Since our discussions in St. Petersburg last year, the Doha Round of negotiations at the WTO were suspended in order to avoid a fatal admission of failure, and then resumed at the request of most of you, first and foremost the developing countries.
Contacts, discussions and negotiations have picked up considerably over the last two months, and while my diagnosis remains cautious, I think that an agreement is now within our reach.
I do not mean a final agreement on all of the twenty topics included in the list agreed upon when the negotiations were launched in 2001 and which remain inextricably linked to each other, but an interim agreement which would pave the way towards a final agreement in 6 to 9 months' time.
The components of this interim agreement were identified long ago: the amount of the reductions in trade-distorting agricultural subsidies; the amount of the reductions in agricultural tariffs and in industrial tariffs. These three elements are the centrepiece of the negotiations. And it is the relative weight of these elements that will reflect the high level of ambition that we are seeking. They also happen to be the most politically sensitive subjects in your countries.
The reason why I think an agreement is within our reach is that your positions have moved closer to each other. There remain a number of significant differences, it is true: but with an added political effort from each and every one of you, we should be able to cover the remaining ground.
On subsidies: we need an additional effort from the Americans. The Europeans and Japanese should be able to follow without any major trouble;
On the opening up of agricultural markets: the Europeans and Japan will have to improve their offer, and the emerging countries will have to accept that the protection to which they are entitled does not mean that no further opening will take place;
On industrial products: the emerging countries, as well, will have to improve the offers they have tabled.
We are speaking of additional concessions amounting roughly to a few billion dollars or euros, be it in the area of subsidy reductions or increased imports or exports.
I understand that each and all of you is ready to reach a compromise. All that remains to be done is to establish the exact proportions involved to ensure that the result is balanced, and we all know that this is a matter of political judgement.
With your permission, what I am asking you to do is to avoid weighing out the final concessions on an apothecary's weight-balance, and to focus on the overall world economic landscape and on the enormous risks involved in failure. Not only for the WTO, which you all need, but also for one of the few systems of international cooperation to have emerged as strong as ever from the turbulence of the 1990s.
The exceptionally favourable economic cycle we are currently experiencing is not immune to threats, including the threat of protectionism.
Nothing could be worse than a failure for the developing countries - whose stakes in world growth are now high – and hence for the rest of you as well.
Your negotiators have gradually constructed over the past five years an edifice which you must complete before the wind changes. Its dimensions warrant its completion. And what better way to fulfil the numerous commitments that the G8 has made in favour of the developing countries over the past few years? It will require a number of concessions which your negotiators will have to be given the authority to accept during the coming weeks. Do not let this opportunity slip through your fingers.
Thank you for your attention.
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