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2000: Agriculture negotiations launched(March). See backgrounder
2001: Doha Development Agenda launched. Agriculture included (November)
2004: “Framework” agreed (August)
2005: Further agreements in Hong Kong Ministerial Conference (December)
2006: Draft modalities (June)
2007: Revised draft modalities (July)
2007-2008: Intensive negotiations with working documents (September-January)
2008: Revised draft modalities (February, May and July)
2008: Revised draft modalities (February, May, July and December)
Mr Vitalis was appointed as New Zealand’s Ambassador to the WTO in July. Previously he served as his country’s Head of Mission to the European Union and NATO and Ambassador to Sweden.
Ambassador Vitalis is the ninth chairperson of the agriculture negotiations since talks began in March 2000 and the fifth since the talks were brought into the Doha Round in 2001.
Before the Doha Round (under Article 20 of the Agriculture Agreement)
- March 2000: Roger Farrell (New Zealand, ex officio as Goods Council chairperson)
- June 2000 to March 2001: Jorge Voto-Bernales (Peru)
- March 2001 to Doha Ministerial Conference: Apiradi Tantraporn (Thailand)
- From Doha (Nov 2001, chairing first meeting in March 2002) to Cancún (Sept 2003): Stuart Harbinson (Hong Kong, China)
- From Cancún (Sept 2003, chairing first meeting in March 2004) to summer (July) 2005: Tim Groser (New Zealand)
- From summer (Sept) 2005 to April 2009: Crawford Falconer (New Zealand)
- From April 2009 to June 2011: David Walker (New Zealand)
- From November 2011 to July 2015: John Adank (New Zealand)
Remarks by the Chair, Ambassador Vangelis Vitalis, to the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank delegates for their support in electing me as the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session and of its Sub-Committee on Cotton. I am also aware that my responsibilities include the process to find a permanent solution to the issue of Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes.
It is a great privilege and honour to have the support of the Membership for this position. I think the delegates to this Committee, in addition to being experts on agriculture, have necessarily also had to become experts in understanding a range of (very refined and cultivated) New Zealand regional accents. I hope that you will also learn to understand mine.
I also want to record my thanks to my predecessor, Ambassador John Adank, for his magisterial and untiring efforts over the last four years to seek convergence on the outstanding issues in this key area.
I recognize that the role of Chair has always been a challenging one, not only because of the complex technical and policy issues involved in the negotiations but also because of agriculture’s central place in the Doha Development Round as a whole. I therefore undertake the role of Chair with due humility.
Allow me briefly to make two specific points. The first on process and the second on substance.
First, on process, I am firmly committed to the consensus principle. I know that a Chair’s role — and therefore my role - is to work honestly, fairly, objectively and transparently with all delegations to facilitate your collective movement towards agreement. You have my personal commitment on this. I hope it also goes without saying that I will always listen carefully to you, work hard with you and that I will respect all points of view.
In this regard, I know that there is no time to waste with the Nairobi Ministerial coming up fast. For my part, I have been briefing myself on the issues that come under my responsibility, but there is no substitute for direct contact with you. I will therefore be consulting widely in the days ahead. Specifically, I look forward to learning first-hand about how you think we can make progress in these difficult subjects. Let me emphasise as well that my door is always open to any delegation which wishes to meet with me — just let me know.
Once I have had those initial contacts, I will convene an informal meeting of the Special Session to ensure a fully inclusive process. Together we will take it from there.
Second, on the substance, let me just say up front. I have neither a magic wand nor a magic draft, nor any other kind of magical powers. Sadly, the magical powers so dramatically presented in Lord of the Rings — despite being filmed in New Zealand — seem to have passed me by.
My sense from talking with my predecessor [John Adank] over the past few weeks is that we are still some way from that ‘thalassa thalassa’ moment so vividly described by Xenophon. I do, however, expect us — working together — to reach that happy moment in time for Nairobi.
Finally, and in order to use our very limited time efficiently, may I suggest that delegations please not take the floor today. In particular, please, no speeches of welcome to me — the welcome I would most appreciate would be your cooperation in a problem-solving spirit.