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Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the Informal Heads of Delegation Meeting at the WTO

Statement by Ambassador Punke at the Informal Heads of Delegation Meeting at the WTO

Geneva, Switzerland
September 15, 2014

Mr. Chairman, the United States appreciates your frank and sober assessment of the situation we, as the whole of the WTO Membership, currently face. These are historic – and unfortunate -- circumstances.

I will not dwell in detail on the developments leading up to July 31st that placed us in the present situation. We all know well that a small group of WTO Members blocked the adoption of the protocol of amendment for the Trade Facilitation Agreement, despite the clear commitment to a deadline for this, as agreed by all WTO Members at the Bali Ministerial Conference only last December.

These few delegations made clear in the General Council in July that they were not satisfied with the terms of the Bali Package with respect to public stockholding and consequently blocked the TFA ratification process for all Members.

We endorse your plan over the coming weeks to conduct consultations and determine whether circumstances have changed since July. We would welcome any indications that this period of reflection has caused these few Members to reconsider their views.

Indeed, these consultations can be quite focused. Since July, we have heard multiple views from the key Member blocking implementation of the TFA. At times we have heard this Member call for clarification of the duration of the Due Restraint Mechanism with regard to public stockholding policies that might violate pre-existing WTO commitments. At other times we have heard this Member state that the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Protocol must be postponed until a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security is found.

As we consider whether breaking the current deadlock is possible, the simple, threshold question is, which position does this Member hold?

If the issue is one of clarification, the United States is ready – as we were in July -- to clarify ambiguity concerning the duration of the Due Restraint Mechanism, so long as such clarification occurs coincident with adoption of an appropriate protocol of amendment and does not entail a reopening of the Bali package.

However, if the position is to hold the implementation of the TFA hostage until there is a permanent solution to public stockholding, then we and many others would see it as fundamentally rejecting the Bali package. That is untenable, and would have serious ramifications – for Bali, for the post-Bali work program and for the WTO itself.

For our part, assuming WTO Members return to the track of timely implementation, the United States remains ready to continue implementation of all elements of the Bali package, including provisions regarding public stockholding for food security.

Director-General, you were right on July 31st, when you noted that we cannot pretend that we can resume business as usual under current circumstances. As many Members have stated, we cannot see how the post-Bali work, including development of a post-Bali work program, can resume when trust has been devastated by the failure of a few to keep their obligations regarding the first critical Bali milestone. There are many milestones ahead in the Bali Package, but the entire journey will fail if we cannot pass the first.

So we extend our support and commit our best efforts to you, Mr. Chairman, as you consult in the next few weeks. It seems clear that if we have no breakthrough by the end of this finite period, we will then need to start an entirely different discussion, one oriented towards new and more productive ways of accomplishing things within this institution.