Sunday, 19 January
2003 Cairo, Egypt
The Doha Development Agenda (DDA) Advanced Training Programme for Arab Senior Government Officials
Honourable Ministers of Trade and Trade Vice Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I should like to welcome you to this Opening Session of the Doha Development Agenda Advanced Training Programme for Senior Government Officials from all Arab countries. This Advanced Training Programme, an important WTO technical cooperation and capacity building activity, is a joint endeavour between the WTO Secretariat, the Arab Monetary Fund, and three local partner academic institutions represented here by the Egyptian Foreign Trade Training Centre, the American University in Cairo, and Cairo University. This model Advanced Training Programme is also being brought to 9 other regional centres in the world.
I should like to thank Egypt, its government and people, for hosting this course and for placing such excellent facilities at the disposal of the partner organizations and participants. I should also like to acknowledge the efforts of Arab leaders to meet the challenge of development and contribute to peace, security and human welfare through domestic reform, including trade liberalization. The WTO Secretariat stands ready to help you as your countries seek to reform, liberalize and develop.
At Doha, in November 2001, WTO Ministers launched the most ambitious and wide-ranging trade negotiations ever. These negotiations include agriculture, services, non-agricultural goods, the environment, and WTO rules (encompassing regional trade arrangements, the Dispute Settlement Understanding and trade remedies). There are also negotiations under way to make Special and Differential Treatment Provisions “more precise, effective and operational” and to provide the possibility of having cheaper access to certain medicines for poor countries. In addition, work programmes were established for possible new framework agreements in investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation. Members are also examining in depth the links between trade, debt and finance; the links between trade and transfer of technology; and, the circumstances of Small Economies. Although staged target deadlines have been set for specific areas of the negotiations, the overall final deadline for the completion of the negotiations is 1 January 2005 – approximately 23 months from today. The workload for all countries, but particularly for the developing and least developed countries, is very heavy. Let me stress that we must work to the time-frames, if we want to achieve the set goals and meet the overall time frames.
At Doha, Ministers acknowledged and reaffirmed the fact that trade is an engine for development. The overriding objective in the negotiations is to ensure that trade functions as a tool for development. Improving human welfare and attaining development goals are the ultimate ends of government policy. At Doha, for the first time-ever, development objectives were placed at the heart of a new trade round. This was made possible for several reasons. The vast majority, if not all WTO Members, participated fully, constructively and with focus. The broad spectrum of Members’ interests was represented through sensible and practical positions by all participating Ministers. Ministers were committed to the principal objectives of rejecting protectionism, eliminating trade barriers, stimulating growth, creating jobs, improving the welfare of their people and, hence, contributing to peace and security. It was recognized that development, peace and security are inextricably linked, and that trade has an indispensable contribution to make because it generates income, creates wealth and jobs.
To achieve a similar broad-based and satisfactory conclusion to the on going negotiations and work programme, by 1 January 2005, I have continuously urged Ministers to engage with each other, as they did in setting the agenda at Doha: fully and constructively, and with a willingness to compromise.
Under the DDA, Arab countries, as well as other developing countries, have the opportunity to achieve better market access for their products in developed countries but also in developing countries to which their products are exported.
Although there will be significant benefits from a successful completion of the negotiations and the work programme, nevertheless, participation requires major investment in training skilled negotiators, developing institutional capacity, formulating critical national positions, and funding the participation of skilled negotiators at the negotiations themselves. Governments must bear in mind the need to allocate enough human and financial resources for these purposes in light of the extensive range of the on going negotiations and the potential development dividends that will accrue to national economies.
Multilateral institutions can help contribute to training negotiators and assisting with the development of national institutional capacity for trade policy formulation and advocacy. This is why at Doha, WTO Ministers undertook a massive and unprecedented set of technical cooperation and capacity building commitments that would enable developing and least-developed countries effectively participate in the Doha Negotiations and Work Programme. The commitments were also designed to assist developing and least-developed countries to exercise the rights of membership and draw on the benefits of the open, rules-based multilateral trading system. The WTO Secretariat is responding concretely to the challenge. Significant progress has been made in this area. Nonetheless, I must emphasise that the scale of the demand, the urgency of the needs and the ever-expanding list of priorities on the part of recipient countries are so huge that the WTO Secretariat cannot alone fulfil these expectations.
The purpose of this advanced training programme is to strengthen the effective participation of Members and Observers in the Doha Development Agenda Negotiations and Work Programme through policy analysis, a deeper understanding of the issues and a better knowledge of the range of options available. In the discussions that underpinned the Doha paragraphs on technical cooperation and capacity building, recipient countries were critical of the traditional focus of WTO technical cooperation and training activities on assisting countries to “understand” already negotiated and agreed rules, but being weak on building effective negotiating capacity to establish new rules. They were right. This training programme is a creative response to the challenge put to us by Members and Observers to improve on our technical cooperation and capacity building, by making our activities more negotiation-relevant. It will focus on real issues at the centre of the Doha Negotiations and Work Programme. Due to the importance I attach to this activity, several Chairs of various WTO negotiating bodies have been invited to participate in this event, and I thank them for agreeing. May I encourage you to make full use of their presence here in Cairo, by seeking their views and insights on relevant negotiating issues.
These 10 advanced intensive 2-week training courses are complemented by the regular trade policy courses which run for three months and are based at the WTO offices in Geneva. Because these were so highly regarded, we took them to two African countries last year: Kenya and Morocco, for Anglophone and Francophone African countries respectively. Two more will be held this year before the Cancun Ministerial. We are looking into the possibility of expanding these trade policy courses to other regions by 2004 and beyond.
These training courses form part of the 443 activities in the 2003 WTO Technical Assistance Plan approved by the membership last November. I should like to express my gratitude and appreciation to WTO Members, including Members of the WTO Arab Group who joined in the unanimous approval of the Plan. I am committed to ensuring that the WTO Secretariat's relationship with the Arab countries receives the attention that it deserves. Several steps have been taken, in this regard.
We are now dealing with Arab Members and Observers as a group. Distinct seminars, such as this Advanced Training Programme, are being organized for the Arab Group in particular. In our 2003 Technical Assistance Plan, the number of activities for Arab countries has increased significantly. In 2003, 15 regional seminars will be organized for Arab countries, in addition to 30 national activities. Several of these activities will be jointly organized with regional partners. The principal partners of the WTO in the Arab World are the Arab Monetary Fund, the United Nations Economic Commission for Western Asia, and the Islamic Development Bank. We have signed Memoranda of Understanding with these organizations.
An overdue measure that has now been taken is the establishment of a Unit, in the Technical Cooperation Division, dedicated to the Arab and Middle East Countries. This Unit provides an institutional focal point for advisory services to Arab delegations. The Secretariat is also providing active support and advice to the five Arab countries that are currently in the process of accession to the WTO. Although the process of accession is based on negotiations between the acceding country and WTO Members, the Secretariat is providing technical assistance to facilitate the accession of these countries.
I would like to assure you of my firm determination and commitment to effectively implement Secretariat measures to assist Arab countries and to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their participation in the work of the WTO.
Allow me now to take this opportunity to provide you with a brief summary of the state-of-play of the negotiations.
I reported to Members at the last meeting of the General Council on 10-13 December 2002 that my assessment on the state-of-play of the negotiations was mixed. Although progress has been made on all fronts, it has been uneven and we have not moved as quickly as we need to. We were unable to meet the target deadlines for 2002 on TRIPS and Health, implementation and special and differential treatment. More clarity is needed in negotiating positions. Such clarity is a necessary pre-condition to finding compromises and forging consensus. It is essential that all areas of the negotiations move forward together. This will provide an overall picture of the balance of gains and concessions under the Single Undertaking. We cannot tempt failure by procrastinating, engaging in trade brinkmanship, or holding out for last minute deals.
At this moment, let me focus on a few areas of critical importance for the membership.
Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building: Significant progress has been made in the area of technical cooperation and capacity building. The implementation of the 2002 TA Plan, which was approved by the Membership on 6 March 2002 as part of the implementation of the Doha commitments, was satisfactory and positive. The 2003 TA Plan continues to implement the Doha commitments, and builds on the achievements of the 2002 TA Plan. As I reported to WTO Members in the General Council last month, my judgement is that the progress made on Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building since Doha has been significant and positive, enabling beneficiary countries to effectively engage in the on going negotiations. The Membership shared my assessment. I also emphasised my firm commitment to design a WTO technical cooperation and capacity building programme that will endure and serve the Membership well beyond the Doha negotiations.
Least Developed Countries: substantive progress has been made, at three levels, to help integrate Least Developed Countries into the Multilateral Trading System, in accordance with the Doha mandate. First, a WTO Work Programme for LDCs was adopted by the Membership on 12 February 2002. Second, much progress has been made with regard to the Integrated Framework for the LDCs. This is the mechanism for assisting LDCs to mainstream trade into their plans for national economic development and strategies for poverty reduction. Djibouti, Mauritania, Yemen, members of this Arab Group, are currently beneficiaries. Discussions are underway amongst agencies, donors and the LDCs on the extension of the Integrated Framework to more LDCs. I will be meeting with other Heads of Agencies in a few months time and will report to Members, thereafter. Third, in a historic decision, Members agreed to guidelines to facilitate LDCs’ accession to the WTO.
Agriculture: The vast majority of delegations have made clear that without progress on agriculture, overall progress in the negotiations will not be possible. This is a critical area for most developing and least developed countries. For these countries, the real gains of the DDA negotiations lie in substantial reductions in trade distorting subsidies. Since the agriculture negotiations began, there has been unprecedented participation from Members. Nearly all of whom have submitted proposals. This includes the proposals from the African Group and from other Members represented here. The DDA sets a deadline of end-March for establishing modalities for reductions in support and protection. At this stage, the positions of different Members and their reasons for having them are clear. The review of these positions is set out in the Overview Paper by the Chairman that was circulated last year. This overview sets out the very wide differences between different participants. Some want radical reforms, some are much less ambitious and some want flexibility to address specific issues. To bridge these gaps will require a considerable effort by all. In the short time left to the end of March, all participants in the agriculture negotiations will have to show flexibility and compromise to achieve a result in line with the DDA;
Services: The services negotiations are proceeding on two fronts: market access and rule-making. In general, one could say with confidence that the negotiations on Services have been advancing in a satisfactory manner. The adoption of the negotiating Guidelines, in March 2001, and their further endorsement by Ministers in Doha, has given the negotiations a clear sense of direction. The Guidelines lay heavy emphasis on promoting the development objectives of the developing countries and giving due respect for national policy objectives. They also state that each Member of the WTO has the right to chose the sectors in which it wishes to take commitments. Also, as I am sure you are aware, the dates decided by Ministers for the submission of initial request by 30 June 2002 and initial offers by 31 March 2003 have provided the negotiating process with clear landmarks to aim for. On market access, since last July, Members have actively started bilateral negotiations on the basis of initial requests. The process is continuing and will no doubt intensify with the submission of the initial offers by the end of March this year. Much work will need to be done. Some progress has also been made on the rule-making side, although there are issues that still need to be resolved, where political decisions will be required by Members. Members are continuing their work in the areas of domestic regulation, safeguards, government procurement and subsidies. With the exception of the subject of safeguards, which has a deadline of 15 March 2004. All negotiations on rule making issues should conclude prior to the conclusion of the negotiations on market access;
We cannot lose sight of the fact that the services negotiations are a part of a broader negotiating agenda. Linkages with other areas, notably agriculture, are a reality. However, we must ensure that such linkages are used in a positive manner. Achieving more progress in services could no doubt be conducive to registering progress in agriculture.
TRIPS and Public Health: although there has been a significant shift in the position of negotiations, the negotiations have not been concluded, and the end-of-year deadline was missed. However, I believe that the existing difficulties are technical in nature and possible to resolve.
Special and Differential Treatment: The work programme on Special and Differential Treatment as mandated by the Ministers at Doha, is continuing with Members having made nearly 85 proposals to make the existing provisions more precise, effective and operational. A number of important cross-cutting issues have also been raised. There are some fundamental differences amongst Members, but I am hopeful that we would be able to make progress before the next reporting deadline of 11 February 2003. I shall be reporting on the situation as it evolves.
Singapore Issues: As you already know, important decisions will be taken at Cancun, in September, on the launch of negotiations in investment, competition policy, trade facilitation, and transparency in government procurement.
Let me conclude by briefly emphasising five key points:
First, we are all acutely aware of the difficult global economic circumstances we find ourselves in. Several factors are negatively affecting growth. These include a decline in commodity prices; fall in tourism receipts; persistent drought in parts of North Africa including this region; the alarming impact of HIV/AIDS; and the weakness in global demand, which is affecting world exports. Moreover, global uncertainty and regional tensions affect economic performance, including trade. Under these circumstances, I urge trade ministers to focus on the contributions that trade can make to development, to peace and to security. Trade is a vital nexus point. The exchange of goods and services brings countries together. The Multilateral Trading System and in particular the Doha Development Agenda offer all countries the unique opportunity to engage in trade negotiations for development, peace and security. This opportunity should not be missed;
Second, the challenge facing Arab and other developing countries is to restore economic growth and create jobs, while maintaining macroeconomic stability, persevering with domestic economic reforms, and ensuring that trade is mainstreamed or integrated into economic policies and strategies for poverty reduction. The real benefits of trade liberalization are mainly realized if trade is placed firmly within the context of a domestic reform agenda. I need not underscore the simple but powerful truth that trade reform and liberalization cannot stand-alone. It must be supported by appropriate domestic policies for the full benefits to be realized;
Third, I would like to praise the courage shown by many of your countries in pursuing domestic policy reform. These reforms have either been self-initiated or are based on structural adjustment programmes. I encourage your countries to maintain the impetus of these reforms. The global economy is a very competitive one. Competition is the basis for rapid progress that yields benefits for citizens and for the improvement of individual welfare;
Fourth, I would like to confirm to Ministers that the WTO Secretariat will continue to support the efforts of Arab countries with focused and properly targeted technical assistance and capacity building. Beyond this, I will also work very closely and in coordination with other core multilateral agencies to ensure that the advice, support and assistance we provide is coordinated and coherent, and will contribute to your national development objectives. I remain confident that working together, we shall continue to improve the meaningful integration of Arab countries into the multilateral trading system and the global economy;
Fifth, the 5th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun is eight months away. To ensure that we have a successful Ministerial Meeting, I appeal to Ministers to fully and proactively engage in the process. I believe that a successful ministerial meeting is one where the outcome is balanced, with positive results for strengthening global demand, increasing growth, and at the same time generating benefits for all our Members. I believe that such an outcome is possible with engagement by Ministers steering the process and directing their trade negotiators in Geneva. I urge Ministers to implement the commitments they undertook at Doha and re-affirmed by their Heads of State and Government at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in September 2002.
I look forward to the opportunity, I believe that we will shortly have, for an exchange of views on issues of mutual interest.
Thank you for your kind attention.