Director-General Roberto Azevêdo’s statement
Informal Trade Negotiations Committee meeting,
25 October 2013
Good afternoon and welcome to this informal meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee.
We are now in the final countdown to identify all landing zones for the three Bali deliverables.
This meeting is one of our last opportunities to assess where we are and what still needs to be done before we pack our bags and leave for Bali.
We still have a lot to do.
But let me be clear. When I say that, I don't mean that we won't get there, or that progress is slow.
Compared to what we had before, progress is anything but slow.
Compared to what we had before, we are breaking the sound barrier.
The degree of engagement is now several orders of magnitude higher.
When we started this process Members were still very tentative in some areas. Instead of seriously exploring landing zones, Members were marking their territory.
Now we are defining landing zones. We have made significant progress in all three areas. It is a transformation.
And the process has accelerated in the past few days.
I have been personally engaged at all times.
This is why, regrettably, I was not able to travel to the meeting of African Trade Ministers in Addis Ababa this week.
DDG Agah represented me at the meeting, and yesterday he read a message from me to the participants explaining the state of play here in Geneva.
The message carried a strong call for further political engagement and flexibility from Ministers, to ensure that we can deliver concrete and economically meaningful outcomes for all Members in Bali.
I look forward to hearing DDG Agah's report of the meeting upon his return this evening.
Let's take a closer look now at developments over the past two weeks.
I will give the floor to each Chair and the LDC Facilitator to report directly to you on their work. I will then complete the picture by reporting on my own consultations.
Let's start with LDC issues. Ambassador Steffen Smidt — you have the floor.
[statement by Amb Steffen Smidt]
Turning to the Development issues, let me offer the floor to Ambassador Kwok Fook Seng (Singapore) to report on his consultations.
[statement by Amb Kwok Fook Seng]
Now, I would like to offer the floor to Ambassador John Adank (New Zealand) to report on his consultations on Agriculture,
[statement by Amb John Adank]
Finally, Trade Facilitation. Ambassador Sperisen-Yurt (Guatemala), you have the floor.
[statement by Amb Sperisen-Yurt]
Thank you. I will now report on my own activities since the last TNC.
As I foreshadowed at that meeting on 14 October, I have undertaken a process of intensive consultations with delegations in recent days.
My consultations and those by the Chairs remain entirely complementary.
My aim is to facilitate agreement among the main concerned Members on key points. So my consultations have focused on specific issues, paragraphs and even words, which the Chairs and Facilitator for LDC issues have identified as requiring urgent attention.
The issues covered in my consultations with delegations were:
- the implementation of the Hong Kong DFQF Decision;
- the Cancún 28 proposals;
- A number of specific issues in Section I of the draft Trade Facilitation text;
- Section II of the draft Trade Facilitation text;
- Customs cooperation;
- Some elements of the G-33 proposal on food security;
- Export competition and;
- TRQ administration.
Overall, the delegations I consulted with understood that this is now the endgame. And therefore there was a constructive attitude and an encouraging degree of willingness to find convergence.
As I see it there are essentially two types of work that we need to do:
First, in those areas where we are at an advanced stage, we need to solve the remaining brackets quickly.
The options are all on the table. Trade-offs and commonalities are becoming more evident. We need to move rapidly to reach final agreement on these issues.
The second type of work is in those areas where we have made great progress in identifying conceptual landing zones, where divergence was still very wide just 10 days ago. Now we need to accelerate our work by translating this progress into text and locking it in.
No matter which of these two categories an issue falls into, the goal is the same. We should be aiming to bring all areas of work up to the same level of finality over the next few days.
We have made significant advances in areas where, for months, negotiations were intractable. We are very close to a final deal in many.
But there is no hiding the fact that, in other areas, there are still some very hard negotiations ahead.
We will work over the weekend, and we hope that all involved will engage and show understanding.
The last mile is always the hardest.
As we move closer to a conclusion, we are finding that…
- unexpected issues come up,
- Members scrutinise issues more closely,
- and capitals are actually getting involved, as we asked them to. And they are asking legitimate questions that we must answer.
But that’s the way every negotiation goes. This is normal.
And this is why I have impressed upon Members the need to reach out for convergence now.
All issues must be worked out in just a matter of days. We are approaching zero hour. There is simply no more time to keep engineering new and complex solutions.
I think we can build upon the excellent momentum from your work on LDC issues, where things are moving strongly in the right direction.
As we have just heard, there is convergence on the text for preferential rules of origin and the operationalization of the services waiver. Both will soon be put up to Members for onward transmission to Ministers for their consideration in Bali.
Like Steffen Smidt, the other Chairs are also making very significant progress. This demonstrates that you can surmount your differences and close gaps, even with the pressures of time, when the will is there.
I believe you still want Bali to succeed. And therefore I urge all delegations to show the political will that success will require.
In the coming days we will also be starting informal conversations with Members, both individually and collectively, on how we should frame the ministerial outcomes for Bali.
This involves, among other elements, the format and the substance of the documents issued. They will broadly cover:
- the on-going work of the WTO
- the Bali deliverables
- DDA issues
- And non-DDA issues that are not yet regular components of our work.
I have started, together with the Chairman of the General Council and the Secretariat, internal technical work with a view to identifying the options available to us.
I intend to share this work with you in the forthcoming meetings. So please, think about how you envisage the Bali documents, and be ready for that conversation.
We have few working days left to produce concrete results for Bali.
This means that work has to intensify even further at all levels, every day and every night, in contacts amongst delegations, consultations by Chairs, Friends, the LDC Facilitator, and in my own consultations.
By the end of this final push, we have to make a collective determination about whether the Bali package will be achieved. And we will have to prepare our report and any recommendations to the General Council in November.
So, over the next few days, the Chairs, Friends, the LDC Facilitator and I will be calling on you even more frequently and at even shorter notice.
The finish line is clear and it is in sight. I believe we can get there.
The floor is open for any delegation that wishes to intervene at this stage. As before it would be appreciated if any interventions could be kept focused and business-like.
Remember, time is the one thing we don’t have.