Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

DG Supachai urges acceleration of work on Doha Agenda, presents timeline

On 3-4 October 2002, the Trade Negotiations Committee heard reports from chairpersons of negotiating bodies and then turned to future work. Delegations had before them a revised timeline circulated by the TNC chairperson, WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi. 

He said the negotiations had begun a new phase — one of “substantive engagement”, with a number deadlines to be met, and a need to “build a sense of the negotiations as a whole”. 

Below is a summary of the timeline. First, this is what he said:

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Trade Negotiations Committee
3–4 October 2002

Chairman’s Statement
Agenda item 2 — Future Work

Opening comments  The reports we have had from the Chairpersons of the bodies established by the TNC and the comments by delegations on them confirm my impression of our current situation. That is, we have got off to a reasonably good start, but much more remains to be done in a very short period of time, and time is running quickly.

This meeting of the TNC must mark the start of a new phase of the negotiations — the phase of substantive engagement. Only by accelerating our work, where necessary producing and discussing concrete proposals, can we make real progress across the board. Our work needs to be directed not only towards meeting individual key deadlines, but also towards starting to build a sense of the negotiations as a whole. This is the prime function of the TNC, and it is a vital one if we are to arrive at a balanced package.

To succeed, this negotiation must be more than the sum of its parts. Our negotiating agenda contains many important individual areas, but the connections between them have to be positive — the package must be meaningful as a whole.

We all know that our overall timeframe is tight. If we work back from the deadline for concluding the negotiations, which is in some 27 months time, we see that Cancún represents a landmark deadline in our process. Our Conference in September of next year is set to act as a mid-term review. This means that by then we will need a clear picture of what is achievable across the negotiating agenda. Only on that basis will Ministers be able to provide the necessary additional political guidance in order to conclude the Work Programme successfully and on time.

I have recently circulated a revised Timeline to Cancún to all participants, and while I am sure you are all aware of what it contains, I would like to underline the importance of the deadlines in the period from March to May 2003. During this period we will face deadlines in the negotiations on Agriculture, Services, Non-agricultural Market Access and Dispute Settlement. Many of us believe that what happens then will define the rest of our process. We will face an uphill battle at Cancún if we do not grapple successfully with these intermediate deadlines.

Working back from next Spring, December obviously represents another set of important deadlines, many of which are Implementation issues and other issues of particular concern to developing countries. We need to find a way to generate continuing movement on all these issues, so that they become part of our forward process, not an obstacle to it. Preparing for the December meeting of the TNC will be among my top priorities in the coming weeks.

It is important we meet all of these deadlines. But a deadline is not an end in itself. Deadlines are important because they allow us to measure how we are advancing. And we all know we must advance the substance of the negotiations progressively across all areas of the negotiating agenda as a whole.

The TNC is where participants oversee the negotiations — and where they connect the elements — in the light of the Single Undertaking that Ministers have agreed on. This Committee is where all the work in the different negotiating bodies comes together, and this is the spirit in which I will be working. This is a collective undertaking, involving all its participants, and its outcome must be a balanced package which can offer gains to a wide spectrum of those participants. In my work as TNC Chairman, I will aim to build consensus proactively through an equitable, balanced, transparent and inclusive approach.

As part of the new phase of our negotiations I mentioned earlier, you should expect the TNC to be more active. In line with this, I will be an activist as TNC Chairman — working closely with the Chairpersons to support and help them where I think it may be useful in the interests of advancing progress in the negotiations. I will also be active in consulting with delegations, first of all as we prepare for the important issues that will be on the table in December. With my staff, I will work hard to encourage and urge participants to negotiate with a full sense of the urgency and importance of the issues before them. I will, of course, also work in close cooperation with the Chairman of the General Council as set out in the Principles and Practices agreed earlier this year.

I would now like briefly to touch on one administrative matter, namely the issue of scheduling of meetings. The Principles and Practices set out that the TNC will keep the calendar of meetings under surveillance. My discussions with the Chairpersons who reported to us earlier and also with other Members have left me in no doubt that we are facing some practical problems in this area. This question has many aspects — how to apply the relevant guidelines in a way which helps not hinders our work, other purely physical limitations, such as the number of meeting rooms and the availability of interpreters, and the limitations faced by small delegations.

It seems likely that this problem can only worsen as our negotiations intensify. The difficulty of fitting a practically infinite amount of work into a finite amount of time available to do it will require some careful consideration by us all. In order to address this problem, I have decided to ask one of my Deputies to work together with the Chairpersons and with the smaller delegations, in the first instance, to ensure that we will be in a position to meet our deadlines while also taking into account the constraints those delegations are facing. The coming months will be a busy period for us all, and I am sure that with careful management and appropriate mechanisms we can respect our mandate to conduct the negotiations in a transparent manner among participants, in order to facilitate the effective participation of all.

I firmly believe a successful outcome is essential for the future of our societies. A larger degree of openness and predictability in international relations can only come about if we have the same set of rules and if we set our sights on similar objectives. That is precisely what this Organization can offer.

The Doha Development Agenda was launched in a world economic situation which was widely regarded as being weak. It has not improved since then, and the outlook is uncertain in many ways. This is why it is even more important to deliver on this Round. The future prospects of many, many people depend on it.


Concluding remarks  I think that as we move along in this process, our meetings will get longer and longer. That this session is longer than the previous ones, I take as a positive sign that all of us believe in everything discussed today, and in the need for active engagement, not only from the Chair but from all of us. I think we can look forward in the short to medium term to more extensive meetings in the future, although when we come to the final phase of our work programme, I hope the meetings become shorter and shorter because we have reconciled all the controversies.

Let me thank each and every one of you for demonstrating your cooperative spirit, and for making so many constructive statements, containing suggestions which will be the raw material from which we will craft the final outcome of the DDA. I would also like to thank you all for the thoughtful support you have given to the active role I wish to play as the TNC Chair in consultations to prepare for the important questions we will face at the end of the year.

If we look at the statements made by our leaders at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, as our South African colleague referred to, I think we should be encouraged and more motivated to find our way out of the intricacies in our negotiations. Because our leaders showed courage at that Summit by reaffirming their commitment to our agenda, to the very letter of the DDA, and because they have made the explicit wish that we make trade a useful vehicle for sustainable development, we should take heart. We should make use of that momentum to carry on our work here in Geneva. We should also take heart that the multilateral trading system is being mentioned in all kinds of international discussions and debates — the Monterrey Conference and every segment of the discussion in Johannesburg involved discussions on trade. Sometimes trade is mentioned as a culprit for something, but most of the time it is mentioned rather as a means to find a way out of the evolving economic uncertainties that the world faces and will face to a larger extent as we move on to the year 2003. We can only counter these uncertainties by strengthening predictability, by achieving what we are supposed to achieve within the time that we have been mandated to do so.

The Chairpersons of the negotiating bodies have gone to great lengths in the execution of their duties, not always under comfortable circumstances. Nevertheless, they have kept our negotiating process moving forward. I am greatly appreciative of their efforts. Some of their remarks are worth repeating, and here are some quotations: “in critical areas more work needs to be done”, “need to broaden aspects of negotiations”, “need more submission of proposals”, “cooperation of Heads of Delegations needed”, “urge Members to submit their proposals as soon as possible”, “need progress on technical assistance”, “need slots for more meetings”, and, last but not least, “we have deadlines to meet”. I would just like to say that I stand fully behind all these remarks and would like delegations to take them all seriously.

I have circulated the revised timeline to all delegations to make sure that every one of us is keenly aware of the key dates and deadlines established so far. I have done this on my own responsibility and without prejudice to any participant’s position on the issues listed. I am certain that you are already aware of all these dates, but by reiterating them I hope that we keep all of them in mind when we consider our tactical and strategic moves as we reach the middle game of our negotiations.

My greatest concern is that we have not yet fully completed our opening plays. From a negotiating point of view, I understand that we set out positions in sectors we are most comfortable or confident with, and then wait to see what others are doing before we venture into areas where we think we have to make concessions. We rarely want to talk about making concessions, but at the end of the day, we may all have to make some concessions in our bid for a successful outcome. I fully realise that the different negotiations do not always proceed at the same pace and do not all have the same deadlines, yet I think that we all realise that the final date is the same in all areas. If we have a single undertaking, we have only one final date.

So the key to a successful endgame is for everyone to understand that, while delaying tactics may seem useful as a tactical move, they will never secure a final outcome. Such tactics can only result in delaying the whole work programme and lead to a waste of opportunities as the process loses steam. I do not really believe that any one of us is intentionally adopting this unwanted tactic, but we all need to do our own analysis and internal consultations, either in our own country, or in groups of countries. So I recommend that the timeline be respected, so that as we come towards the period between the middle game and the endgame, all deadlines can be calibrated to be more in tune with one another. By the middle of next year, we should be in a position to advance across a broad front in all areas.

Participants have also made many thoughtful, constructive and sometimes memorable statements, such as: “development of the DDA”, “everything is linked with everything else”, “development must be centre stage”, “transparency must be upheld”, “positions are still too far apart”, “disappointment with a lack of a specific proposal for agriculture”, “agriculture lies at the heart of our negotiations”, “need to respect all deadlines” and, “there are Members who are not helping”. I am not so sure I would agree with the last one, so maybe we could rephrase it to the effect that “there are Members who have still to make their moves”.

We have heard a wide range of views, different priorities and concerns. As I said during the meeting, the issues which have come up most frequently are Agriculture, Special and Differential Treatment, Implementation, and TRIPS and Public Health. Clearly there are some strongly-held views in these areas and we shall have to work hard to reach consensus.

I am encouraged that there is a widespread sense of the globality of the negotiations, of the need to make progress across a broad front and to build a balanced overall result. Of course, at the present stage this can also mean that everyone is waiting for the other person to move first. We may have different intermediate deadlines in different areas, but we will need to move together into the endgame. I urge delegates to break out of defensive positions — we cannot remind ourselves often enough that this is not a zero-sum game. It is certainly about national interests, but it is also about our shared interest in a system which delivers for all its members. We have a shared responsibility to move these negotiations on to a timely and positive conclusion.

This is the spirit in which I will be working hard with you in the coming weeks and months. I intend to focus my attention first on the upcoming deadlines and the issues which cut across specific negotiating areas, but I will keep the overall balance in mind at all times in line with the TNC’s mandate.


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Summary: Revised timeline to the Cancún Ministerial Conference  >

These are the principal dates in the revised timeline that WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi, as chairperson of the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC), circulated to WTO member governments for the 3–4 October 2002 TNC meeting. It was intended to help focus discussion under agenda item 2 (“Future Work”) by providing a concise summary of the key dates and deadlines established so far. It was circulated by the chairman on his own responsibility and without prejudice to any participant’s position on the issues listed.

During this period, the General Council is also to receive reports, particularly on implementation and other issues concerning developing and least-developed countries.




3–4 October
Trade Negotiations Committee to:

  • receive reports from subsidiary bodies and review progress.


By 1 November (but up to 31 December)
Market access negotiations, non-agricultural products:

  • participants will aim at submitting proposals on modalities for market access negotiations by 1 November 2002, it being understood that proposals submitted before that date will be welcome and that proposals submitted until 31 December 2002 will be fully taken into account in a consolidated overview of proposals to be submitted to participants at the first meeting of the negotiating group in 2003.


4–6 December
Trade Negotiations Committee to:

  • receive reports for appropriate action on outstanding implementation issues from relevant bodies (where no specific negotiating mandate is provided).
  • receive reports from subsidiary bodies and review progress.





Trade Negotiations Committee meeting, date to be determined.


By 31 March
Agriculture negotiations:

  • modalities for further commitments, including provisions for special and differential treatment, to be established (no later than 31 March).

Services negotiations:

  • submission of initial offers (by 31 March).

Negotiations on market access for non-agricultural products:

  • participants will aim at a common understanding on a possible outline of modalities by the end of March 2003 with a view to reaching an agreement on those modalities by 31 May 2003.



Dispute Settlement Negotiations:

  • agreement on improvements and clarifications (not later than May); steps to be taken then to ensure that results enter into force as soon as possible thereafter.

Trade Negotiations Committee meeting, date to be determined.


Trade Negotiations Committee meeting, date to be determined.


10–14 September
Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference, Cancún, Mexico to:

  • take stock of progress, provide any necessary political guidance, and take decisions as necessary.
  • take decisions by explicit consensus on modalities of negotiations on Singapore issues.
  • receive the following reports:

1.  from Trade & Environment Committee on issues in para. 32 with recommendations, where appropriate, for future action, including desirability of negotiations;

2.  on technical assistance and capacity building in the field of trade and environment;

3.  from General Council on:

  • progress on those elements of the Work Programme which do not involve negotiations;
  • further progress in the continued e-commerce work programme;
  • recommendations for action on small economies;
  • progress in trade, debt and finance examination;
  • progress in trade and technology transfer examination;

4.  from Director-General on:

  • implementation and adequacy of technical cooperation and capacity-building commitments;
  • all issues affecting LDCs, following coordination with other IF agency heads;
  • “Implementation of the Commitment by Ministers to Facilitate and Accelerate the Accession of the LDCs” (status report);

5.  from TRIPS Council on:

  • recommendations following its examination of the scope and modalities for non-violation complaints under Article XXIII of GATT 94.

By Fifth ministerial Conference:
Agriculture negotiations:

  • submission of draft schedules (no later than date of Fifth Session).

TRIPS negotiations on the establishment of a multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits:

  • conclusion of negotiations (by Fifth Session).