I would like to welcome delegations to this informal meeting of the
Trade Negotiations Committee.
As indicated in my fax to you of 15 November I thought it would be useful for us to review and assess developments in the Doha Development Agenda, following the meeting of the G20 and APEC. Also, since our last meeting in this format a second round of meetings of the small brainstorming groups has taken place and today is a good opportunity to take the temperature and evaluate the discussions in this process.
You will recall that at the 19 October TNC meeting delegations had looked ahead to the meeting of G20 Leaders in Seoul and the APEC leaders meeting in Yokohama, with the hope that a clear political signal would emanate from those gatherings that the Doha negotiations had now entered the final stretch.
In my concluding remarks at that meeting I emphasized that the challenge facing us in Geneva was to take the recent positive engagement in Geneva to a higher gear by going deeper and wider in the discussions, as a prelude for the “give and take” spirit that will be required to build a final package in our multilateral process. Delegations also called for the G20 Leaders to empower their negotiators to make the compromises necessary for this gear change to happen.
On the basis of the discussions among Leaders and Ministers at these recent meetings and my own private conversations, I believe we have now received the signals we need. The G20 in Seoul and APEC Leaders and Ministers in Yokohama both sent strong signals of political resolve to conclude the Doha Development Round. They recognised the 2011 window of opportunity to achieve this goal. They called for intensified engagement and for negotiations across the board to conclude the end game. They also committed to seeking domestic ratification once an outcome is reached. In short, they provided a clear signal that they expect the Doha Development Round to be a deliverable next year.
The discussions between leaders on this topic were to the point: how to supplement what is already on the table with new “gives and takes” in order to build a final package that they could take to their respective legislatures. Our task now is to translate this political will into negotiations here in Geneva. Since June last year, Members have been testing flexibilities in various formats. This process must now intensify in order to “walk the talk”.
In practical terms, if we are to deliver on this recent momentum we need a clear sense of urgency in the work programme in Geneva. Our “Cocktail Approach” means that every configuration and every possibility for progress must be exploited to the fullest, whether it is small groups, bilateral contacts, negotiating groups or my own consultations. We have been mixing these ingredients up until now. From now on we will continue to mix these ingredients but with different proportions. In order to ensure full participation, though, the Negotiating Groups need to be at the heart of our intensified efforts over the coming months, with the Chairs taking a more pro-active role in accelerating the work.
I know the Chairs are all prepared to do this. Together we plan an intensive work programme from now on, through the beginning of next year, advancing on all fronts of the negotiations at the same time. This is the only way to take advantage of our narrow window of opportunity. We need to recall constantly that the clock is not our friend. In order to finish the Round by the end of next year we will have to operate on a very tight timetable bearing in mind that, once the package is agreed, scheduling and legal polishing will take up a minimum of six to seven months.
With this timing in mind, I believe there is now a collective sense emerging that revised texts in all areas of the negotiation will have to be developed so that they appear towards the end of the first quarter of 2011. We all know these texts are essential as a tool to conclude the negotiations, but we also know that they need to be constructed in our customary bottom-up way, on the basis of consensus emerging from Members. I should also add that in order to arrive at these texts it will be essential for participants to take an active role and come up with inputs which take us towards consensus. As usual, convergence is best achieved by Members, so that Chairs can reflect rather than create compromises.
At the right moment we will also need to develop more of a global sense of what the final package will contain. I sense that issues are no longer confined to silos: as is to be expected, and indeed hoped, there are inter-linkages which are starting to appear and these will have to be properly addressed and negotiated when the time is ripe. How, where and when to do this is not something we need to decide now; I believe it will become clearer in the light of the substantive progress in the Negotiating Groups.
Finally, I think we need to plan for the greater involvement of Senior Officials as our work intensifies in the months ahead. Their role will be a dual one – assisting Ambassadors in the negotiations here in Geneva and helping Ministers undertake some of the heavy lifting at home.
So, in practical terms, the work programme we propose is as follows:
During December Negotiating Groups will continue their scheduled activities, supplemented by informal contacts among participants.
From 10 January the Rules, Trade Facilitation, Trade and Environment, TRIPS [trade-related intellectual property rights] and Development groups will begin intensive sessions, to be joined from 17 January by Agriculture, NAMA [non-agricultural market access], Services and Dispute Settlement.
I would like to stress the importance of Ambassadors remaining fully involved in the negotiations themselves since they will be central to the final deal;
Our intention is that this intensive negotiation across the board will continue as long as it takes to build the basis for revised texts. This will be a very demanding process, but there is no alternative if we are serious about concluding the Round, as I know we all are.
I am well aware of the strain it will put on all delegations but
particularly on the smaller ones. You can be assured that the
Negotiating Group Chairs and I will act in full accordance with our
established principles concerning the scheduling of meetings, and we
will make every effort to ensure transparency and full participation. As
I have usually done, I shall consult with co-ordinators of regional and
other groups to reinforce these efforts. I shall also keep up chairs
meetings, informal TNC meetings, Green Rooms and all of my other
contacts with delegations.
So that is what I want to table this morning. I won't give you my usual roundup of progress in the Negotiating Groups right now, so as to leave the focus firmly on the way ahead. However in the interests of transparency it will be included in the written version of my remarks which will be circulated after this meeting (see below).
In sum, we have the political signal, we have the technical expertise and we have the work programme. We now need to translate these into a comprehensive deal which you can all take back home. The final countdown starts now.
Overview of Negotiating Groups
On Agriculture, work continues on
two tracks, templates and on the bracketed or otherwise annotated issues
of the draft modalities. On templates, and on the associated work
on base data, Step 2 on drafts of the actual proposed formats for the
scheduling process is actively engaged. A number of drafts, in
each of the three pillars (domestic support, market access and export
competition), have now been put before the Special Session, in informal
setting, and are under discussion. Additional such drafts are
being prepared for the Group's next set of meetings, in the week of 6
December. Work on base data is also progressing, with the
Secretariat issuing, on the basis of data provided by Members, papers in
a number of areas, including value of production and product-specific
AMS [aggregate measurement of support] and Blue Box in preparation for
continuation of the verification exercise.
On modalities, the Chair has continued his consultations. The Chair has also continued consultations on clarification of certain technical aspects of the modalities. The Chair will again convene open-ended informals in the week of 6 December, when the programme of work will continue on both tracks. And he remains available for “confessionals” on technical ambiguities in the draft modalities.
On NAMA, the Group last week held dedicated discussions on several of the NTB [non-tariff barriers] areas under consideration. On the Horizontal Mechanism, a revised contribution by some of the middle-grounders laid the basis for an exchange. On Remanufacturing, additional explanations were circulated by the co-sponsors concerning their proposal and this formed part of the input for the discussion. One Room D session was reserved for an exchange on transparency, conformity assessment, international standards and good regulatory practice. The discussion on transparency was lengthy and was based on a Secretariat document which highlighted the “TBT [technical barriers to trade] plus” elements on transparency. Under conformity assessment, the US introduced its revised electronics proposal. On international standards, the US circulated some questions regarding the development and use of relevant international standards which Members found helpful. On chemicals, the discussion was based largely on a series of answers which had been submitted by the EU concerning its proposal. On textile labelling, a revised proposal by the co-sponsors sparked a number of interventions.
Regarding future work, in tandem with the overall change in the dynamics of the negotiations, the Chairman has indicated that the next step is to move more into a text-based negotiation. This will happen in the context of NAMA weeks which are supplemented by small-group processes; the latter clearly being an ongoing process. In this connection, the next NAMA week is scheduled for the week of 17 January. I understand the Chair has already begun some small-group consultations.
In Services, the positive signals given at the Seoul and Yokohama ministerial meetings have significantly raised the level of activity in this area. This was evident during last week's cluster of services meetings, where many heads of mission attended the Special Session and emphasized their commitment to accelerate and intensify participation in the services negotiations.
On market access, discussion continued on two new negotiating elements. The first is a proposal to cluster together services that are closely-related to logistics and the supply-chain, in order to add focus to the request/offer negotiations. The second element is an additional plurilateral request/offer group, to deal with accounting services.
In the other areas of the services negotiations, further progress on technical issues has been registered. Recent consultations on the LDC [least-developed countries] waiver text have further clarified the remaining differences between delegations. On domestic regulation, fruitful discussions have taken place, based on the Chairman's text. The main topics covered were licensing and qualification requirements and procedures (including a proposal to streamline disciplines in these two areas), and technical standards. On subsidies, Members had their first dedicated discussion based on their submissions. Discussions focused on how services subsidy schemes worked, and what their distortive effects might be. Important work has also been undertaken in the Committee on Specific Commitments, on the basis of a Secretariat note laying out alternative scenarios for the verification of GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services] Schedules at the end of the Round. Discussions in all these areas will continue as needed.
On Rules, the Group has increased the pace of its work significantly, and recently has been meeting on a monthly basis. The Group held week-long clusters in October (on fisheries subsidies) and on AD [anti-dumping] and horizontal subsidies (November). Additional meeting clusters are already scheduled or planned for early December (on AD and fisheries subsidies), and further meetings are envisaged from January onwards on all clusters.
On AD and horizontal subsidies, while the Group has considered some new proposals, the focus of the work has been on the systematic review, in plurilateral sessions, of all the bracketed and un-bracketed issues in the current Chair texts, as well as a further consideration of certain issues raised by Participants but not addressed in those texts. In the area of fisheries subsidies, where the Group also has been meeting principally in a plurilateral context, it is working both on a topical basis (e.g., prohibition, special and differential treatment) and on the basis of specific proposals from delegations.
On regional trade agreements, you will recall that at the General Council meeting on 4 May this year, Members agreed with a proposal from China, India and Pakistan that consultations should be held to review the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs [regional trade agreements], with a view to making it permanent but suggested that it take place in the Negotiating Group on Rules. The Chair of the NGR has held informal plurilateral consultations on this issue and I understand will be convening a meeting of the Negotiating Group on 13 December to begin the process of reviewing the Transparency Mechanism. Informal discussions have also been held on systemic issues on RTAs, although discussions remain dependent on the submission of text-based proposals by Members of which there have been none forthcoming thus far.
In the area of Trade Facilitation, since the beginning of this year, the Negotiating Group has worked to refine and elaborate on the consolidated text of Members' proposals that is the NGTF's working document.
The focus of discussions this week is on the GATT Article VIII (fees and charges) and S&D [special and differential treatment] components of the text. Over the course of this year the Group has been able to cover all elements of the text in some detail. Negotiations have certainly helped Members to identify better how the eventual new agreement will benefit their trade and where their main national interests are. While there has recently been a positive trend to reduce the many square brackets in the text, their overall number continues to be way too high. It must be brought down to a much lower level for serious negotiations on the remaining issues to commence.
As regards Trade and Environment negotiations, the CTE [Committee on Trade and Environment] in Special Session met informally on 8 November 2010. On DDA [Doha Development Agenda] paragraph 31(i), Switzerland introduced a new proposal related to conflict avoidance between WTO rules and specific trade obligations (STOs) laid out in MEAs [multilateral environmental agreements]. Moreover, discussions under paragraph 31(i) continued as Norway and South Africa (on behalf of the African Group) reintroduced their original submissions continuing the exercise initiated at the 13 September meeting with other submissions. At the 8 November meeting, there was general support to continue discussing all proposals on the table in preparation for text-based negotiations. The Chair intends to discuss in detail the different aspects of the proposals on the table, on a cluster by cluster basis, with a view to identify commonalities and outstanding issues.
On paragraph 31(iii), a recent Secretariat paper on Environmental
Services, submitted to the Council for Trade in Services, was presented
to the CTESS [Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session] and
triggered a lot of interest from Members given the linkages between
environmental goods and services. Moreover, at the meeting,
Members were invited to share their views on ways to move forward on
this part of the mandate. Members stressed the need to address
cross-cutting issues such as NTBs, special and differential treatment,
technology transfer and capacity building. Most Members agreed
that negotiations on environmental goods needed to change gear.
The Chair therefore intends to intensify work on this part of the
mandate with dedicated discussions on both cross-cutting issues and
submissions identifying environmental goods of interest and suggesting
approaches for such identification. The objective of the Chair is
for the CTESS to have a more in-depth understanding of the technical
issues that will enable delegations to advance negotiations in a
On the Work Programme on Special and Differential Treatment, the Chair of the Special Session of the CTD [Committee on Trade and Development] has been focusing on narrowing the gaps on different elements of the Monitoring Mechanism. While some progress has been made, the Chair has also indicated that divergences remain on a number of negotiating elements.
In this context, there have been some positive developments based on the deliberations of the informal group of Ambassadors on Development Issues. The Ambassador-led informal process has suggested some 'Guiding Principles on the Monitoring Mechanism' which have been introduced by some of the Members into the small group consultations that the Chair has been holding. During these initial consultations, Members have generally felt that the elements of the Guiding Principles would be helpful in generating further convergence in the work on the Monitoring Mechanism being carried out in the Special Session. Even though these are, as the name suggests, only 'Guiding Principles', they provide a useful basis to advance the work in the Special Session.
The Chair will continue with his consultations on the Monitoring Mechanism. At the same time, based on Members' inputs, he will revert to the remaining Agreement-specific proposals, at an appropriate time.
As regards the negotiations on the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits, the TRIPS Special Session held its 27th formal meeting on 28 October. Delegations continued their structured and businesslike exchange of technical information on the basis of two sub-questions the Chairman had posed regarding current domestic procedures and practices of registration and protection of trademarks and geographical indications. The objective of the discussions on current domestic procedures and practices is to identify differences and commonalities. A number of delegations that had hitherto not taken the floor in these discussions provided responses to the questions, while some others fine-tuned the responses they had given at previous meetings.
Pursuant to the working schedule for the overall process, the Chairman
will, in the first four months of 2011, intensify the work of the
Special Session, building on the work done. In view of this
intensification, he will hold informal consultations on 1 and 6 December
and convene an open-ended informal meeting on 10 December.
On Dispute Settlement, work continues to be conducted on the basis of consultations in groups of variable geometry, with regular reporting to the Membership. The Chairman held a series of consultations in the week of 1 November. Discussions focused on effective compliance and sequencing. The next set of meetings is foreseen for the week of 17 January, and will focus on outstanding issues on effective compliance and sequencing, as well as timeframes and post-retaliation.
That concludes my overview of the recent and envisaged activities of
the negotiating bodies.
Finally, with respect to the two TRIPS implementation issues of GI [geographical indications] extension and the relationship between TRIPS — CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] on which I have been undertaking consultations on in my capacity as Director-General and not as TNC [Trade Negotiations Committee] Chair, I understand that the recent small group brainstorming sessions have been exploring these issues as well. Bearing this in mind, I will continue to follow up with Members on how to best proceed with the consultative process. Transparency with the broader membership has been a watchword throughout the consultations and I will, of course, keep you posted on developments.