4 avril 2005, Genève

10th Geneva Week

Opening Remarks by the Director-General

I warmly welcome you all to the 10th Geneva Week that the WTO Secretariat organises for non resident Members and Observers and for the representatives of regional economic organisations. The timing of this Geneva Week is opportune as we work towards a first approximation in July and prepare for the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. I am pleased to note that 27 out of the 32 non resident WTO Members and Observers are here this week. We also have representatives from 24 regional economic organisations. Your presence shows that Geneva Week is indeed a useful and important event.

As in many of our technical cooperation activities, the Geneva Week involves a two way interaction. While you will be briefed on many of the topics currently under discussion in the Doha Development Agenda, we would also like to hear your views, and to take account of your needs and concerns. It is an opportunity for you – during your stay – to be involved in the work of WTO bodies. You will also have the chance to interact with officials from the WTO Secretariat and other Geneva based agencies, as well as with Geneva based delegations.

I understand the particular difficulties faced by non residents and I would like to reassure you that the WTO will continue to be responsive to your special needs. During the course of Geneva Week, we look forward to learning more about your priorities and needs in terms of technical assistance. It would also be useful for us to know whether the quality and type of assistance you receive from us is adequate and what else we could do to help you better. Your input can also be used when we draw up our Annual Technical Assistance Plans for WTO Members and Observers.

I would now like to say a few words on the Doha Development Agenda. My remarks will no doubt be supplemented by those of Ambassador Mohamed, the Chairman of the General Council, who will speak further on some of the challenges facing the organization this year.

Throughout this week, you will also get more detailed briefings from the Secretariat on the current status of the negotiations in the different areas. At the most recent informal TNC meeting held on 21 March, I suggested to focus on the market access areas of the negotiations namely in agriculture, industrial goods and services, because there is an urgent need to make substantial progress in this area. We now have a high level of convergence on the need for a substantial breakthrough in Hong Kong, China in key areas with July as a marker in our process.

There is now a real sense of engagement in the negotiations in most areas, and a high level of activity with many proposals being tabled. We also continue to enjoy good political-level involvement in our work here in Geneva with renewed contact among some Ministers. Several governments have also held mini-ministerial meetings on key subjects. The commitment of Ministers to a successful Hong Kong Ministerial to set the stage for the final phase of the Round in 2006 is unwavering, as is their intention to continue to provide the process with inputs on key issues when necessary.

However, it is a cause for concern that we do not always seem able to bring the political commitment that I have witnessed around the world fully into our work here. We must make greater efforts to translate the positive input of Ministers and Senior Officials into give-and-take in the detailed negotiations here in Geneva. In the agriculture negotiations, there has been intense and constructive engagement on the ad valorem equivalents (AVE) conversion issue but it has not yet been possible to fully resolve the matter. AVE conversion is a highly technical matter and it is essential that a solution is found soon in order to keep the momentum.

In the NAMA negotiations, the meetings held last month witnessed an improved level of engagement on all sides and a series of constructive inputs. On Services, we have the May deadline for revised offers and we need to have a critical mass of offers on the table. The Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation and the Sub-Committee on Cotton met two weeks ago and there is a positive spirit in both areas. The Committee on Trade and Development in Special Session will be meeting this week to continue work on S&D. You will recall that a deadline of July 2005 has been set for the Committee to review all outstanding agreement-specific proposals with clear recommendations for a decision. This Geneva Week is timely as it will allow you, the non resident developing countries, to participate in the S&D discussions.

There is an immense amount of progress to be made in a very short time if we are to achieve our objectives for Hong Kong. In order to ensure that Hong Kong is a success we will have to achieve substantial progress before the summer break, that is, before the end of July. For my part, as TNC Chairman, I see the need for more frequent meetings and consultations in informal open-ended mode for transparency and so that the overall picture emerges in good time. The next TNC meeting will take place in the last week of April, and I intend to convene informal Heads of Delegations meetings more frequently in the lead-up to July. The negotiating groups have a solid schedule of meetings ahead of them, and I will continue to hold regular coordination meetings with the Chairpersons and the General Council Chairman.

The increasing involvement of Ministers will also have its part to play in our process, and I intend to continue to use every opportunity to engage them, both individually and when they gather together on future occasions, on the key issues in our negotiations. I am personally committed to pushing on hard with the negotiations and I am ready to help Members as much as I can. Our work in the coming months would be enriched by inputs and perspectives of all Members including you, the non residents. I believe your presence this week adds to the principles of transparency and inclusiveness.

In conclusion, allow me to say again how pleased I am that all of you are here this week. I urge you to use your time in Geneva to benefit from all the briefings and exchanges you will have with the Secretariat and WTO Members. I wish you all a very fruitful 10th Geneva Week.