Thank you Chair. Good morning everyone. 

Let me start by adding words of welcome on behalf of the DDGs and the Secretariat to  Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.  We, in the Secretariat are very pleased that you have assumed office today as WTO Director-General.  We foresee a very positive future for the WTO under your forthright and firm leadership in the years ahead.

Turning to my report under this agenda item, in accordance with the interim arrangements put in place by the General Counsel, I chaired the first informal TNC and informal HoDs meeting of 2021, last Thursday — 25th February. 

The meeting was an opportunity for Members to take stock of what had been accomplished over the past six months, and to update each other on their recent activities.

Four chairs of negotiating bodies reported in detail on their work since the start of the year. Coordinators of Joint Statement Initiatives also spoke to inform Members of their activities.  On behalf of the DDGs, I provided an overview of  Secretariat activities, described outreach activities by the DDGs since the previous meeting, and noted the impressively large number of Member meetings helt in accordance with appropriate health precautions, and most recently not in-person.  My statement and the Chairs' reports were circulated to TNC participants in document JOB/TNC/90.

Fifty-six (56) delegations took the floor to express views on a range of issues. Enthusiasm and optimism about the “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Era” was evident from all statements. Delegations said that they looked forward to working with you, Dr Ngozi, to deliver much-needed reforms to the WTO — starting with an Agreement on fisheries subsidies as soon as possible.  Solid accomplishments in 2021 leading up to the scheduled Ministerial Conference was repeatedly mentioned.

I urged Members to translate this enthusiasm, optimism, and hope into concrete action at the WTO to enhance global trade’s contribution to a more effective pandemic response as well as a strong and sustainable economic recovery.

This new year holds great promise for the WTO and the multilateral system. Turning this promise into reality lies in the hands of the Members.  We look to the Director-General to facilitate the reaching of agreements.  While the work of the four DDGs under the interim arrangements ended mid-night yesterday — we remain at your disposal, Dr Ngozi to assist you as you settle-in and to support the Members in their work.

In conclusion, today, on the first day of this new leadership, I wish to thank the Members for their support during the last six months of the interim arrangement.  I wish to recognize in particular the chairs of the Committees, and other activities of the WTO.  Of course, this starts with the General Council chair, David Walker, but also his two facilitators, Dacio Castillo and Harald Aspelund.  They could have stopped short of fulfilling their mandate when faced with opposition.  They did not.  Where would be today without their sense of duty?

The chairs of the Committees and Working parties, and the coordinators of the JSIs as well, deserve our thanks and respect.  They recognize that impartiality is expected with respect to taking sides when there are Member differences, but  never, never, never can there be impartiality with respect whether to reach a positive result in their work.  As the new Director General has said today, whether the WTO fulfils its mission is in the hand of the Members and the Secretariat.  It is a challenge that can certainly be met successfully, with common will and  investment of the necessary effort.

This concludes my statement. Thank you, Chair.



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