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The Director-General, who chaired UNCTAD X in Bangkok four years ago,
welcomed the fact that many ministers from WTO Member Governments would
meet in Sao Paolo seeking to narrow differences in their negotiating
positions. But he warned that governments have very little time to agree
on a framework package for agriculture, non-agricultural market access,
development issues and other matters. Anything which might distract
negotiators from that goal, he said, could have severely adverse
consequences, particularly for developing countries.
Director-General Supachai called attention to a letter sent this week by
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to leaders of the Group of Eight
industrial nations. In the letter, Mr. Annan wrote that enhanced trade
may be “even more important” for developing countries in alleviating
poverty than increased official development assistance. The
Director-General pointed out that Mr. Annan's support for trade as a
tool in combating poverty stood in stark contrast to controversial
recent reports questioning the value of trade in development.
The Director-General also expressed his appreciation to Mr. Annan for
his call to the G-8 to “put the Doha round back on track.” All WTO
members, rich and poor, need to stay focused and committed to the
negotiations in the few weeks remaining before the end of July,
Director-General Supachai said.
“This is a crucial juncture for these negotiations. Governments must
dedicate all attention and resources to securing a package of results in
July. Such a package is indispensable if we are to have a successful
outcome to these negotiations. Failure to reach agreement in July on a
framework for agriculture and industrial products and an accord which
better defines how we address the issues of cotton subsidies and trade
facilitation, would mean a highly uncertain future for these
negotiations. We would then have very little to show for three years of
intensive effort,” the Director-General said.
He said the evolving global political landscape means there are no
guarantees that newly appointed ministers would be as committed to the
objectives set by their predecessors three years ago in Doha. For
developing countries, the failure to secure a framework agreement may
also mean the unravelling of commitments made by industrial countries to
eliminate agriculture export subsidies and other subsidized forms of
“The elimination of these subsidized farm programmes and the promised
sharp reduction in domestic agriculture support would hold tremendous
benefit for developing countries. But if such reduction commitments are
to be implemented, all countries must be flexible in their positions and
must show willingness to compromise in agriculture and in all other
areas of these negotiations. This will require courage and commitment by
all participants. At this late stage, it is of paramount importance that
we avoid creating any unnecessary divisions among governments or place
additional obstacles in the path of negotiators. This meeting of
ministers in Sao Paolo represents a real opportunity to make progress.
We must seize it. Clearly, the success of UNCTAD XI will be judged by,
among other things, whether it helps to create the conditions for
success at the WTO in July,” said Director-General Supachai.
The Director-General said he planned to meet with ministers in Sao Paolo
to encourage compromise and facilitate agreement on the July framework
package. But he added he would not hesitate to remind Ministers of the
heavy costs to all nations should governments miss their July target.
Since the Cancun Ministerial Conference in September, Director-General
Supachai has flown more than 150,000 miles (241,500 kilometres) to meet
with Ministers and build support for an agreement. He has paid
particular attention to developing countries making eight trips to
Africa, six trips to Latin America and the Caribbean and five trips to
developing countries in Asia.