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> The Trade Negotiations Committee
Thank you all for coming to this meeting.
As I foreshadowed at Tuesday's General Council, and in the fax I sent out to delegations convening this meeting, I think it is useful for us today to review what has happened in this week in light of renewed activity in Geneva following the work programme we adopted a month ago. I also think it useful that we discuss the next steps in our work for November, so that the week of negotiations benefiting from the presence of Senior Officials — 23-27 November, can register a qualitative change in the negotiating dynamics and progress on substance.
As I indicated in my statement to the General Council which was circulated to delegations in document JOB(09)/143, in addition to Chairs' consultations and small group meetings that have been taking place during this week, I also held consultations on the key issues of agriculture, NAMA and Services together with the respective chairs, in variable geometry, with a view to providing Members with avenues for engagement. In addition, I held a Green Room meeting yesterday afternoon and I will be reporting to you shortly on these consultations.
Let me now briefly review each area of the negotiations in turn, starting with the areas I held consultations on this past Wednesday.
First, Agriculture. As has become clear during the course of this week, work in agriculture is proceeding smoothly and with the full of support of Members on a two-track approach. One track, template work, is advancing with contributions from many Members. Step 1 of this template work concerns the identification of base data and appropriate tables; this Step is expected to conclude soon with work to start in November on Step 2, namely the preparation of the templates to be used for scheduling commitments.
The other track of work in agriculture is the Chair's informal consultations on the bracketed and otherwise annotated issues in the draft modalities and associated documentation. There have been discussions on domestic support and market access issues, including useful work on sensitive products, tariff cap, TRQ expansion and tariff simplification. In November these consultations will broach the S&D issues in the modalities — SSM, special products, tropical products, preference erosion - with then the opportunity in December to return to some of the matters.
My sense from consultations which have taken place this week is that there is a collective endeavour to not lowering the current level of ambition in agriculture.
In sum, the work in agriculture is re-engaged, has the support of Members and is moving forward. I strongly encourage you to continue in this vein, knowing that all issues need to be resolved to conclude these negotiations.
Turning now to NAMA, my consultations this week have focussed on how to move forward the NTB negotiation. You will recall that during the year, the Negotiating Group has been discussing the various NTB textual proposals through a process of questions and answers. This exchange has contributed to a better understanding and clarification of the different proposals. However, there still remains a lot of work to be done. This is what has emerged from the consultations I held. There are proposals that are more mature than others, there are texts which relate to the same sector and where marrying them might be necessary, and finally there are still proposals that remain to be developed into legal texts.
Concerning next steps, there is a NAMA week beginning on 2 November, during which some NTB proposals will be discussed in an open-ended meeting. Following this meeting, the Chair intends to hold consultations in different formats on the various proposals with a view to making progress on them. So, as mentioned earlier, much technical work remains to be done on this complex area of the NAMA negotiation and negotiators now have to work on developing language.
On Services, the purpose of my consultations was to clarify the way ahead and how best to proceed with these negotiations at this stage. The focus was mainly on the market access pillar but also briefly touched upon the rule-making side as well as the implementation of LDC modalities.
It was stressed that the services negotiations cannot be separated from the rest of the DDA and that as we progress on Agriculture and NAMA, we need to have commensurate clarity on services. There was also the general sense that while some time had passed since the Signalling Conference of July 2008, and while recognizing that those signals were conditional, there were no intentions of back-tracking. While it was recognized that more clarity should be pursued by bilateral and plurilateral meetings, it was also understood that whatever comes out of such efforts, should not be labelled as “final offers”.
On the rule-making part, there was a general feeling that work should be intensified on domestic regulation, and that senior officials should pay more attention to the rule-making agenda within services, focusing on text based negotiations. The week of 9 November has been designated as a “services week” to pursue desired levels of comfort on all areas of the services negotiations including the implementation of LDC modalities, which have reached a stage of preparation allowing involvement of a larger number of Members.
Let me also take the opportunity if this meeting to briefly detail work in other negotiating areas which has taken place over the last weeks.
In the Rules area, work has proceeded in accordance with the Group's work programme. The Group held a two-week cluster from 16-25 September, and another cluster is scheduled for next week. On anti-dumping and subsidies, the Group continues to review the Chair's text of December 2008, including bracketed, un-bracketed and unaddressed issues, a process which should be completed early next year. On fisheries subsidies, the Group expects to complete discussion of the Roadmap, and to begin consideration of new proposals as requested by various delegations, by December. The group has a full rules cluster next week where delegations will have a further opportunity to engage. On regional trade agreements (RTAs), the Chair is consulting informally with Members on how to advance in various questions relating both to the transparency of RTAs and systemic issues.
Concerning the negotiations on the register of GIs for wine and spirits, the Chair held consultations with a small group of delegations on 18 September during the first SOM week when he proposed a work programme for the coming months. With regard to methodology, he indicated that his aim would be to move from exchanges on the different positions currently on the table, towards a focused substantive discussion based on a list of four questions suggested by himself, which would in turn evolve into some “Chair's papers”.
An open-ended informal meeting was held on 2 October for transparency purposes and also to consult with delegations on how to organize the work in October and November. He indicated his intention to present a short handover report, updating the technical areas already addressed in his predecessor's report (TN/IP/18 of June 2008) with some indications as to moving towards solutions. At that informal meeting the Chair indicated that he would hold a formal meeting this afternoon, to continue on 28 October afternoon, in order to undertake substantive discussion on the Chair's list of four questions. Another formal session is scheduled for 25 November 2009.
On Trade and Environment, the CTESS held a Workshop on Environmental Goods and Services at the end of September with the participation of experts from governments, the private sector and other international organizations. The workshop provided an opportunity for in‑depth examination of the different environmental goods sectors, with a particular focus on relevant goods and technologies, their environmental benefits, and the market drivers and trade barriers faced in these sectors. The workshop also addressed some development-related aspects of the mandate, including the issue of technology transfer.
These discussions should provide a useful basis for delegations to engage in the next phase under the Paragraph 31(iii) work programme, in which Members have been invited by the Chair to identify environmental goods of interest. Consultations on this issue, as well as on other parts of the negotiating mandate will be held in the lead-up to the next CTESS meeting scheduled in November.
In the area of Trade Facilitation, the new agreement is taking shape. In line with the work programme, the Negotiating Group has successfully completed the first part of its task of producing a consolidated negotiating text. This text covers GATT Articles V (transit) and X (transparency), and work has started on the task of consolidating the text on Special and Differential Treatment. At Group's next meeting in November, the intention is to consolidate the negotiating text on GATT Article VIII (fees and formalities), on customs cooperation and on cross-cutting issues in the new Agreement, and to complete the job of producing consolidated negotiating text on Special and Differential treatment.
All Members have contributed constructively to this exercise. The Chair has expressed confidence that the Group will succeed in meeting its target of producing a draft consolidated negotiating text on Trade Facilitation after its next meeting on the week of 9 November.
The next and final stage will involve negotiations to narrow down the differences in positions that are currently reflected in the text so as to arrive at a consensus agreement.
On the negotiations on Special and Differential Treatment, text-based discussions on the Monitoring Mechanism have been continuing on the basis of the Chairs non paper. I am pleased to hear that Members have been able to make some progress and further fine tuned some of the elements contained therein. As a result, the Chairman is in the process of revising his non paper, which will form the basis for continued discussions on the Monitoring Mechanism. This work will continue in the small group format, with open ended meetings being held as and when necessary, to brief the wider Membership of any developments as well as to give them an opportunity to feed into the process.
Let me also mention the DSU negotiations, although they are not part of the Single Undertaking. In the week of 12 October, the Chairman of the DSB Special Sessions held a series of consultations to discuss selected issues covered in the Chairman's text of July 2008, which is the basis for the current work. These consultations covered proposals relating to transparency, amicus curiae briefs, remand, and flexibility and Member-control. This was followed by an informal open-ended meeting of the Special Session to report on the consultations to the entire Membership. A further series of consultations is scheduled for the week of 9 November. These consultations will address sequencing, post-retaliation, special and differential treatment, including compliance-related aspects, and timeframes. With these consultations, all the proposals covered in the Chairman's text will have been discussed this year. The Chairman's intention remains to work towards revised text as soon as possible.
Let me now briefly report to you on the Green Room meeting I held yesterday afternoon. In essence, the meeting focused on taking stock of the various activities and meetings that had taken place this past week, including my consultations, and on the next steps in the process leading to the third week of November where Senior Officials will come to Geneva again. The meeting also heard reports from a number of delegations regarding the bilateral and plurilateral processes they had been involved in.
My general impression of the past week has seen useful engagement in focused and constructive discussions. There has been no backsliding on the level of ambition. But at the same time, we have not yet seen tangible progress in the negotiations and, overall, I would say that the current speed with which we are advancing is too slow to arrive at modalities latest by early next year as we need to do to be in a position to wrap this Round next year. This is the reality.
The key now is not process, but rather what happens in the negotiations. Specifically, we now need to engage in text based negotiations to bridge gaps, particularly on Agriculture and NAMA which still remain key to these negotiations, but also on services and on the rest of the topics on our agenda. This is the only way these negotiations can bear fruit.
I will, as usual, continue working closely with the Negotiating Group Chairs and the General Council Chairman to help you getting to grips with the substantive issues which remain open. I will also continue to consult regularly with you, in various configurations to prepare the next SOM meeting in November. The focus remains, 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 with full respect for inclusiveness and transparency.
The November SOMs week needs to be carefully prepared so that it results in progress which the Ministerial Meeting could take stock of. It has to be a negotiating session, not a discussion session, and we have to prepare for it collectively!
This concludes my report today. For transparency purposes I suggest that Members who have taken the initiative of holding bilateral and plurilateral discussions during this week also report on their activities.
The floor is open.
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