ISSN 2330-717X

Lamy: WTO Package Of Negotiating Documents Underscores Value Of Doha Progress

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On 21 April 2011 the negotiating chairs circulated documents representing the product of the work in their negotiating groups. An accompanying report was issued by the Chair of the Trade Negotiations Committee, Pascal Lamy.

Director-General Pascal Lamy, in his cover note to the documents, said that for the first time since the Round was launched in 2001 “Members will have the opportunity to consider the entire Doha package”. He says the picture is “impressive” in the significant progress achieved so far, but also “realistic” in what it shows on the remaining divides. He asked Members to think hard about “the consequences of throwing away ten years of solid multilateral work” and called on members to “use the upcoming weeks to talk to each other and build bridges”.

COVER NOTE BY TNC CHAIR

By Pascal Lamy

The attached documents represent the product of work in the Doha Development Round negotiations over the last ten years. For the first time since 2001 Members will have the opportunity to consider the entire Doha package, including all market access areas as well as the entirety of the regulatory agenda.

They show a picture which is both impressive and realistic. It is impressive in its broad and comprehensive coverage; in the intensive and commendable efforts by Chairs and Members that lie behind it; and in the very significant progress that it displays in many areas. However it is realistic in what it reveals about the issues that still divide negotiators and put the successful conclusion of the Round at serious risk.

These documents will leave no-one in any doubt about the value of what is on the table. In economic or systemic terms, what has been achieved so far in these negotiations, and what a successful conclusion would add, amount to a major array of potential benefits at a global level. It would mean more trade and better trade rules, providing opportunities for investment and jobs. It would mean greater opportunities for the poorest. It would mean for the first time placing development at the heart of the global trading system. But, above all, it would mean that the spirit of global trade co-operation is still alive. That governments and Parliaments alike believe trade is better regulated at the global level than through a myriad of bilateral agreements that have limited value for today’s global supply chains. That they still believe it is worth investing in multilateralism. That they want to foster predictability and stability of world trade at a turbulent time. This is why political leaders around the world have made concluding the Round and reaping these benefits a priority.

These documents take you closer to that point than you have ever been. They include texts in areas where these have not been possible before; extensive work in vital technical issues; and options which reflect the commitment and the creativity of negotiators. In preparing them, the Negotiating Group Chairs and I have been guided by the principles on which we have consistently operated; working in a consensual, “bottom-up” way and avoiding surprises. They are, therefore, firmly based upon the progress that the negotiators have been able to make. Where the necessary progress has not been possible, they show this too.

The latter area includes market access for industrial products, NAMA in our jargon. At our last meeting on 29 March, I reported the continuing difficulties in closing the significant gaps between key participants over the level of ambition in NAMA sectorals. I noted that I would consult with those participants, and with others, to assess the magnitude of these gaps and the prospects for bridging them. The finding of my consultations are clear: there are fundamentally different views on the ambition provided by the cuts to industrial tariffs under the Swiss formula as it currently stands, on whether the contributions between the different members are proportionate and balanced as well as on the contribution of sectorals. I believe we are confronted with a clear political gap which, as things stand, under the NAMA framework currently on the table, and from what I have heard in my consultations, is not bridgeable today.

It is clear that there are issues other than NAMA which also remain outstanding. And that the Round could not be completed without these being solved. But my frank assessment is that under the right conditions of temperature and pressure a deal would be doable, bearing in mind that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, but for NAMA, where the differences today are effectively blocking progress and putting into serious doubt the conclusion of the Round this year.

This is a grave situation for the Round and for all of the efforts and aspirations it embodies. It is our reality, however, and we must face it squarely in order to try to find a way forward together.

In the numerous consultations I have had in the last two weeks I sensed an overall commitment to the aims of the Round. I also sensed a desire to work to find a way out of the current impasse, although at the moment there is little clarity about what this might be. There is recognition that it cannot just be “business as usual”. There is also a sense that the answer cannot simply be to “stop and reboot”, since the issues to be addressed in any new Round would necessarily bring us back to the issue which is blocking progress today. We therefore need to reflect actively together as to the next steps.

This process must be approached in a constructive and co-operative spirit. We must work together to preserve the multilateral trading system which has repeatedly proved its worth in the recent economic crisis. Our duty is not only to maintain it as a set of effective rules and agreements but also to reaffirm and reinvigorate its negotiating vocation.

The current WTO rules were last updated in 1995. Since then the world of trade has moved on. As integral pillars of the multilateral trading architecture, our surveillance and dispute settlement system keep serving the membership, but given their distinct mandate, they cannot replace the legislature, ie the membership. For the WTO to remain efficient, our disciplines need updating for trade today as well as for the next generation.

As the guardian of the WTO system, to all of you in Geneva and capitals I say, use the next days to reflect on our situation. Think hard about the consequences of throwing away ten years of solid multilateral work. Work at home to build support for trade opening. Use the upcoming weeks to talk to each other and build bridges. We will be meeting on 29 April to begin our collective consideration of the next steps, seeking to identify and converge upon a way forward which preserves the objectives and values of the Doha mandate.

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