14 July 2003

Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of Government of the African Union Commission

The Doha development agenda and the road to Cancún

Your Excellencies,

I am deeply honoured to have been invited to join you here in Maputo today. Africa was the first continent that I visited as Director-General of the WTO. Just one day after taking office I went to Johannesburg for the World Summit on Sustainable Development and then travelled to Nairobi. This was an important trip for me both substantially and symbolically — because Africa is one of the WTO's most important constituents. Not only because Africa has more WTO Members than any other continent. But also because Africa is in greatest need to reap the economic benefits that trade liberalisation can bring to fight poverty. Africa needs the security and predictability of a framework of global trade rules that only the WTO can provide. Today the combined share of African nations in world trade stands at only three percent. Of the forty-nine Least Developed Countries on this planet, thirty-four have their home in Africa. This is a source of concern not only to the WTO, but also to me personally.

I am pleased to be back here – because I strongly believe that the current round of trade negotiations underway in the WTO — the “so-called Doha Development Agenda” will be a vitally important tool in your efforts to unlock Africa's huge economic potential and help you to raise the living standards of your citizens. And in so doing, it will be a powerful complement to Africa's commitment to growth and development through the NEPAD initiative and other initiatives.

If the Doha Development Agenda is to stand up to its development aspirations, it must support the development aspirations of the African continent. And if the Doha Development Agenda is to succeed, it needs support at the highest political level from all leaders around the world. The negotiations are now entering a crucial period, and your leadership will be pivotal.

In exactly two months time [from 10 to 14 September 2003] Trade Ministers from the WTO's 146 Member Governments will be gathering in Cancún, Mexico to take stock of two years of negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda. They will need to take some important decisions and they will also need to set a road-map for the final phase. The deadline set for the conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda is 1 January 2005. Time is short. I urge you to give your Trade Ministers the support, guidance and flexibility that they will need as they prepare for this meeting. I would also urge you to keep focus on how to achieve an outcome which would positively contribute to your development.

The Road to Cancún

If I may, I should like to give you my perspective on what I believe needs to be achieved over the next two months and at the Ministerial meeting itself.

I think that all Members are aware of the importance of making concrete progress on some of the key “development issues” — special and differential treatment, implementation and TRIPS and Public Health. African countries were in the driving seat in putting these issues onto the Doha Work Programme and pressing for an early agreement in 2002. It was disappointing to all of us that these early deadlines were not reached – in part, perhaps, reflecting the complexity of these issues.

I know that TRIPS and Public Health is a hugely important issue for Africa. This is a moral issue, not just commercial. And because of your contributions and engagement, significant progress has been made in advancing the issue of how to enable poor countries without a domestic manufacturing capacity to obtain essential medicines under compulsory licence. We still have some way to go, but I believe there is a realistic chance of reaching agreement before the Cancún meeting. So I hope that you will remain fully engaged in these discussions. The eyes of the world are on this issue.

On implementation and on special and differential treatment, we have seen some positive progress and, importantly a willingness to engage and show flexibility by all Members — developed and developing alike. These raise concerns of great importance and a lot of work remains to be done. There are a huge number of proposals on the table. If we are to make progress, further flexibility is needed and I would urge you to really focus on the provisions that are of key priority to you. Again, given the political sensitivities of this issue, it is important that expeditious progress is made in these areas - both for the sake of these individual processes, but also for the wider Doha Work Programme. I know, however, that some of the implementation issues are particularly difficult and may take a longer time to resolve — and if so, I hope that this would not hold up progress in other areas.

we must see a substantial narrowing of gaps on the three areas of market access at Cancún — those of agriculture, services and non-agricultural goods. Again I think that this is feasible. All delegations are aware of the issues at stake and a lot of preparatory work has been undertaken in each of the areas — in the form of draft modalities papers in agriculture and non-agricultural goods, and also through the request and offer process in services. The Cancún meeting will give Ministers the opportunity to consider all areas of market access together – to look for trade-offs and a balanced package. These negotiations are absolutely central to the development component of the Round and African nations have a lot to gain from secure, multilateral liberalisation. Not only in terms of better access to developed country markets and opportunities to develop domestic processing industries through the reduction of tariff escalation in these countries, but also through access to other developing country markets where tariff barriers tend to be high. I would encourage you, when examining and assessing the draft modalities to not only examine and assess each element individually, but also all of them as a set in order to assess the global balance which they represent.

we must ensure that the preparatory process for the Ministerial Meeting is transparent and inclusive and that the conduct of the meeting itself is guided by these principles. This process is already underway. In Geneva, the Chairman of the General Council and I have been undertaking a series of small group consultations followed by informal meetings open to the full Membership to bring Members' positions closer together. We must focus on clarifying and narrowing the number of issues to be put before Ministers at Cancún so that they will not be overwhelmed by a huge and unwieldy agenda for the meeting.

WTO Support for African Countries and NEPAD

I urge you to maintain and, if possible, upgrade your level of engagement as we get closer to the Cancún Ministerial meeting. I hope that you will continue to keep up a united front on issues of mutual interest to you and other Members. Through the Africa Group of Ambassadors in Geneva – you have tabled proposals in every area of the negotiations. It is clear that by grouping together you exercise more negotiating clout.

And I should like to emphasise my personal support for you and that of the WTO Secretariat as you engage in these negotiations and more broadly in the context of your work under the New Partnership for Africa's Development. This is a common effort guided by leaders of Africa, but has the full support of the International Community. The WTO Secretariat stands ready to contribute in its area of competence.

I know that your delegations are stretched financially and in terms of man power — particularly as many of you are negotiating with the EU within the framework of Cotonou and also sub-regionally. With the financial support of Members we have upgraded our technical assistance efforts to African nations to help build local capacity to negotiate. Africa was the birthplace of one of our newest and most successful initiatives. That was to replicate in Africa the three-month intensive Trade Policy Courses that we have run for many years in Geneva and to involve African academics and practitioners with a view to build local capacity for analysis. These courses have taken place in Kenya for English-speaking African Country officials and in Morocco for francophone officials. There is no substitute for this kind of in-depth training.

We also appreciate that supply-side constraints are a key priority for many of you. And for this reason we are involved in specific programmes with other agencies responsible for supply-side capacity building — so that under your ownership we can provide a holistic and coherent approach to your development needs.


At no other time in history has the imperative of addressing issues of poverty reduction and sustainable development been such a top priority for the international community. We have seen this clearly illustrated in the Millennium Development Goals, and in the commitments taken at Monterrey and Johannesburg. We have also seen in initiatives like NEPAD a desire for developing countries to own and take responsibility for their development. And in both of these contexts growth through trade must play a central role — in generating the resources needed by the international community to reach its targets for poverty alleviation and by national governments to address their domestic needs as they see fit. The Doha Development Agenda offers African and other countries a unique opportunity to facilitate their integration into the multilateral trading system. There are big challenges ahead, but I am positive that with the continued dedication and commitment that African countries have shown, we shall reach a balanced package that will be to your great benefit.

I hope I can count on your support.

Thank you.