WTO: 2014 NEWS ITEMS

GENERAL COUNCIL

Statement by General Council Chair


EXPLANATIONS:
Trade Facilitation Agreement
Fact sheet on stockholding for food security

MORE:

Statement by DG Azevêdo

Thank you Mr Chairman.

It seems we liked Bali so much we wanted to do it all over again!

But, we made it.

I want to thank everybody — Ambassador Fried, Ambassador Conejos, all of the chairs, everyone who has brought us here today. 

This is a very important moment for the WTO.

By agreeing these three decisions we have put ourselves back in the game. We have put our negotiating work back on track — that means all the Bali decisions: trade facilitation, public stockholding, the LDC issues, the decisions on agriculture, development, and all of the other elements.

And we have given ourselves the chance to prepare the post-Bali work program.

But, crucially, during this process we have seen a renewed commitment to the multilateral system.

This would not have happened without the commitment and political will of all 160 WTO members present here today.

Members have shown the willingness to compromise — and a real commitment to the multilateral system.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody for the restraint and flexibility that you have shown in recent days.

It has been a tough period for our negotiating work, but we have got the right result today.

Nevertheless, I think we would all agree that we need to find an easier way of doing things. While we have seen renewed commitment to the WTO, the truth is that we must avoid repeatedly putting ourselves in this position.

We have lost precious time since July, and it goes without saying that we can't wait another two decades to deliver further multilateral outcomes.

We have to think about how we can operate in a more efficient way.

The size and diversity of the Organization is not an impediment to that. The consensus rule — that people talk about so much and which will never disappear — is not an impediment either.

We showed in Bali that we can deliver. Now we need to figure out how to deliver more and how to deliver faster.

So we should be pleased that our work is back on track. But this is where the real work begins.  

We have to make this breakthrough meaningful by seizing the opportunities for progress that it provides.

We have just finished one journey — but now we must embark on another.

You have just adopted texts which say that work will start immediately.

And that means immediately. The dictionary definition is: without delay, instantly, at once, without lapse of time. So this is what we will do.  

You have committed to engage constructively on all of the Bali decisions and the work program on the remaining DDA issues.

It is clear that members place real priority here and so we must get to work straight away. 

I will be convening a meeting with the negotiating group chairs tomorrow to ask that they bring members together immediately to begin resuming work in all of these areas.

It is important that we start planning for 2015 as soon as possible. We have a new deadline for the work program of July 2015. So we definitely don’t have any time to lose.

Ambassador Fried as the chair of the General Council will also be moving straight away to take forward the decisions which come under the regular bodies of the General Council. Indeed, he told me a moment ago that he will be convening a meeting of the chairs of the regular bodies next week.

So all of this work is back on track.

On Public Stockholding, we are committed to following an accelerated timeframe.

I trust that members will now deliver this commitment and work constructively together towards finding a permanent solution. We have a target date to conclude the negotiations: December 2015. So again, we don't have any time to lose.

On Trade Facilitation, adopting the Protocol of Amendment was an essential step. It allows the process of implementation to begin. But this is just one of many steps we need to take going forward.

It is very positive that we have already received 50 Category A notifications, including the first from an LDC member. This is a large proportion of the potential total given that developed members are not eligible as they don't submit these notifications.  

Now all members must work closely with their capitals to begin the process of ratification. Two thirds of members must deposit their instruments of acceptance for the agreement to come into force.

So I urge you to push forward the ratification process in your capitals. 

The adoption of the protocol is also significant because — I am very pleased to say — it means that the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility is now officially operational.

I want to thank the many donor members and Annex D organizations who have shown strong support for the Facility.

We will be giving the Secretariat resources to ensure that the Facility is a success, but for this initiative to thrive and succeed, it will need buy-in from all of us.

Since its launch in July, many members have already expressed their willingness to make contributions to the Facility.

I ask members to further strengthen their bilateral programs, but I also ask them to provide all the support they can to the Facility. We must ensure that LDCs and developing countries get the help they need to reap the full benefits of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Through the Facility we will continue to work closely with other organizations such as the World Bank, the WCO, UNCTAD, the OECD, the ITC and others. 

Many developing country members have already benefitted from assistance programs provided by these organisations, and I encourage this work to continue alongside, and in support of, the Facility.

So there is a lot of work ahead to honour what we have decided here today.

We have just two weeks until the December meeting of the General Council.

Let's make the most of the momentum that we have today and use these next two weeks to plan our way forward.

I will be travelling over the next few days: attending the East African Community summit in Nairobi, conducting a bilateral visit in Dar es Salaam, and taking part in the African Union trade ministers meeting in Addis Ababa.

And, as I have set out, there will be a range of meetings going on here in Geneva during this period.

We should aim, by the time of the General Council on the 10th of December, to have a clear sense of what lies ahead — and a plan for taking our work forward in the New Year.

We have delivered today on a promise we made in Bali.

Now let's make it count.

Thank you all.

 

Galerie de photos

 

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Statement by the Chairman of the General Council

I wish to draw your attention to:

— the draft Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, contained in document WT/GC/W/688;

— the draft Decision on the Protocol of Amendment to insert the Trade Facilitation Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement, contained in document WT/PCTF/W/28; and

— the draft Decision on Post-Bali work, contained in document WT/GC/W/690.

With respect to Trade Facilitation, I also draw your attention to the Category A notifications received so far, and circulated in the series of documents carrying the symbol WT/PCTF/N.

In accordance with the Bali mandate, the General Council has to annex the Category A notifications to the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, as you will recall, is contained in WT/L/931.

The Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, as I said, is in document WT/GC/W/688. By adopting the Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes we are not prejudging the nature of the permanent solution nor the legal instrument to give effect to it, to be agreed by Members in the course of the negotiations.

With respect to the Decision on Post-Bali work, circulated in document WT/GC/W/690, Members are collectively acting on the premise that the entire Bali Package can and must be pursued and that all Members will engage constructively on the implementation of all the Bali Ministerial Decisions in the relevant WTO bodies, and on the preparation of the clearly defined work program on the remaining DDA issues mandated in para. 1.11 of the Bali Ministerial Declaration, with a new deadline to agree on the work program by July 2015.

Therefore, in adopting the three Decisions on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, on the Protocol of Amendment for Trade Facilitation, and on Post-Bali work simultaneously, we are reaffirming the entirety of the Bali Ministerial mandates, including the priorities that Ministers identified at Bali.

Let us now turn to the formal action by the General Council

I propose that:

— the General Council adopts the draft Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes in document WT/GC/W/688;

— the General Council adopts the draft Decision in Document WT/PCTF/W/28 and the Protocol of Amendment to insert the Trade Facilitation Agreement into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement contained therein, and opens the Protocol for acceptance; in so doing, the Category A notifications shall be deemed to be annexed to the Trade Facilitation Agreement;

— the General Council adopts the draft Decision on Post-Bali work, in document WT/GC/W/690.

The General Council so agrees.

 

Statement by DG Azevêdo at Press Conference

Welcome everyone. I just want to explain what happened here today — and what it means for the WTO.

I'm sure you are all aware that since July there has been an impasse in the implementation of the Bali issues which has had a paralyzing effect on negotiations in all areas.

The impasse related to the political link between two of the Bali decisions — the decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes, and the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Today we have resolved this impasse.

WTO members came together at the General Council this afternoon and took three decisions. I will just say a word or two about each one.

The first decision clarified the Bali Decision on Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes.

It makes clear that peace clause which was agreed in Bali will remain in force until a permanent solution is found.

It also states that Members shall make all efforts to negotiate a permanent solution by 31 December 2015. This is an advance on the original target date, which was the 11th Ministerial Conference in 2017.

If no solution is reached by this new target date in December 2015, the peace clause will simply remain in place and in effect until negotiations do conclude and a permanent solution is adopted.

The second decision adopts the protocol of amendment which formally inserts the Trade Facilitation Agreement into the WTO rulebook.

This clears the path for the Trade Facilitation Agreement to be implemented and come into force — with all the well-documented economic benefits that this will bring for developed and developing countries alike.
 
Members will now go ahead and ratify the Agreement, following their domestic procedures.

This decision also means that the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility is now operational.

This Facility is designed to ensure that LDCs and developing countries get the help they need to implement the provisions of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and of course to reap its benefits.

We have already received a great deal of support and interest from donors on this initiative — and have built strong partnerships with a number of organisations in support of this work, including the World Bank.

The third decision taken today concerns the WTO's post-Bali work.

With this decision Members committed that this work will resume immediately and that they will engage constructively on the implementation of all the Bali Ministerial Decisions, including the work programme on the remaining DDA issues.

Members also agreed that the deadline for agreeing the work program will now be July 2015. And they reaffirmed the priorities for this forward work as outlined in the Bali Declaration.

So this is a very important moment for the WTO.

By agreeing these three decisions we have put ourselves back in the game. We have put our negotiations back on track.

And we have given ourselves the chance to prepare the post-Bali work program.

But also, crucially, during this process we have seen a renewed commitment to the multilateral system.

This would not have happened without the commitment and political will of all 160 WTO members.

Members have shown the willingness to compromise — and a real commitment to the multilateral trading system.

It has been a tough period for our negotiating work, but we have got the right result today.

We showed in Bali that we can deliver. Now we need to figure out how to deliver more and faster.

So we should be pleased that our work is back on track. But, in fact, this is where the real work begins.  

The texts that members adopted today say that work will start immediately. And that's what we'll do.

We have delivered today on a promise we made in Bali. Now we have to make it count.

Thank you. I am happy to take any questions.

 

 Decisions

 

The Decisions were subsequently issued as WT/L/939, WT/L/940 and WT/L/941