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> News item: Lamy opens stocktaking week
morning and welcome back to this resumed meeting of the TNC [Trade
As foreshadowed at this meeting on Monday, I would like to begin today by sharing with you my overall impression of the activities during this week, including the consultations I have been holding. Following this introductory statement, I intend to open the floor for statements by participants.
I want to thank you all for the serious and constructive way in which you and your capitals have approached this week's stocktaking.
My starting point will be that although we have made some progress since 2008, there is no denying the fact that we are not where we wanted to be by now.
The informal consultations I have held this week with regional groups, small groups in variable geometry and with individual members have been constructive, honest and, above all, lucid. Everyone agrees that no miracle solution is available to us at this point in time.
But what has come from every member I have met is that nobody is contemplating dropping the ball. Everyone is still very much committed to the mandate of the Round and to its successful conclusion. That is the spirit which I have seen this week, and that is the most important message you are sending to the world.
Of course, cynics will say this is a diplomatic fig leaf not to recognize failure. I disagree. What keeps you going is the value of the system for all of you — as we have explicitly evidenced over the past year and a half during the global economic crisis. The multilateral trading system has been a “shock absorber” in the crisis: it has prevented a descent into full-scale protectionism. It can now provide a platform for the recovery and the forecast of trade figures for 2010 which I will be releasing later today is a testimony to this. But in order to remain efficient, the rules of 1995 need to be updated. This is what you decided in 2001.
While there is certainly disappointment that we are not closer to our goal, I have not detected any defeatism. Quite on the contrary. This endeavour is a test for the multilateral trading system and it is too important to all of our peoples, and in particular those in many poorer developing countries, to be allowed to slip away. This is probably why this week many of you vented a clear sense of frustration at the slow pace of the negotiations.
If I had to define the feature of my consultations this week, it has been the commitment to now start working towards weaving all strings of the negotiations into an overall package.
We started the week with a consolidated overview of all the negotiating areas, their topography, so to speak. The Chairs' reports on Monday were sober and factual. They identified areas of progress made as well as the gaps which remain. We now have a clear catalogue of gaps.
Where the picture is more blurred is regarding the size of these gaps. In some cases, it is clearly spelled out in the reports — those concerning the Blue Box in agriculture or in trade facilitation, for example. However, the size of the gaps are much less clear in areas such as NAMA [non-agricultural market access] or fishery subsidies, to name but a few. Inevitably, this heterogeneity makes a collective narrowing of the gaps very challenging.
As long as possible trade-offs are not defined by clear differences, there remains understandable hesitations for negotiators to engage in possible options for compromises.
In terms of next steps in our process, there is wide recognition that where the gaps are clear, political decisions will be needed as part of the final package. Similarly, my contacts have shown that members agree that where the size of the gaps are less clear, further technical work will be required before moving towards political consideration. In other words, I believe we need a mix of technical and political preparations to start devising the contours of a package.
During my discussions this week, delegations have also emphasized a number of principles that should guide these next steps.
First, the need to maintain and strengthen the centrality of the multilateral dimension of these negotiations, while also recognising that this approach does not, and should not, discourage other avenues for making progress.
Second, there is general agreement among the membership that we need to build on what is already on the table in the shape of Chairs' texts. Equally important, I have detected a determination to avoid backtracking.
Third, the development dimension remains central to the outcome of the Round.
From a process point of view, that is how to address the remaining differences on substance, what I have heard is that we need a variety of simultaneous avenues. A “cocktail” approach, with the right dose of each ingredient and a good shake.
First, we should continue the Chair-led processes within the Negotiating Groups, respecting the rhythm of work and maturity of individual issues. Some groups have already a calendar of negotiations over the coming months. Others will be consulting with members after today's meeting to fix an appropriate calendar of work.
Second, to maintain an overview of the entire negotiating landscape, I intend to hold more frequent meetings with groups and TNC meetings, in order to ensure that all voices are heard and the principles of transparency and inclusiveness are fully respected.
Third, smaller groups in variable geometry and bilateral contacts remain necessary and essential — within specific areas as well as on a horizontal level. During the course of this week there has been widespread recognition that it remains more important than ever to move towards a more horizontal view of the issues, where the necessary connections can be made across negotiating subjects. This is how we will find the synergies that will enable us to reach agreement.
Many of you have advised against “over-engineering” the next steps and have rather argued in favour of leaving members some space to negotiate. I think this can only work if we ensure that the negotiating groups and the TNC remain the anchor of the negotiating process. It will be my duty to ensure that this is the case.
As far as ministerial involvement is concerned, I believe we should make productive use of the numerous up-coming gatherings that have already been scheduled, such as the Cairns Group, OECD and APEC, to foster and facilitate an on-going and supportive ministerial dialogue on the DDA [Doha Development Agenda]. If it turns out that more ministerial engagement is needed, which many of you have also suggested, then we will evaluate this if and when the time is ripe.
Over the coming weeks I will be consulting with participants in various formats, here and in capitals, to explore the horizontal stage of the negotiations. I will, of course, keep all of you informed about the progress of these consultations. It will also be important that participants energize their own consultations aimed in the same direction. I remain ready to facilitate wherever members feel it is useful.
So, to sum up — the message I take from this week's stocktaking is one of realism and resolve. Our road has been a long one. We are not yet at the end, but we are pressing on with determination, in the assurance that the prize is worth the effort.
When we leave this room many outside will ask: is this not just more of the same? And how could more of the same produce results that have not yet been achieved? My answer will be:
Yes, this is more of the same mandate you agreed in 2001.
Yes, this is and has to be more of the same collective determination to get to the finish line.
Yes, this is also more of the same “doing it multilaterally” which is longer, more difficult but which is universal. But there is also a desire by members to look beyond the individual elements of the Round to construct a global package which each and everyone of you can sell back home.
In conclusion, the name of the game now is “closing the gaps” and paraphrasing the words of Admiral Nelson, “the WTO expects that every Member will do its duty” in the tough months ahead of us.
This concludes my statement this morning. I would now like to open the floor to statements from delegations.