SPEECHES — DG NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
Thank you very much Santiago and good morning excellencies. It's a great opportunity to take part in the presentation of the new text, which is an important milestone on our way to the ministerial meeting. And as Santiago said, it's been a tough few days with all the meetings and trying to find something more towards convergence.
For now, I just wanted to give you a bit of background on the drafting suggestions that have been introduced in Article 7 on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building. Then at the end of the meeting I will share my thoughts about where we're going and what we need to do for the next few weeks so that we can make the most of the 15 July meeting.
On Article 7 you will see that the changes are aimed at making more explicit the mechanism through which we can assure that the necessary technical assistance and capacity building for implementation of the new disciplines will be provided to developing and least developed country members. In particular, we now have specific language on the establishment of a WTO funding mechanism, in cooperation with other relevant international organizations such as the FAO and IFAD. As many of you are probably aware, for some time now I have been reaching out to members about a funding mechanism to be run from the WTO. The purpose of the fund will be to coordinate and finance the provision of the TA that is needed to help developing and LDC members adapt their domestic fisheries systems, so that these members can both comply with the new rules and also take full advantage of the available flexibilities in the disciplines. I've seen first-hand from even along the West African coast the lack of capacity to be able to take advantage of these flexibilities. The potential donors with whom I have spoken have expressed considerable interest, and I also have had very good discussions with the FAO and IFAD, which are active in the area of fisheries. Both of these organizations have given very positive indications of interest and willingness to work with and support WTO in this important endeavour. I think both our staff are engaged in trying to work out exactly what this might mean. So again, the purpose of the suggested drafting changes is to put the TA provision into a more concrete form, based on what we are doing to set up this funding mechanism.
The main reason for doing this is that I've listened to many least developed countries, many developing country members who have explained the difficulties they've had with past TA and capacity building pledges, which in the end have turned out to be very difficult in practice and that has brought great scepticism every time we say we are doing TA and capacity building. So designing something different might actually work and help us achieve our objective.
Thanks Santiago. I am sharing a few remarks from my side on where we are today, and where we still have to go. And before that, let me say that I continue to have a strong sense of optimism that we will conclude these negotiations, notwithstanding the differences that we see still need to be bridged. There is plenty of work to do, I admit that, but let me also say that this Negotiating Group has accomplished a lot. We are far, but we are close. And that is not a contradiction. I feel members' shared sense of commitment and responsibility to this institution, not least through your sheer tenacity in continuing to engage in the really demanding programme of meetings that Santiago and all of us have been holding.
Regarding this revised text, and the nature of the changes, I can only echo what the Chair has said. The text reflects his best judgement — after listening to each and every one of you, and with your often extremely different opinions — on changes that can help to build convergence. We have met, virtually, every single day, at the end of the day, after the discussions, to go over where we are, and see what progress can be made. The history of these negotiations has shown time and time again that progress tends to come incrementally, and not through big bangs. So while the changes may look modest perhaps, I share Santiago's view that they are a very useful attempt at pointing in the direction of more convergence, and that this text can be a good basis for the more detailed and really focused work that we will need to do to conclude the negotiations. In this sense, the text should help ministers to engage on 15 July in a way that will provide us the kind of push and political guidance that we need at this stage to be able to move towards conclusion.
With respect to what will happen between now and then, both Santiago and I will be reaching out and continuing the meetings and his door is open, ditto with myself trying to meet with different members in different configurations to listen carefully and prepare the ground as much as possible for 15 July and also to prepare the questions that we need to send to ministers. As you know, the discussion questions accompanied by contextual elements will be circulated at the end of the week so it's not much time. The aim of our activities will be to use these documents and the new text to try to clarify positions and identify as much common ground among members as possible. I hope this would assist ministers to engage substantively and constructively on 15 July. Having their guidance and having them involved politically at this stage is extremely useful and I hope it will help to propel us so that we can use our time efficiently after the ministers' meeting to move forward and finalize the text.
Remember the ambition and guidance for ministers of the APEC Group who themselves set the date of the end of July for us to conclude. I dare say there are many ministers, who in spite of the difficulties that have been spelled out to them, see the necessity and importance of really pushing forward on this. This is a charge that has been given to this organization, the WTO, by the leaders of the world who put up the Sustainable Development Goals, and the targets we're supposed to reach. I don't think we should forget this. We should bear this in mind. This is a duty, and a charge, given to us that we have to take seriously. So over the next two weeks, I ask you to be prepared to continue to join meetings in different configurations as much as you possibly can. Some of them might be with very short notice. You have been amazing in terms of your forbearance and fortitude. And all I can ask is that we continue this because I sense a change in mood and we should take advantage of that mood to push towards concluding these negotiations. So thank you in advance. Let's keep our chins up and continue to roll up our sleeves.