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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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