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> The Trade Negotiations Committee
Statement by Pascal Lamy
I would like to welcome everyone to this
informal meeting of the TNC [Trade Negotiations Committee].
I thought it would be useful to review, before the General Council next week, where we are in the Doha Development Agenda negotiations and consider the road ahead. Let me report to you on my most recent activities and meetings before we engage in an exchange of views on the work and next steps in the DDA over the coming few months.
Since I reported to you at the May Council, the world economy has remained fragile and the economic outlook is still uncertain. Although financial markets have recently shown signs of stabilization, and the trade contraction — now forecast at 10 per cent in volume - seems to be beginning to bottom out, it is unclear how, and how long it will take us, to exit the crisis. Although Asia is starting to see a rebound in trade from the very low figures in the first quarter of the year, I would caution against excessive optimism. Unemployment continues to be on the rise and its full social and political effects are still to be felt.
Against this uncertain backdrop, it is encouraging that many world leaders have signalled very clearly their determination to press ahead with the Doha negotiations and move them to a conclusion very soon. Negotiators here in Geneva have heeded the calls of leaders and got back to work quickly and seriously. The collective commitment to the Round remains very strong. As I have said before, this crisis is unprecedented in its width, depth and global impact. We must therefore act collectively to send the right signals and establish an appropriate trade environment for a sustainable recovery for all.
Since the May General Council I reported on a number of meetings I had attended as well as on a series of contacts with Ministers and other policy makers. I also previewed an intense series of meetings that I was to attend and have just concluded with the very fruitful APEC Trade Ministerial Retreat in Singapore.
At the meetings of Ministers and Heads of State and government in Bali, Paris, L'Aquila and in Singapore, I have stressed three fundamental messages: (i) we need to keep trade open and resist protectionist measures; (ii) the best way to keep trade open is to keep opening trade, hence the need to conclude the Doha Round as soon as possible. In light of this, I invited leaders to give the necessary instructions and flexibility to their negotiators and Senior Officials so as to facilitate the narrowing of differences and accelerate decision-making in Geneva and, (iii) we must implement on the ground commitments to Aid for Trade and continue to provide the oil that runs the machinery of international trade — trade finance.
From all these interactions and in the communiqués issued after these meetings, there were firm statements of rejection of protectionist measures. I sensed a genuine and strong renewal of political commitment to re-engage in the Doha negotiations and to conclude it in 2010. There were expressions of the need to fill in remaining gaps as soon as possible and of the desire to enhance transparency and understanding of what is on the table. I was encouraged by the determination to avoid theological discussions and instead engage in the common purpose of finding a pragmatic way forward. In sum, a change in atmospherics and a point of arrival.
I will continue these contacts with the objective of keeping the focus on the need to advance the Round, including at the upcoming Trade Ministers' meeting to be hosted by India and the G20 Leaders summit in Pittsburgh in September.
It is clear that for political leaders we are now entering the end-game. Therefore, we need to urgently translate this change in atmospherics into a clear path for engagement across the board in the negotiations in Geneva so that we can get to the arrival point on time. My sense, from my recent discussions with a number of you, is that it is important that we end July with a clear view of the next steps.
Both tracks which we discussed at our last TNC need to be re-energised and focused. Starting with multilateral work in all negotiating groups. This has been, is and will be the centre of our negotiations.
Bilateral discussions, on which a number of you are engaged, also need to be energised and you need to drill into specifics. We need to see serious and honest engagement taking place now. However, bilateral engagement should not be a reason for slowing the multilateral process or for holding it up. The two processes now have to move simultaneously. It also remains clear, of course, that decision-making belongs only to the multilateral track. To reinforce this point, it is important to have the maximum possible transparency about any bilateral contacts.
My contacts also indicate agreement that scheduling in Agriculture and NAMA [Non-Agricultural Market Access] must follow the principle of “no surprises”. This means that all significant issues relating to schedules must be clear at the time modalities are established. In keeping with the Single Undertaking, a commensurate level of certainty will also be required in the other Negotiating Groups. This implies that delegations must start thinking of the signals to send to all Chairs about what would be “big-ticket” items for them. There will also have to be collective agreement not to take “hostages”. Finally, more horizontal processes to address political sensitivities across the board have to be put in place from September on.
Against this background, I now wish to turn to each of the negotiating areas and provide you with a brief outline of the state-of-play as well as an insight into the sort of road map envisaged by Chairs of Negotiating Groups in the weeks after the summer break.
As you know, work in agriculture is continuing, particularly in light of the renewed political mandate from the G20 and G8. The Revision 4 bracketed and annotated areas needing further work have been identified. These include SSM [Special Safeguard Mechanism] (especially the architecture), cotton, issues related to sensitive products, preference erosion and tropical products, TRQ [Tariff Rate Quota] expansion as well as tariff simplification. The Chair has indicated that consultations are underway to determine how best to broach these issues, with a view to a steady programme of technical work in late-summer through to the autumn. The aim is to complete as much as possible of the outstanding technical work so as to set the stage for decisions on more political issues.
Discussions are on-going on the templates for scheduling and on the required format of support tables and data needs — both for completion of the templates and for the establishment of modalities and of the time-lines and process for scheduling and verification. It will be important for members to take ownership of this matter so that you can be fully ready, with agreed time lines and formats, to complete the scheduling process in agriculture once modalities are established. This is a very necessary, non-political work that should continue with greater focus through the autumn.
In NAMA, apart from a number of open-ended transparency sessions in the first half of this year the Negotiating Group has also held two dedicated sessions on NTBs [Non-Tariff Barriers]. These sessions were useful in that they helped delegations to focus on the legal texts. The Group has also been looking at scheduling issues, and a Workshop on Electronic Negotiating Files was organized the week of 13 July. The feedback I have received concerning that Workshop has been very positive.
On sectorals, the process continues to be led by the sponsors of such initiatives. During the first half of this year, the sponsors have been doing detailed technical work with a view to engaging with their trading partners on a factual basis with numbers, sector-by-sector simulations and country-by-country analysis. I know that the Chair has met separately with a number of these groups, who seem to be at the stage of completing the technical work and commencing their outreach activities with trading partners.
Consultations on the case-specific flexibilities have also taken place in order to see whether there have been any developments on those issues. I believe that at this moment there are no developments to report.
Concerning the work programme for the coming months, the Chair has planned three NAMA weeks starting in September at which time the emphasis will be on advancing the NTBs negotiations. This is an area where much work remains to be done. Regarding the other open issues, the Chair's intention is to take them up when members are ready to engage on them.
In connection with the scheduling workshops in both Agriculture and NAMA, I am aware that some of you have raised the need to provide technical assistance for your capital-based officials so that they can be fully prepared for scheduling when the time comes. This need is now factored into our Technical Assistance planning for the coming months. As always, this planning is being done in cooperation with all delegations concerned who are invited to contact the Secretariat concerning specific needs that may arise.
Over the past few months, activity in the Services Special Session has focused mainly on technical work. This has taken the form of bilateral and plurilateral discussions, as well as friends' groups gatherings, held on the margins of the usual services clusters. The technical discussions have centered on understanding better the requests and potential offers, and obtaining further precision on the results of last July's Ministerial Signalling Conference. The subsidiary bodies have also met and a Seminar on Financial Services and a Scheduling Workshop have taken place.
The implementation of LDC [Least-Developed Countries] modalities has always been an important topic in the services negotiations and consultations are continuing on an anticipated submission regarding an LDC Waiver mechanism.
Looking ahead, Members agree that, in the context of the DDA, work in services should continue on the basis of last July's Report by the Chair of the Special Session, as well as Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial. Work in this area should also be accelerated, both on market access as well as GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services] rules. The next cluster of services meetings has been fixed for the week of 5 October.
In the Rules area, the Chair circulated new texts on anti-dumping and horizontal subsidies in December 2008. The Negotiating Group has met regularly to review those texts, with sessions in February, March, May and June/July of this year. Delegations are working systematically through the issues, taking up both bracketed and un-bracketed issues in the texts, as well as reverting to issues not addressed in the Chair's texts. Members have also begun a process, based on documents prepared by the Secretariat at the request of the Chair, to consider whether differences between the anti-dumping and countervailing provisions of the two Agreements might benefit from harmonization. The Chair expects to continue this work in the Autumn, with a meeting scheduled for mid-September and a further meeting expected in October.
With respect to fisheries subsidies, delegations continue to work through the road map circulated at the same time as the December 2008 texts. The Chair has indicated that he expects to complete the discussion of the road map during the course of the Autumn, with a next meeting already scheduled for September and a further meeting expected in October. Following the completion of the road map discussion, the Chair intends to provide delegations with an opportunity to present any alternative visions as to the structure and substance of fisheries subsidies disciplines.
You will recall that the Chair emphasized when he issued his December 2008 text that he was taking the bottom-up approach to negotiations that delegations had requested. It is his hope that the intensive ongoing discussions will put him in a position where he will be able to issue texts, hopefully reflecting some degree of convergence, which can only come from members.
On regional trade agreements, there are two issues that need to be discussed: one is a review of the Transparency Mechanism with a view to making it permanent, and the second is systemic issues. On the first, members still feel that they are building up experience in the implementation of the Mechanism and therefore prefer to wait before undertaking the review. On systemic issues, discussions are dependent on the submission of text-based proposals by members. And although ideas have been floated on this issue in the context of preparations for the Ministerial Conference, no specific text-based proposal has yet been tabled. I understand that the Chair intends to hold an informal meeting of the Group to determine how to take the process forward.
With respect to the Special Session of the Council for TRIPS (the work on the register of geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits), the intensification of technical work since November 2008 has led to useful clarifications of the written proposals on the table, including with regard to how the various proponents for a register of GIs for wines and spirits would see their proposals implemented at the national level. Considerable work has already been done on certain issues such as those relating to the elements of notification and registration of the Register. But further progress is likely to depend on resolution of two key issues on which members remain divided: first, the legal and procedural implications for national law and administration of registering a GI for wines and spirits; and second, the voluntary or mandatory character of members' participation in the register. Other issues, such as costs and burdens and special and differential treatment, also need further negotiations.
The Special Session Chair has called for a structured, substantive discussion on the outstanding issues. To this end, he will intensify as from September consultations with members and substantive discussions. The Chair has also called for a new or revised member paper and, if no such paper emerges, he would not exclude the possibility of a Chair's text identifying the outstanding issues and options for resolving them.
As regards the CTE [Committee on Trade and Environment] in Special Session, informal open ended transparency meetings were held in March and July, with Chair's consultations on the way forward also taking place during this period. While there may have been a lack of “traction” to move ahead with the work in the first part of the year - given obvious linkages with the work of other negotiating groups - there now seems to be a sense of readiness to proceed on the basis of the July 2008 Work Programme.
The Committee will be meeting again in September and a Workshop on Environmental Goods and Services will be held back-to-back. This event will provide an opportunity for further analysis and discussions of environmental goods and technology sectors, in addition to addressing development-related aspects of the mandate.
The roadmap for work after September is set out in the July 2008 Work Programme. On sub paragraphs 31(i) and 31(ii), apart from certain issues that will require further consultations, the next step will be text-based negotiations on the basis of members' proposals. As regards sub paragraph 31(iii), members will be invited to put forward submissions identifying environmental goods of interest including goods that may be targeted as part of a request-offer process — as well as concrete proposals as to how the Committee may address cross-cutting or development related issues under the mandate.
Work on special and differential treatment this year has mainly focused on the elements of a Monitoring Mechanism. This work, which has largely taken place in small groups, was initially based on the submissions tabled by a few developed and developing country members. Later, based on these submissions and the discussions that took place, the Chairman tabled a non-paper highlighting the possible areas of convergence. This non-paper seeks to identify elements on which there is a greater degree of convergence and those elements on which further work is required.
On the six Agreement-specific proposals on which Members had been focusing, the Chairman indicated that the positions were not too far apart. But he had put the discussion on these proposals on hold because it had appeared that there was not the necessary flexibility to move the process forward.
On the Category II Agreement-specific proposals, the Secretariat has attempted to identify those proposals that are being addressed, either in part or in their entirety, in the ongoing work in the different WTO bodies including in the negotiating bodies. The next stage will be to consider, in collaboration with the relevant Chairpersons, the best way to expedite progress on these proposals, particularly those that are not being addressed as part of ongoing work.
On the way forward, the Chair has indicated that he intends to continue concentrating on further refining the elements of the Monitoring Mechanism on the basis of his non-paper. This work will continue in small group consultations, but with the usual open-ended transparency meetings to keep all members up to speed on any developments.
On the Agreement-specific proposals, the Chairman has informed me that he may consider attempting to close the remaining gaps on the six proposals, which members had earlier been addressing. I believe that the gaps are few and that we are not too far from convergence which would then enable us to add these six proposals to our existing list of 28 proposals agreed to in principle.
The Trade Facilitation negotiations have advanced to a stage where the parameters of the envisaged Agreement are beginning to take clear shape. After several rounds of reviewing the proposed texts, members have reached a point where they now have a good sense of the measures it is going to contain. Progress has also been made on the S&D side where elements of the targeted implementation mechanism are starting to emerge.
Having recently concluded a round of revising their negotiating texts, members agreed on taking the refinement and consolidation process to the next level by moving into a focussed drafting mode. A first test of the new working method was undertaken earlier this month and will be rolled out more broadly in the fall. To that end, two meetings have been scheduled starting at the beginning of October.
Work on the implementation pillar will have to advance as well. Progress will be captured in a summary document prepared by the Friend of the Chair. Combining the current three documents, it will bring the different elements together in a sequential manner, allowing members to base their negotiations on a comprehensive package of ideas.
Allow me now to address dispute settlement, even if it is not part of the Single Undertaking. Work in the Special Sessions since the beginning of the year has focused on a discussion of the draft legal text contained in the Chairman's document of last July, which members recognized as the basis for future work at the end of last year.
During the last consultations the Chairman announced that he expects to hold another three sets of consultations before the end of the year. The Chairman's objective is to be in a position to present a revised draft legal text as soon as possible.
Let me now briefly move to the issues related to GI extension and the relationship between the TRIPS Agreement and the CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity]. I have continued consultations pursuant to the mandate given to me in paragraph 39 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration to intensify this process and to report to you regularly. I have undertaken these consultations personally since March 2009, so far convening four meetings with a group of delegations and focusing on technical aspects of these issues. I will provide the full membership with a detailed report on this process at an open-ended consultation this Monday, 27 July. I will subsequently report to the General Council next Tuesday, 28 July.
A few words on Aid for Trade. I think the timing of the Second Global Review of Aid for Trade here in Geneva a couple of weeks ago was important both in terms of assessing the overall performance of this initiative and in seeking additional and substantial commitments from donors in the quest to build capacity to trade for developing countries. The presence of Ministers, the United Nations Secretary General and the heads of international and regional institutions, including financial institutions, sent a strong signal of the importance of international cooperation in the face of the current economic down-turn. Of course, Aid for Trade is not part of the ongoing DDA talks, but I firmly believe that the objectives of enhancing growth prospects by helping countries overcome their supply-side constraints and increase their competitiveness and their effective participation in world trade places Aid for Trade at the centre of our trade and development agenda.
This brings me to the end of my report. I am sorry it has been lengthy, but I believe it is important at this stage of our work to share a full and clear picture of the road ahead.
We have come a long way, and we are not far from our journey's end. But we know that the last stretch will be a tough one.
From the road map I have just described the autumn will be a very busy period. We have to ensure that the whole caravan moves forward together and arrives on time. I am confident we can do this if we keep our commitment strong and match it with action. I hope you will all make the most of the holiday period so that we can come back refreshed and ready for a busy and productive autumn.
The floor is open for your comments.
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