussed a way to reinvigorate these negotiations with Senior Officials last month, possibly through a parallel work programme in the CRTA [Committee on Regional Trade Agreements], based on work done under the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs.
On Special and Differential Treatment, the Special Session has been focusing on the Monitoring Mechanism. As a result of the progress made, the Chairman has revised his non-paper which will now form the basis on which work on the Monitoring Mechanism will continue. In addition, members will revert to addressing the Agreement-specific proposals once revised language or new ideas are put forward by members. The Chairman will shortly make a more detailed oral statement on the work carried out this year in the Special Session, as well as the work plan over the coming months.
In the area of Environment, following the Chair's meetings with Senior Officials on 25 November, there is strong support overall for moving forward on all parts of the mandate according to the Work Programme of October 2009 and timeframes contained therein. On the issue of the relationship between the WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), many delegations seem to share the view that the proposals on the table provide a good basis to develop a text for negotiation as the next step under the mandate.
As regards the work on Environmental Goods, the Chair has emphasized the need for broad-based engagement and substantive inputs to be provided by members in the lead-up to the February 2010 meeting, both with respect to the identification of environmental goods of interest and cross-cutting issues. As several senior officials pointed out when they met with the Chair in November, work on the environmental pillar should achieve a level of clarity and predictability by the time an agreement is reached on Agriculture and NAMA modalities.
In the area of Trade Facilitation, a complete, draft, consolidated negotiating text was issued on Monday 14 December in document TN/TF/W/165. This provides us, for the first time, with a clear picture of what the new agreement will contain. Much still remains to be done in the next months to move this draft towards a consensus document, but we are clearly now on the home stretch.
With respect to TRIPS [Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights] Special Session, Trevor Clarke has recently stepped down as Chair of the Special Session of the Council for TRIPS on the negotiation of a multilateral Register of geographical indications [GI] for wines and spirits. Before stepping down, he circulated a report on his own responsibility, document TN/IP/19, for the formal Special Session meeting of 27 November. This report describes the work done during his tenure as Chair, the status of issues and the way forward, including five guiding principles for further work.
The General Council Chair held consultations which manifested a consensus among members to appoint Ambassador Karen Tan from Singapore as Chair of the Special Session, on a pro tempore basis until the General Council takes up the slate of names for Officers to WTO bodies at its meeting in February 2010. The Chair designate has held informal consultations with small groups of members to listen to their views and discuss ideas for continuing informal consultations in the first week of February 2010.
Turning to the two TRIPS issues on which I have been mandated to pursue consultations as Director-General, not as Chair of the TNC [Trade Negotiations Committee] — the relationship between TRIPS and the CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] and the extension of Article 23 GI protection — we have continued to address the remaining thematic clusters of questions posed by members. This process covered the contract-based approach to managing access and benefit sharing, in contrast with the use of a disclosure mechanism within the patent system. A discussion ensued on trans-boundary issues relating to monitoring and enforcing access and benefit sharing obligations in foreign jurisdictions. Delegations also considered possible costs and benefits of a disclosure requirement, differing as to whether this would entail additional resources or training on the part of patent offices, and the impact on patent applicants.
On how to manage the WTO work on genetic resources issues vis-à-vis parallel work of the WIPO IGC and the CBD on a multilateral regime, delegates had exchanges on the interaction between these processes, the sequencing issues that arise, and technical aspects such as definitions of key terms.
Discussion on GI extension concerned the difference between GI protection under Articles 22 and 23, the extent of the problem raised by the proponents of GI extension, the effects GI extension may have in the market, in particular in third markets, and the scope of GI extension proposed, including the continuing application of the exceptions in Article 24 of the TRIPS Agreement.
The latest discussion considered whether past experience of higher protection for wine and spirits could illuminate the expected likely effects of extending such protection to all products. A particular concern relates to effects of extension in third country markets — and in particular even if an existing producer may be able to continue use of a term in a home market, to what extent, if at all, will existing export opportunities be curtailed due to GI extension.
In the new year we will continue work through the remaining clusters, after which I will report to the entire membership at an open-ended meeting.
Let me now share with you some of my thoughts on the process going forward which I also briefly outlined in the Green Room meeting yesterday afternoon. I believe that in order to arrive at the stock-taking at the end of March a combination of elements are needed:
First, some of you need to intensify the bilaterals, trilaterals or quadrilaterals beginning as early as possible in 2010 so that the fruits of these are shared with the rest of the membership as soon as possible and feed the multilateral process;
Second, all of the Negotiating Chairs have scheduled activities starting from the end of January and running through to March. I think it has been important to establish this work schedule early to provide a high degree of transparency as to the process that is guiding the work of these groups;
Third, I believe our practice of having Senior Officials in town should be continued starting in the week of 15 February and again in the week of 22 March. As has been the case in the last quarter of 2009, the Senior Officials Weeks are built around meetings of the Negotiating Groups to facilitate their substantive engagement.
Fourth, at this point I think we should reserve the last week of March for stock-taking. At this juncture, my sense is that we should keep open the format and exact content of the stock-taking while keeping in mind that, at this stage, the aim of such an exercise is to assess whether 2010 remains doable.
I hope this combination of elements in terms of the further process is helpful. But let me also stress that this process is not, I repeat not, an end in itself. It is designed to help members to negotiate and engage on substance, on closing remaining gaps, which is the sine qua non condition for concluding the Round in 2010.
2009 has been the year in which we lived dangerously. But collectively we managed to lift our economies out of the abyss. I hope 2010 is the year in which we build on the foundations for a safer, more sustainable global economy. We can and must make our contribution through clinching a final Doha deal.