Remarks by Director-General Roberto Azevêdo



In my report to the General Council on Tuesday I gave my view that delivering a work programme by today's deadline was highly unlikely given the gaps which still needed to be bridged.

I called on members to keep working to see what could be achieved. We have done that. We have worked hard since then, as indeed we have since January.

I have met with a large number of members to discuss a range of issues. The chairs have continued meeting. And members have continued consulting among themselves.

However, despite all of this activity, I must report that we have not seen the progress we need to deliver a work programme, as mandated, by today's deadline. 

This conclusion should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of last month, I have cautioned that if the tough political calls were not made, our efforts would not be successful. These political calls have not been made, and we have not seen sufficient flexibility in members' positions.

This work has to be member-driven, and so the Negotiating Groups must be the engine room of this process. That is where the work programme should have emerged — not from the Chairs or from me. 

We all heard the reports of the Chairs and, as of today, we do not have a proposed work programme on the table. And unless we witness a veritable miracle in the next few hours, this will remain the case.

So members must now face the reality of the situation.

We will not be able to deliver on the instructions given to us by Ministers to deliver a “clearly defined” work programme on the remaining DDA issues by July 2015.

So the question that we must now face is: What's next? How do we move forward?

At midnight tonight the mandate to deliver the work programme will lapse.

I have been clear in my view, which I think is widely shared, that while this is a very disappointing result, it should not become an obstacle to achieving outcomes in Nairobi in December.

This missed deadline does not represent a barrier to delivering in Nairobi — but it should be a wake-up call about our prospects for success.

In recent months we have had excellent engagement on the DDA issues — engagement at a level that we haven't seen for many years. Yet still we have not made sufficient progress to deliver a work programme.

Substantive progress towards convergence has remained very limited. There are still huge differences in expectations. The red lines don't overlap.

We will need to see a step-change in members' flexibility and political engagement if we are to make progress.

When members return in September we will have approximately two and a half months before the Ministerial Conference.

We will need to move on from questions of process and instead put an intense, relentless focus on substance.

I can see potential outcomes in a number of areas, particularly on the LDC issues, but it will depend on how fast we can move in the second half of the year.

I think the most important thing we can do today is send a united message that we are all committed to delivering real outcomes in Nairobi — and that this is our number one priority. From my consultations and from everything I have heard from members, I think there is unanimity on this point.

Indeed, I have been heartened to hear from members that they are ready to seriously reflect during the summer break and to return in September more committed to focus on the substantive issues. 

Just like we did in the lead up to Bali, we will have to roll up our sleeves and be ready to work intensely.

And, while we are not where we wanted to be, we have laid some very strong, solid foundations for our future work.

It is clear from my consultations and from the Chairs' reports that members are committed. Serious efforts have been made to try to move things forward. There has been more willingness to explore different approaches and to consider proposals or ideas.

I have been pleased to see a number of papers put forward in recent days, including from the ACP and the G-90. I was particularly pleased to see the G-90's submission providing detailed textual suggestions on S&D.

This is invaluable. It gives us a basis for further discussions and could be a major contribution to the outcomes in Nairobi. We will need to see more such initiatives after the summer. Putting clear proposals on the table will be essential in spurring meaningful discussions on substance, narrowing down the gaps and starting to shape the outline of the final outcomes.

And as we look to the task ahead, I think we should be confident. We know that we can deliver. We did it in Bali, and we showed it again in the last few days.

We concluded two decades of negotiations on Monday when members approved the accession of Kazakhstan.

And last week, with the breakthrough on expansion of the ITA, we set the stage for the WTO's first tariff-cutting agreement in 18 years.

It shows that we are negotiating. And it shows that members are prepared to use innovative approaches to achieve results.

We should take inspiration from this. As I said at the General Council, it was not easily achieved. Until just a few weeks ago it looked impossible.

The breakthrough required political will and compromise. These are the ingredients which we need to bring to other areas of our work — both from the participants in the ITA, and others.

So, while we have missed a deadline today, this is not the end of our discussions on what we can achieve in Nairobi, or on the DDA issues more broadly. Rather, this is where the really tough work starts.

I urge you once again to come back in September with ideas on substance. If you come back with the same positions we will not see any further progress.

Take the time to talk to your capitals, test your red lines, reflect on the red lines of others, and come back with a broader sense of what might be doable from your perspective. Better still, come back with proposals.

In addition, we must be prepared to tackle all of the issues on the table. We simply won’t have the time to sequence our work. We will need to engage on all fronts immediately — and particularly the LDC issues.

We still have a real chance of delivering meaningful outcomes in Nairobi. So please do everything you can to be ready to seize that opportunity in September.

Thank you for listening.

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