‘We should not fool ourselves’
Let me now turn to today’s topic. The past few
weeks have seen intense activity. All negotiating groups are working
across the board and that there is progress in all areas, albeit at
different levels and of different types. Bilateral and plurilateral
meetings on market access issues have also taken place.
We owe it to ourselves and to our respective constituencies to face this situation up-front and with realism. Realism does not mean defeatism. On the contrary it should spur us on. Realism tells us how important this negotiation is for all of us. And realism also tells us that we have it in our collective power to make the kind of compromises that we need to take the process on to a successful conclusion. We need a serious acceleration of the pace of work. We need to see delegations move from extreme positions towards the middle ground, with compromise proposals starting to emerge. We also need bilateral and plurilateral work, which is mostly related to market access issues, to move forward faster.
Now, let me, provide you with a brief overview
of the latest developments across the board in the negotiations.
On Agriculture, on templates and on the associated work on base data, drafts of actual proposed formats are being tabled and discussed in each of the three pillars. Members are also continuing to meet bilaterally and in small groups to come to an agreed understanding of certain concepts, especially OTDS. Additional drafts are being worked on and should soon be ready. Work on base data is also progressing, with the verification process making headway. Value of Production data, which is essential for calculating domestic support commitments, is close to being stabilized.
On modalities, the Chair is continuing his consultations across the three pillars in a variety of formats. Members continue to work on clarification of certain technical aspects of the modalities, particularly in the area of domestic support, with a view to generating common understanding of these issues. Delegations are also working constructively on a number of outstanding issues including tariff simplification, TRQ creation and the SSM. The Chair has scheduled meetings, for an almost two-week period of intensive work from tomorrow onwards to discuss all outstanding issues.
In NAMA, the Negotiating Group has done a first reading of the tariff part of the draft modalities text and, with the exception of those issues identified in the Chair’s 2010 March report to the TNC, much of the text is stable which is good news. The Chair has already indicated that he will consult on the outstanding issues as required.
On sectorals, proponents are pursuing their outreach activities and have responded to requests for transparency by issuing a room document which provides some information on the status of discussions on these initiatives. I understand that there is more engagement, but clearly the delegations concerned need to speed up this work.
On NTBs, the small groups are making incremental progress, but here as well further acceleration is required. Turning to the various subjects under discussion in the small groups: on the Horizontal Mechanism there is a working document which emerged from the small-group process and which was shown to the wider membership last week. The merged text on transparency which was the product of work by five delegations is still the subject of discussions in the small group. Hopefully it should be ready to go to the wider membership by the middle of this month. A small group on textile labelling was recently created and I understand that they are doing some good work and that there is a working text on the table.
On remanufacturing, there is a text on the table which compiles the positions of Members who have submitted language. However, the positions remain far apart. On international standards too, the positions are disparate. The Chairman is brainstorming with Members on these two areas in order to see what avenues are possible to bridge the divide.
Regarding Services, progress was registered during meetings in February of the services negotiating bodies, and related bilateral and plurilateral request/offer sessions.
In market access, bilateral and plurilateral request/offer meetings during the week of 17 February focused on the ICT group of sectors, as well as modes 3 and 4. At a day-long meeting of key demandeurs and recipients of plurilateral requests, demandeurs clarified their key goals, i.e. the binding of existing levels of access, and the reduction of applied levels of foreign equity restrictions. Demandeurs further confirmed their willingness to engage further on mode 4. Looking ahead, the Special Session decided to focus request/offer discussions at the forthcoming March cluster on modes 1 and 2, and on transport, logistics, business, and education services. An additional cluster would also be held during the week of 11 April.
In domestic regulation, the Chairman has been engaging in an intensive drafting exercise. Discussions began last week on the issue of a necessity test on the basis of a note by the Secretariat looking at WTO case law on the issue. The discussion did not lead to an agreement on whether the draft disciplines should contain such a test. However, it went a long way in clarifying the different views on the matter. Discussions continued on other parts of the text relating to transparency, licensing and qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards as well as the chapter on development. The objective of this process is to produce a revised text, possibly with limited brackets. However, for that work remains to be done on technical issues and resolving remaining political differences on levels of ambition.
In GATS rules, technical work is continuing on subsidies, based on information provided by Members regarding their subsidies schemes, with a view to identifying any distortive effects of such subsidies. On the basis of this exercise, Members will decide whether disciplines on subsidies are needed, and if so, what should their content be. Technical work also continued on government procurement with more focus lately on the experience so far with the Government Procurement Agreement in the WTO.
Finally, a small consultative group has met to advance work on the text of the proposed LDC waiver. The two most important outstanding issues in the draft waiver decision seem to be 1) the scope of the waiver and 2) the rules of origin on the basis of which preferences may be extended.
In the Rules area, Members are continuing their consideration of the bracketed and un bracketed issues in the 2008 Chair text and of new proposals tabled, including those on fishery subsidies by Argentina and the ACP Group. These processes have been supplemented by the work of Friends of the Chair, and more recently, by the work of small numbers of delegations in Contact Groups. The aim of all of these processes is to try to generate technically viable options which could then be considered by the Negotiating Group as a whole. Meetings in these different configurations will continue throughout the month of March.
On regional trade agreements (RTAs), the Group has started the review of the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs as required by paragraph 23 of the General Council Decision, with a view to making it permanent. Indications are that Members are generally satisfied with the functioning of the Mechanism and would agree to making it permanent based on a few adjustments to the current text. Discussions on systemic issues which remain dependent on the submission of text-based proposals by Members have also taken place based on a proposal from Bolivia; the group has also discussed the possibility of a forward looking work programme. The Chair is planning further consultations on 14 15 March followed by an open-ended meeting on 17 March.
In the area of Trade Facilitation, after four weeks of intensive work, we now have a substantive revision of the Draft Consolidated Negotiating Text. In several areas — both in section one and with respect to the second section dealing with S&D — Members were able to reduce the number of competing alternatives, so that they can now base their further negotiations on a smaller set of options. This is especially important for the implementation pillar where the previous text was particularly rich in competing provisions.
The new version contains cleaner language and a more streamlined text. Members were able to reduce its overall volume by almost a third and the number of brackets by around 50 per cent. They managed to broaden the common understanding in almost all areas under negotiation and produced a much improved S&D text. Recent progress, however, should not hide the fact that the more difficult compromises over key substantive interests have yet to be achieved. Delegations will therefore have to re-double their efforts over the weeks to come.
As regards Trade and Environment, the recent submission of new proposals for an outcome has contributed to moving the process forward on all parts of the mandate. However, much work needs to be done to have an agreed understanding on the contours of the outcome.
On Paragraphs 31(i) and (ii), the United States has recently come forward with a proposal for an outcome in the form of a Decision combining the two paragraphs. The proposal is an effort to present a streamlined text based on elements from a number of past submissions. While Members were generally supportive of the idea of a joint outcome under Paragraphs 31(i) and 31(ii), some Members expressed the need for further discussion, to capture in the revised text certain omissions or elements from prior proposals. In addition, the ACP Group has just submitted a formal proposal on the establishment of a roster of Experts on Trade and Environment with an additional focus on climate change.
Under Paragraph 31(iii), three new submissions, including proposals presenting ideas to combine the different approaches on the table have been submitted from a group of countries. New ideas include a combination of a core list with “self-selected lists” of environmental goods to allow flexibility for sensitive goods, and a request and offer mechanism for other goods. Focused discussion also took place on some categories within the “universe of environmental goods”, and some Members shared tariff and trade data on specific products of interest. However, much work remains under this part of the mandate too.
As regards the negotiations on the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits, the small drafting group addressed the last four elements of the Chair’s list, namely Legal effects/Consequences of registration, S&D, Fees and Participation, as well as a preamble. Following the same methodology, the group worked on composite texts collating the various textual proposals submitted and amended or supplemented by textual comments made in the course of the drafting sessions. To ensure transparency, the Chair circulated the resulting composite texts from the negotiations in the small drafting group to the wider membership at open-ended informal meetings. At this formal meeting delegations put on record their views on the various approaches reflected on the composite text and it is clear that the issues of Participation and Legal effects/consequences of registration continue to divide delegations.
On Work Programme on Special and Differential Treatment, the Chair has been continuing his small group consultations.
On the Monitoring Mechanism text-based discussions have proceeded on the basis of Chair’s recently circulated Addendum to his non-paper, which captures the progress made so far and rearranges the elements of the Mechanism into a more coherent and logical format. Members continue to have different perceptions on the mandate of the Monitoring Mechanism and a common understanding on the sequencing issue also remains elusive. On the positive side a number of constructive drafting proposals have been tabled by Members which reflect their commitment in this process.
With regard to the six Agreement-specific proposals, work has focused on narrowing down some of the remaining gaps. Overall Members have engaged in the discussions positively and even though some issues, especially relating to the mandatory nature of some provisions are yet to be resolved.
On Dispute Settlement, the Chairman is holding a series of consultations this week, focusing on post-retaliation, effective compliance and third-party rights. On post-retaliation, key points of convergence have been identified and the work this week is focusing on translating this into a single draft legal text instead of the current two. Further work has also been conducted recently among interested delegations in the areas of effective compliance, third parties and sequencing, and the progress achieved is expected to be reported and discussed this week. In particular, a group of delegations that have joined efforts with regard to the issue of third party rights have indicated that they intend to present some text this week. As announced at the last meeting of the Special Session, the Chairman will be circulating informal summaries of the work in the DSU negotiations.
Finally, let me turn to the two TRIPS implementation issues, extension of GI protection and the TRIPS-and CBD relationship, on which you will recall I am required to conduct consultations in my capacity as Director-General. We have had another round of consultations on these issues. Each participating delegation provided a succinct account of how national systems worked with respect to the two issues. These inputs helped focus the discussion and several delegations agreed to supplement their initial contributions. This enabled a direct exchange about these experiences and the practical consequences of these diverse choices at the national level. The consultations did not produce consensus on substance nor on the way ahead; but I think we are now much clearer on what does not divide you as Members, so we can concentrate on what does divide you.
I intend to continue consulting with key delegations in various formats and as soon as I have some substantive points to share with you, I will call an open-ended meeting of Members to apprise you of developments in a timely and transparent manner.
International women’s day
This concludes my introductory remarks. However, before I open the floor I would like to draw your attention to the event that the WTO and the ITC are organizing this afternoon at 5 PM in celebration of the Centenary of International Women’s Day.
The event will focus on Women in Trade: Tasting Competitiveness in Global Markets and will feature a coffee tasting. The event will hear a keynote address from Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of the Swiss Confederation and Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, followed by Sandrine Salerno, Mayor of Geneva. Jean-Marie Paugam, Deputy Executive Director ITC will introduce Ms Phyllis Johnson who will lead the women in coffee session.
I hope you will all be able to join us for this special event this afternoon.
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