4 June 2004

Supachai commends negotiators, urges more progress

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi today commended negotiators for their success in narrowing differences in critical agriculture negotiations this week, but urged them to make every effort to build on this progress and cautioned that time is rapidly running out to achieve a framework agreement in farm trade by the end of July.

The Director-General praised governments for working hard to find common ground on the key issues of further opening markets and reducing trade distorting subsidies while developing mechanisms to address the political sensitivities that confront WTO member governments. In the past week, three new negotiating papers (from the Group of 20, the Group of 10 and the Group of 33) have been put forward by delegations seeking to bridge differences at the negotiating table. Moreover, European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy and Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler recently sent a letter to all WTO trade ministers promising to phase out farm export subsidies provided other forms of subsidized export competition were also eliminated and that there is an acceptable outcome on market access and domestic support. Director-General Supachai said these contributions, together with the productive work of ministers in a number of recent forums had improved the prospects for achieving a package of negotiating results in agriculture and other areas by the end of July.

Director-General Supachai stressed it was essential to achieve the collective goal of reaching a framework by the end of July if the broad-based Doha Development Agenda round of trade talks was to succeed. The framework, he said, does not represent an end to the negotiations but would set the stage for fleshing out the details of a final agreement. Failure to agree on the framework would open the possibility that the significant gains achieved in recent months could be lost.

“It is vital that WTO member governments consolidate these gains and establish a foundation on which we can advance the Doha negotiations. The long-held objectives of eliminating all forms of agriculture export subsidies and substantially reducing all forms of trade distorting farm support are not far from our grasp. The possibility of gaining greater market access for farm exporters is obtainable. And the willingness of governments to recognize significant sensitivities of their trading partners has greatly improved the prospects for success. But we are not there yet. Much work remains to be done between now and the end of July and because of the central role of agriculture in the Doha negotiations, success here will undoubtedly bring success in other key areas of our work. I urge all governments to make every effort to seek compromise in the few remaining weeks ahead,” the Director-General said.