Azevêdo reports “excellent start” on efforts to put Doha Round back on track
Director-General Roberto Azevêdo reported to the General Council on 14 March 2014 that the chairs of the negotiating groups have completed the first round of consultations on Doha Round issues that might be taken forward. He said: “I have heard a lot of good feedback – and I think there is much which we can build on constructively. But, nevertheless, there remains a lot to do.”
Report by the Chairman of the Trade Negotiations Committee
This is going to be brief report, for two reasons in particular.
Firstly, because the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups will be issuing full written reports of their consultations at the end of this meeting which you will have time to read and consider – I think this will be more productive than me reading them out here.
And secondly, because I am planning to convene a meeting of the TNC on 7 April, which will provide an opportunity for a more detailed discussion on each of the negotiating areas. So I will not spend too much time on these discussions now.
Mr Chairman, since the Ninth Session of the Ministerial Conference in Bali, the TNC has held one informal meeting on 6 February 2014.
My statement at the meeting has been issued in document JOB/TNC/37, and I would request that it be included in the records of this meeting.
Since that meeting I have been listening to members here in Geneva and talking to the Chairs of Negotiating Groups – who have of course been conducting their own consultations.
I have also seized the opportunity, whenever I am visiting capitals around the world, to further our work and bring greater focus to our forward planning.
When we met here in February we discussed our next steps after Bali. And I highlighted the two priorities for our work in 2014:
The first priority is to deliver on the blood, sweat and tears that we put into the Bali Package by implementing the decisions and agreements that we reached there.
I know that this work is incredibly important for all members in demonstrating that not only can we reach negotiated outcomes, but we can also implement them – bringing real benefits to the people we are here to serve.
The second priority is to prepare a clearly defined work program to conclude the Doha Development Agenda – and we must do so by the end of this year.
At the TNC in February I asked the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups to start a dialogue with members on issues that we may be able to take forward – using a set of very simple parameters to guide the discussions.
A broad range of views were expressed at that meeting in February. Overall I felt that the tone was very positive – and I didn’t hear any member say that they were not ready to engage on the basis that I had outlined.
So we have done what we said – we have proceeded on this basis.
I met with the Chairs of the Negotiating Groups yesterday and they confirmed that they have held an initial round of consultations with members.
As I mentioned, the Chairs’ full written reports of their discussions will be made available at the end of this meeting – and I encourage you to study them in detail in the coming days.
I will give just a brief summary of progress in each of the respective areas.
It seems that some factors were common among some of the Groups.
For example in Agriculture, Market Access and Services, it came across strongly that our approach should be balanced across all three issues – and that all three should tackled together, simultaneously
There was also a clear emphasis on the parameters during the discussions – particularly on the importance of development, and on ensuring that we focus on outcomes that are doable.
Now, let’s look at each area in turn – starting with the Special Session of the Committee on Agriculture.
The Chair’s consultations so far have highlighted a range of views:
Most Members acknowledged the need for a balanced approach among the three key pillars of agriculture in the areas of market access, domestic support and export competition. Among the three pillars Export Competition is recognised as an important priority for a large group of Members.
Many Members highlighted the importance they attached to the draft modalities, while other members have placed less emphasis on this.
Ensuring that further discussions are assisted by appropriate updated data and information on member policies was highlighted by some Members.
The need to ensure a coherent approach to the work within the Regular Committee on Agriculture to implement Bali outcomes and the ongoing work in the Special Session was also mentioned.
Let me turn now to the Negotiating Group on Market Access.
In relation to “what went wrong?”, several factors were cited. These include negotiating approaches, the different expectations among Members regarding the NAMA outcome and the different perceptions about the balance in the current modalities text.
As to “what should be done?”, several questions were discussed including whether or not to continue where Members left off, the possibility of updating the technical negotiating base and whether to discuss in a more generic manner the question of what is doable in this area.
Some delegations express their views on the latest draft modalities, but, as I understand it, no common position was reached.
The Group’s discussions will need to continue in order to establish how Members can contribute to a meaningful result on market access.
The Chair has offered some personal conclusions and suggestions at the end of his report, as you will see.
Let’s move now to the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services.
There was broad convergence that, in addition to balance across the three market access pillars, there would also need to be balance within the services agenda itself. And such an outcome would require the exploration of new approaches.
Many said that, with any outcome in services, the development dimension of the round will need to be fully reflected.
The need to avoid previous mistakes was also seen as crucial. Some wished to avoid the sequencing of DDA negotiations, which in their view had placed services at a disadvantage – while others stressed that progress in services must be contingent on progress elsewhere.
While further deliberations are needed, it was widely accepted that an appropriate level of ambition in services would have to be commensurate with those in agriculture and NAMA.
Regarding the plurilateral negotiations on services, which are taking place outside the WTO – some saw these as complementary to the WTO negotiations and emphasized the potential for cross-fertilization between the two tracks. Others took the view that such initiatives could undermine the multilateral process.
On the Negotiating Group on Rules, most members agreed that there needs to be serious horizontal reflection as to the overall scope and level of ambition of post-Bali activity – and that this should be the basis for determining whether any or all of the Rules issues will be included in the next phase of our work.
A substantial number of delegations were open to including Rules in the work program, but considered that this could only be addressed once clarity has been achieved on the level of ambition for the three “core issues”.
In contrast, a few delegations considered that Rules itself constitutes a “core issue”, and that outcomes on at least certain Rules issues will be essential.
Next is the Special Session of the Council for TRIPS. Based on the interim Chair’s consultations earlier this week, it seems that negotiations on a register for wine and spirit geographical indications would depend on the relationship of this work to other TRIPS issues and the wider Doha Round.
In addition, some Members have expressed interest in recommencing the consultation process on TRIPS implementation issues. We need to look into this further.
Moving on, let’s turn now to the Special Session of the Committee on Trade & Environment.
As this is his last meeting as chair of the Negotiating Group, Ambassador Selim Kuneralp will give his own personal update to Members when the Chairman of General Council opens the floor in a few moments.
So I will just say I understand that in these discussions members have reiterated the view that environmental negotiations remain an important element of the overall Doha mandate – and continue to be high on delegations’ political agendas.
Turning now to the Special Session of the Committee on Trade & Development.
The Chair has encouraged Members to review the three areas of outstanding work, specifically the remaining Agreement Specific Proposals – including the Cancún-28.
The indications are that delegations recognise the centrality of development in our post-Bali work and have an open mind on the possible elements in the development pillar of the post-Bali work program. Some Members observed that this work program will inevitably influence the contours of the work program on S&D.
The Chair reports that there is a sense of preparedness for serious engagement among the Members – and an acceptance of the need for creative approaches. However, for this to happen, Members will need a clear road map with tangible substance. A clear articulation of concerns and interests will help us to move towards a successful outcome in the work of the Special Session.
Finally, let’s look at the Special Session of the DSB.
Work has continued on the basis of the “horizontal process” launched in June last year, which is geared towards identifying achievable outcomes across the board. In three areas – namely: remand, post-retaliation and third party rights – some elements were presented as possible bases for solutions. This effort was very well received and will set the tone for further work.
Further progress now requires willingness to be flexible across-the-board to develop achievable outcomes that reflect the interests of all participants.
That concludes the round-up from the negotiating groups.
I would like to thank all the Chairs for their work. And in doing so, I would like to pay particular tribute to the outgoing chairs:
Ambassador Selim Kuneralp of Turkey.
Ambassador Fook Seng Kwok of Singapore, who unfortunately cannot be here today.
Ambassador Fernando de Mateo of Mexico.
And Ambassador Alfredo Suescum of Panama.
Thank you all for your contribution. I know that everyone in this room – and outside this room – has greatly appreciated your efforts.
I have also been considering how best to ensure that we advance LDC issues. These were key in Bali – and will only take on greater significance as our work progresses.
Following consultation with the LDC Group, I have asked Ambassador Steffen Smidt to continue as the Facilitator for LDC issues this year.
I am pleased to say that Ambassador Smidt has agreed to this request, and I would like to thank the Danish Government for allowing him to do so.
I think this is a very welcome development – and I trust members will extend to Ambassador Smidt the same support and co-operation that you gave him last year. So thank you Steffan.
In closing, Mr Chairman, I think we have made an excellent start.
I have heard a lot of good feedback – and I think there is much which we can build on constructively.
But, nevertheless, there remains a lot to do.
On the basis of the Chairs’ reports, and of my own conversations, I would like to instruct the Chairs to continue their work – and continue this process of consultation. And I will do the same.
We will all need to reflect on what we have heard today – and then to consider our next steps.
The first quarter of 2014 is almost behind us. In the space of just nine months we must complete this work. It is essential that all members are fully engaged in these consultations.
As I said at the TNC in February: 2014 should be a defining year for the WTO – not just as the year that we implement our first negotiated outcomes, but also as the year that we put the Doha Round firmly back on track.
So let’s continue the work we’re in – and let’s redouble our efforts.
This is of course an ongoing conversation. As I have said, I will convene a meeting of the TNC on 7 April to report on further progress and provide for a fuller debate among members on the way forward.
Of course you are free to take the floor now, but I would suggest that we wait for this TNC meeting in a few weeks’ time as we will then be in a better position to have a more thorough and meaningful discussion.
Thank you Mr Chairman – that concludes my report.