12 July 2004

Supachai Urges G-90 Ministers, All Ministers To Show Flexibility

Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi urged Trade Ministers from the G-90 group of developing countries to adopt realistic and constructive negotiating proposals when they meet today in Mauritius and warned that all 147 WTO Members stand to lose a great deal should WTO Member governments fail to agree on a framework agreement later this month in the Doha Development Agenda round of global trade talks.

With only three weeks to go before the end of July deadline, the Director-General asked G-90 ministers to consider the substantial benefits which will accrue to them should the round succeed but he warned them that it would be the developing countries which would pay the heaviest price in the event of a failure.

“Should we reach agreement this month, the Doha round will be back on track. An agreement would lock in a firm commitment by developed countries to eliminate all forms of agricultural export subsidies. It would pave the way for a final accord which would open markets for developing country exports of agricultural and non-agricultural products. It would also result in more equitable WTO rules for developing countries. But should we fail, we will have nothing to show for nearly three years of work in the Doha round and I believe it will be quite some time before we have another opportunity to advance these negotiations,” Dr. Supachai said.

Dr. Supachai, together with General Council Chairman Shotaro Oshima, is currently preparing a draft package for negotiators to consider. The text, which will be issued this week, will seek to bridge differences among the 147 WTO Members in non-agricultural market access, trade facilitation, services, development-related issues and in agriculture, including the question of cotton subsidies. The Director-General had intended to go to Mauritius for the G-90 meeting, but with only a few days to go before the draft package is to be released and with the highly sensitive agriculture section still to be drafted, Dr. Supachai was required to stay in Geneva to oversee completion of the document. He has sent his deputy, Kipkorir Aly Rana, to speak to the ministers on his behalf.

Dr. Supachai said that while he understood the frustration of many G-90 Ministers over the slow pace of the Doha negotiations, he pointed out that considerable progress had in fact been made since the round was launched in November 2001. He pointed out too that key industrial countries had shown considerable flexibility in important areas of the negotiations and said that all members must indicate willingness to compromise. In the case of the G-90, he said, it was critical that they too show flexibility in key outstanding areas.

“I hope the G-90 will address these issues in an understanding manner. All members have a responsibility to these negotiations and everyone must make a contribution if we are to have a successful outcome,” he said.

Since the Cancun Ministerial Conference in September, Director-General Supachai has flown more than 250,000 kilometres to meet with Ministers and build support for an agreement. He has paid particular attention to developing countries making six trips to Africa and four trips to Latin America and the Caribbean.