Azevêdo urges members to make 2014 the year to implement Bali and put Doha back on track
At the first meeting of WTO ambassadors after the 9th Ministerial Conference, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo told the Trade Negotiations Committee on 6 February that: “Bali represents not just a huge achievement for all of us – but also a huge opportunity. There is real political momentum and we must build on it.” He said he had asked the chairs of the negotiating groups to “start a dialogue with members on (Doha Round) issues that we may be able to take forward”. Below is an excerpt from his speech.
Good morning everybody.
As this is our first meeting of 2014, I would like to wish you all a happy and successful New Year – I very much hope it is a productive one.
I want to thank you all for the role you played, individually and jointly, in delivering that historic success in Bali.
After an 18 year drought, Bali proved that the WTO can deliver negotiated outcomes.
It delivered significant gains for the global economy and particularly for our developing and least-developed members. And it moved the spotlight back onto us here in Geneva.
But Bali has not finished the job.
We have two very significant tasks before us.
First and foremost, we need to implement the decisions and agreements reached in Bali.
Second, the Bali Declaration instructs us to prepare a clearly defined work program on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues by the end of 2014.
And we should remember that the Bali Declaration instructs that those areas where decisions were non-binding in nature must be a priority in our post-Bali work. We must keep a relentless focus on these issues.
So the real work starts now.
These two tasks will form the bulk of our work over the course of this year – and so this is what I want to talk about today.
Implementing the Bali Package
First, let’s focus on implementation.
The true significance of the Bali results, and the tangible realization of their benefits, will only be achieved as a result of the actions that you, the members, take over the coming months.
This is an important test for the system – and one which we must pass if we want to move forward and see the benefits of Bali made real.
We must work together to keep up the momentum and the pressure that allowed us to reach a successful outcome in the first place.
The Bali Package consists of ten ministerial decisions, each of which requires different steps to take forward.
A lot of the implementation efforts will fall outside the TNC – but for clarity I think it would be helpful to take a few moments to set out some of the actions needed to implement each of those decisions.
Let’s start with Trade Facilitation, where the work has already started, and where there are important milestones for implementation over the coming months.
The first meeting of the Preparatory Committee was convened by the General Council Chairman on 31 January.
And we already have a chair, as you elected Ambassador Esteban Conejos by acclamation. Let me congratulate Ambassador Conejos, and wish him all the best in his new role.
The Preparatory Committee will swiftly commence the execution of the tasks Ministers gave it in Bali – specifically, to ensure the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and prepare for its efficient operation.
The Bali decision on Trade Facilitation also calls on the Committee to carry out three immediate tasks:
undertaking a legal review of the Agreement;
drafting a protocol of amendment to include the Trade Facilitation Agreement in Annex IA of the WTO Agreement;
and receiving notifications of Category A commitments.
Our ability to move the whole of the WTO agenda forward hinges on our ability to fulfil the promises to provide timely and effective technical assistance and capacity building wherever it is demanded by developing and least-developed countries.
To help those countries make full use of the flexibilities set out in Section II, and to facilitate preparations for the Agreement’s entry into force, the Secretariat will continue its needs assessment program. But in addition there is an imperative on developing members to identify what support they need as early as possible.
Donor members and various donor organizations are also getting ready to provide comprehensive support on Trade Facilitation.
I met with them yesterday for an initial conversation about the importance of coordination and transparency in the provision of support to developing countries.
Many donors were present at the meeting – over 25 countries and organisations were there.
In due course, the conversation needs to be broadened out to include beneficiary countries once there is greater clarity on their needs.
The WTO will of course help to facilitate the interaction between the donors and the beneficiaries.
So there is important – and urgent – work ahead.
I must also take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Sperisen-Yurt for his leadership and chairmanship of the Negotiating Group on Trade Facilitation.
Let’s turn now to Agriculture, where there were three decisions in Bali.
For each of these three decisions, Ministerial guidance specifically indicates that the Committee on Agriculture will undertake follow-up activities in terms of monitoring and review.
The Committee on Agriculture met on 29 January and discussed follow-up on these issues.
So let me briefly take each one in turn…
First, export competition. This decision calls for dedicated discussions based on notifications and a questionnaire to be circulated by the Secretariat.
The annex of the Declaration includes elements for enhanced transparency on export competition which will form the basis of the Secretariat’s questionnaire.
The Committee on Agriculture agreed to hold the annual discussion on export competition during its meeting in June this year. This timing could also be appropriate in 2015 as it would provide adequate time between that discussion and the review foreseen at MC10. That’s for you, the members, to follow through in the Committee on Agriculture.
The Secretariat will circulate the questionnaire soon with a view to circulating a summary of the questionnaire results in advance of the June meeting.
Second, with respect to the decision on TRQ administration, the Committee on Agriculture is expected to review and monitor the implementation of the Understanding.
The monitoring to be conducted in the context of the TRQ underfill mechanism will depend on the members’ submissions.
Some members have indicated that they planned to take advantage of this mechanism. Others noted that the Committee on Agriculture could begin applying the monitoring procedures laid out in the Annex of this Decision as soon as submissions were received by the Committee.
That leaves the decision on public stockholding for food security purposes. Here the monitoring activity of the Committee will again depend on how members decide to push this monitoring agenda.
As you will recall, Ministers agreed to establish a work program to be undertaken in the Committee on Agriculture with the aim of making recommendations for a permanent solution on this issue – that’s what the decision says. This work program will take into account members’ existing and future submissions.
Indeed, the conversation on the work program has already started with a discussion at last week’s meeting of the Committee on Agriculture.
I’d like now to turn to the decisions on Development and LDC issues.
The adoption of an LDC package was a key achievement of the Bali Ministerial – representing a very significant step forward towards the better integration of LDCs into the multilateral trading system.
But, here too, Bali represents a beginning, not an end.
A significant amount of effort is needed to convert these decisions into concrete gains for the LDCs.
On the operationalization of the services waiver the LDCs will need to table their collective request as soon as possible. This will kick-start the process, leading towards the high level meeting at which members will indicate if, and in what areas, they are prepared to give preferential access to LDCs.
In parallel, the Council for Trade in Services is convening an informal meeting to discuss the operationalization of the waiver. I encourage all members to actively participate in this process, so that we can bring fruition to this important instrument.
Next, the decision on Duty-Free Quota-Free market access.
Similarly here, members will need to notify their DFQF schemes and any other relevant changes that they may have adopted. In my view the LDCs should be pursuing this issue in the Committee on Trade and Development. Of course all members have a responsibility here, and the Secretariat will be on hand to support the process, but the demandeurs must keep up the pressure.
The same goes for the last decision in the LDC package – which is on preferential rules of origin.
Members have concrete guidelines before them to make further improvements to their LDC preference schemes. I encourage members, whenever possible, to draw on these multilateral guidelines and make a further contribution to help ease market access for LDC products. There will be an opportunity to annually review developments through the Committee on Rules of Origin.
The other important development decision taken at Bali – though not specific to LDCs – was to establish a Monitoring Mechanism on Special and Differential Treatment. Members will take this forward through a Dedicated Session of the Committee on Trade and Development.
I should also mention here those items which were held over from Bali – for example the Cancun 28 proposals and the 6 Agreement-specific proposals. These items are under active consideration in the Special Session of the Committee on Trade and Development and this work will need to be picked up as soon as possible.
The tenth decision of the Bali package relates to Cotton, which of course is sensitive for many members, particularly the Cotton-4.
I understand that informal consultations are underway to call a meeting of the Director-General’s Consultative Mechanism. That meeting would likely be held back-to-back with a dedicated discussion on cotton in a meeting of the Committee on Agriculture in order that we can move this issue forward.
You all worked incredibly hard last year to conclude the negotiations and deliver the Bali package.
So now let’s make it count, by delivering the benefits of the package.