> Summary of the General Council meeting



Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee

Let me start by congratulating Russia on the formal completion of its long walk towards the WTO. I count on seeing you seated among WTO members as from the next General Council, and I understand I will be able to make a similar statement later this afternoon on Vanuatu.

Since the last meeting of the General Council, I have reported in detail to the membership on two occasions at the Heads of Delegation [HoD] level on my activities. These have included international and regional meetings I have participated in, and work that has taken place here in Geneva to follow‑up on MC8 [Eighth Ministerial Conference]. My reports were circulated to members in documents JOB/GC/19 and 20 respectively. I do not intend to repeat what I said then. I would simply like to place on the record the main messages.

First, in light of the deteriorating economic situation, and what I see as rising downside risks, I urged collective action to re-double efforts to strengthen multilateral co-operation to find global solutions to avoid further trade and investment tensions. I expressed hope that all members would live up to the commitment made by Ministers at MC8 to keep markets open and resist protectionism in all forms. I also urged members to remain vigilant and begin to think about creative ways to improve our multilateral transparency and peer reviews through fruitful discussions such as the one that took place at the last TPRB [Trade Policy Review Body] meeting and also through the consultations that the Chair of the TPRB is conducting.

Second, on the negotiating front, I reported on the consultations that all Negotiating Group Chairs had been conducting with delegations in their respective areas. This included technical work that had taken place in the areas of trade facilitation, special and differential treatment and DSU [Dispute Settlement Understanding] reform. At the informal meeting of the Negotiating Group on Market Access held on 18 July, Ambassador Luzius Wasescha, whose presence and humour we will certainly miss, introduced a report which was prepared on his responsibility. The group may wish to revert to this report at the appropriate time.

At our informal HODs meetings, I heard some delegations highlight specific areas where they wished to see tangible progress soon. They emphasized that whatever is agreed in any paragraph 47 outcomes, whether it be trade facilitation or something else, this did not imply the end of the Round.  The Single Undertaking remains the guarantee that all mandated issues will have to be addressed.  Several delegations, while stressing the significance of trade facilitation, noted that they did not at this stage consider this area as self‑balancing. These delegations cautioned against selectivity in implementing paragraph 47 and expressed concerned about achieving the right balance within this approach.

I also heard several participants stress the importance of transparency, inclusiveness and multilateralism in any processes ahead, including in agreeing on early harvest candidates. A number also emphasized the importance of respecting the development mandate of the Round. 

Madam Chair, although work has continued at varying levels across the Doha Development Agenda [DDA] to implement the elements of political guidance from MC8, progress and activity have been mixed, to use diplomatic language. Over the past six months, various processes and initiatives have benefited from the time and space which delicate and complicated issues sometimes merit. I understand that these discussions will continue after the summer break and I will continue to encourage their participants to reach out to the wider membership.

But we should, I believe, all agree that the harvest from the first half of this year has been meagre. Of course, there have been important and positive achievements such as the LDC [least-developed countries] accession guidelines, on which we should build as we operationalize fully the guidelines from Ministers on the Doha part of our dossier, during the second half of this year.

But in so doing, we have to recognize that prolonged and dogmatic discussions about whether or not to deliver on everything or a few things or nothing at all have not and will not take us very far.  The only thing we know is that an “all” or “nothing” does not work. A “my way or the highway” is the best way to ensure paralysis.

What I believe is important going forward is for all of us to remain faithful to the guidance that Ministers provided at MC8. 

This included remaining faithful to the mandate and recognizing that not all elements of the DDA could be concluded simultaneously in the near future.

It included adopting a gradual approach and advancing those areas where progress can be achieved.

It included exploring different negotiating approaches, while respecting the principles of transparency and inclusiveness. The time has also come for more serious and creative thinking about how to bridge gaps in areas where convergence remains elusive.

It also included exploring issues relevant to the multilateral trading system.

So, the guidance from Ministers is clear. On our part, we must collectively and urgently agree on what can be done at a technical level, how it should be achieved and when and where it should be done.

I believe that after the summer break, we need to change gears at various levels so as to ensure that we use our time in the most efficient manner possible. We have a heavy collective responsibility, not only for the Doha Round but for the multilateral trading system in these difficult times to make sure 2012 is not a wasted year.

For my part, I intend to meet with the Negotiating Group Chairs immediately following the summer break to explore specific steps in which we can take our work forward. Of course, some Negotiating Groups have already mapped out their next steps and all Chairs have undertaken to make themselves available in the Autumn to any delegation. As a college, the Negotiating Group Chairs and I will need to look at ways to deliver on the instructions stemming from MC8 in line with what many of you have requested. And we will try to look at creative ways to bridge the most difficult and intractable issues. I am not under any illusion that this will be easy, but I am convinced that the Negotiating Group Chairs and I will have to explore these issues together with you.

Madam Chair, over the past few weeks and months - whether at the level of informal HODs or in the General Council - we have heard time and again that there is interest in re-engaging more seriously on a broad range of issues under the Doha Agenda. I firmly believe that we need to test this stated interest and do so in an inclusive and transparent fashion. I will intend to be faithful to these principles in my consultations. And, as always, my door remains open to any delegation wishing to consult with me on these issues.

But ultimately, the ball lies in your court. You, the negotiators, have to achieve the needed substantive and balanced progress across all areas of our negotiations that you all say you desire.

Those of you who believe that, as time passes, inexorably, the Round might lose all its remaining steam may be right, whether we like it or not. What is clear, in my view, is that not engaging seriously in trying to find solutions to the present impasse will increase the probability of such a disappointing outcome. Credibility lies in the capacity to produce results, not statements. We should all face up to this reality and accept that there is no individual clever escape from this collective responsibility. As we break for the summer, I would urge each of you to reflect on your individual contribution towards collectively breaking the deadlock and allowing for forward movement in our work to fully operationalize the guidance we received at MC8 from our Ministers.


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