Secretary General,

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you may be.

I am very pleased to join you today on behalf of WTO Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The Director-General regrets that she cannot be with you today due to an urgent commitment. It is my pleasure to be here in her place.

First of all, she asked me to convey to you her gratitude for the unwavering support she received during her campaign, and the help that you continue to provide to her and the WTO today.

Accounting for nearly half of the WTO Membership, you represent an important constituency in the WTO. Your active participation in all areas of WTO work, under the able leadership of Ambassador Cheryl Spencer, is commendable. With your support, we have started to make progress in advancing issues critical to the ACP group and to the Membership more broadly.

We are just one month away from MC12. And we have been striving for outcomes in a few areas. While we have made good progress in some of them, a lot of work remains to be done. So, let me update you on the state of negotiations in a few critical areas.

Given the exceptional time that we all are facing, a central theme in our work is the WTO's response to the pandemic. COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, especially in the regions that members of the OACPS are drawn from. We therefore can’t afford to conclude MC12 without a meaningful contribution to end this pandemic.

As you know, the Director-General and I, as well as Deputy Director-General Gonzalez, have devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to this issue. And I echo the Director-General's sentiment that a sustainable economic and trade recovery can be achieved only through equitable access to vaccines. The WTO has been working with a wide range of stakeholders and relevant organizations to overcome obstacles to ramping up and diversifying vaccine production, to address supply chain bottlenecks, and to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

WTO Members have been working hard to ensure an effective multilateral response to the pandemic. Ambassador David Walker of New Zealand has provided able leadership in facilitating a draft Ministerial declaration covering areas where the WTO could make a real difference. These areas include transparency and monitoring, export restrictions, trade facilitation, the role of trade in services, and cooperation with other international organizations. There is also a proposal to establish a Work Plan on Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience aimed at enhancing future preparedness. These matters will all be on the table for the consideration of Ministers at MC12. Excellencies, the Director-General and I count on your support in ensuring that we have this Declaration and Work Plan adopted at MC12. 

And I would like to acknowledge the leadership provided by the ACP Group in the WTO, particularly Ambassadors Mlumbi-Peter of South Africa and Spencer of Jamaica, in helping to take forward the work of Ambassador Walker.

Another important aspect related to the pandemic response is linked to trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. I know that many members of your Group attach special importance to the TRIPS Waiver. While many WTO Members have shown a willingness to explore options to reach a balanced outcome, Delegations must intensify their efforts if we are to achieve a meaningful outcome. We are committed to work with you, and all Members, to reach the finish line on this important issue.

Moving now to fisheries subsidies. These negotiations have been going on for far too long and an agreement on fisheries subsidies is long overdue. I appreciate that your group is actively working with key players towards finding possible landing zones.

In the coming days, Members will intensify their discussions even further among themselves, as well as with the able leadership of the Chair of the Negotiating Group on Rules, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, to reconcile different views. What we need at this eleventh hour is the political will and guidance to cross the finish line.

We need to deliver on fisheries subsidies. This is a sector of critical importance to the livelihoods of OACPS members. And we count on all delegations to remain flexible and realistic, so that we contribute towards achieving an important sustainable development target.

Let me move on to development. The Director-General always stresses that the WTO is about people, and that the Organization should seek to improve living standards around the globe. Development remains a fundamental pillar of the multilateral trading system because  it is only through beneficial integration into the multilateral trading system that small economies can achieve their development aspirations.

Despite tireless efforts by Ambassador Kadra Hassan of Djibouti as Chair of the Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session, Members have not been able to make desired progress. This is mainly because Members are still talking at each other, instead of talking to each other. The Director-General has called on Members to explore all possible avenues, including seeking progress through incremental approaches. It is our hope that we can take steps to provide the necessary support to the weakest and most vulnerable.

With respect to agriculture negotiations, I can report that there is a high level of engagement on this matter. This was confirmed by the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture in Special Session, Ambassador Gloria Peralta of Costa Rica. However, while there is a clear willingness from the entire Membership to achieve something, the priority and ambition levels vary.

Some progress has been made in the past few weeks, but gaps remain on several important pillars of the negotiations such as Domestic Support, including on cotton, a permanent solution on Public Stock Holding (PSH) for food security purposes, and a Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM). Prospects remain for a work programme for post-MC12, and we count on you, Excellencies, to provide the necessary political guidance to bridge the remaining gaps. For the WTO to support the livelihoods of peoples in developing countries balance and compromise is needed on all sides.

We also need to have a frank and open discussion about the WTO we all want — a WTO that is ready to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. In this regard, we would welcome your concrete textual proposals on WTO reform.

A meaningful reform agenda must strengthen the organization's three core functions: monitoring, negotiations, and dispute settlement functions. And development should remain a central theme of any reform discussion. We therefore must advance our work towards WTO reform in a way that is inclusive and action-oriented, to build a more durable multilateral trading system.

Moving on to other important issues, especially those concerning least developed countries (LDCs), Members are reviewing the LDCs proposal on Graduation. The Director-General has urged WTO Members to take a constructive approach in finding a solution to help the graduating LDCs. This is not reinventing the wheel, but simply drawing from good practices.

Before I conclude, let me mention that the General Council Chair, Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras, has been working closely with all Group Coordinators on the MC12 outcome document, which will be placed before you for adoption at MC12.

The context of the pandemic, the challenges to the multilateral trading system, the role of international trade in global economic recovery, and strengthened international collaboration are among the issues highlighted in that outcome document. It will also include Decisions that depend on the progress we make in the next four weeks. One positive development has been the agreement on a decision on small economies last week.  We very much hope to have results in other areas by the 23rd of November, which will allow you — Ministers — one week's time to consider these outcomes at MC12.

Before I conclude, I would like to once again highlight the Director-General's appreciation for all the support she has been receiving from you. She intends to continue to rely on your guidance throughout her tenure as Director-General. Any success the Organization achieves during this time will be your success too.

A successful MC12 will send a strong message to the world that WTO is back on track, fit for the challenges of the 21st century, and ready to deliver tangible results for growth and development.  We hope we can count on your support to ensure this happens.

Thank you all for your kind attention and for giving me the opportunity to take part in this important meeting.

We look forward to receiving you in Geneva next month, and the Director-General would be pleased to have in-person exchanges with you during the Ministerial Conference. 

I wish you a productive session, and I look forwarding to reading your outcome document.




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