> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches
Good afternoon everyone, and welcome back. I trust that you have all had an enjoyable break.
My intention is that this meeting should mark the beginning of an intense period of activity over the coming days — so I hope you are all well-rested.
In that spirit, I don’t intend to speak for very long this afternoon. I just want to give you a sense of where we stand today, and what we may need to do in order to move forward.
As our work here will relate to both TNC and non-TNC issues I will be working closely with the General Council Chair.
Therefore after my remarks I will ask Ambassador Fried to say a few words.
As you will recall, when we met on 31 July I asked you to use the summer to reflect — to take the time to think deeply about how we can move forward in all areas of our work. Specifically:
- how we can continue to advance the implementation of the Bali decisions, and
- how we can advance our efforts on the post-Bali work programme.
These are the issues which we need to tackle. And clearly a vital aspect of our conversations on taking the Bali package forward will be how we can implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
As you know, midnight on the 31st of July came and went with no breakthrough.
We missed the deadline for the adoption of the protocol of amendment on the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was the first deadline that ministers set us in Bali.
In that sense it was a very significant moment.
I said at that meeting in July that I believed that this would be likely to have an impact on all areas of our work. I said that I thought there would be consequences — but that exactly what those consequences would be is not for me to decide.
You are the ones who will determine this — and that is something we may be able to establish over the next couple of weeks.
I know that many of you have been thinking long and hard about these issues over the summer. I have certainly been doing so — and some of you have approached me with suggestions and ideas for how we could begin to move things forward.
This is encouraging.
In my view, what we need to do now is share our thoughts with each other.
Our aim should be to find solutions not just regarding the implementation of the Bali outcomes but also regarding how we can move forward on the remaining DDA issues.
We need to make progress in both of these areas as quickly as possible. We are already behind schedule — and there’s no hiding from the fact that there are other deadlines on the horizon.
We all know that there are some difficult issues before us — which we must work together to overcome.
On the issue of the Bali decisions, there seems to be a clear interplay between concerns relating to the negotiations on public stockholding for food security purposes and the adoption of the protocol of amendment on the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
However we know that strict parallelism is not possible.
One negotiation was concluded in the Bali package. The other negotiation was launched by the Bali package.
That is the plain fact of the matter — indeed all of the Bali decisions have their own very specific timetables which advance at different paces.
Nonetheless we must find a way of providing comfort for those with outstanding concerns on food security.
And, at the same time, we must find a way of achieving the full implementation of all the other Bali decisions, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement.
From my conversations over the summer, it seems that the solution is still far from evident.
But I do detect real concern with the situation, and a genuine desire to find that solution.
I visited seven countries during the break: Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Egypt, Rwanda, Nigeria and the Netherlands.
I have also been meeting with some of you who stayed in Geneva over the summer.
In each case I heard strong support for the multilateral trading system and for our work — and a desire to move forward with our negotiating efforts.
I think this view is very widely shared.
So, this is where we stand today.
In my view, the next step should be for Members to share their views and their assessments about the way ahead with each other.
And, as I have said, in order to do this I think we must begin a period of intensive and comprehensive consultations, starting now — with the intention of making rapid progress.
I will be continuing my own consultations, and this morning I reaffirmed with the Chairs the need for them to restart their processes of consulting with members on these issues with immediate effect.
I am pleased that a number of chairs have already put meetings in place.
This reflects the need for us to move quickly — to see if we are able to restore momentum to our work.
There will then be a meeting of the TNC on 6 October to report on the outcome of the consultations and, I hope, to report collectively that we have found a way to move forward
I said in July that the setback we experienced then would mean we were entering a period of uncertainty about all areas of our work.
Now I think it is time to reduce that uncertainty by bringing some clarity to the assessment of the situation and testing whether there is a way forward.
I could not possibly over-emphasise the importance of our coming work.
Members speak very frankly to me, in a way that I don't always hear in other forums. In my own personal assessment, based on what members have said to me, I think that we are in a very precarious position. And at present I am not sure that the scale of the risk is fully appreciated by all.
So I urge you to listen to and engage with each other — and to do so with a sense of real commitment and real urgency. In my assessment, this can't simply be business as usual.
Please engage in all these processes actively.
I am not expecting an exchange of views here and now, as I think it will be more effective to do this more interactive exercise through those conversations.
Of course, the floor is open, should you wish to make a statement — but please be brief. We have work to do.
Thank you for listening.
I will now hand over to Ambassador Fried.