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Statement By Ambassador Michael Punke to the Trade Negotiations Committee

Statement By Ambassador Michael Punke to the Trade Negotiations Committee

World Trade Organization
November 30, 2010
Geneva, Switzerland

I would like to thank Director General Lamy for his report and to express our support for the process he has laid out. The so-called “cocktail approach” we agreed in March of this year has served us well and we see this latest plan as part of an ongoing adjustment to the ingredients – rather than a change in approach. The key is that we need to intensify our engagement in a variety of formats — with the emphasis on the word “engagement” rather than the word “format”.

We welcome the new emphasis on negotiating groups and Chair-led processes, but at the same time direct engagement among Members will continue to be essential, particularly at the bilateral level. As I have said before, we have made the shift from process discussions to brainstorming. Now it becomes essential to pivot to true negotiating mode. Failure to do so will render meaningless the direction from our Leaders to intensify into a true end game – and will further erode the credibility of this project.

Over the past year, we have heard many reasons why it was not timely to enter into the serious give and take necessary to conclude the negotiations. Today, all those reasons, whether real or imagined, are behind us.

Many have stressed the importance of political signals, particularly from Leaders gatherings such as the G20 and APEC Leaders meetings. Some went the next step and suggested what particular messages needed to be conveyed. The signals from the G20 and the APEC Leaders meeting were clear and the content reflected those very messages that the broader membership here called for.

But as we’ve all know all along, whether we will succeed or not all comes down to what we do right here in Geneva. It is our job to translate words into actions. We should start by avoiding repeating past mistakes. In order to develop revised texts we must negotiate with one another and not look to the Chairs – or other exogenous messiahs – to resolve disagreements by handing down answers from above. In a similar vein, while we fully agree that we must proceed with a sense of urgency, deadlines have not yielded results.

In the final analysis, substance trumps process. We need a readiness, without preconditions, to explore options for closing gaps. We need an ambitious and balanced outcome that opens markets, providing new opportunities for growth and development.

We also need – and this is of course the trickiest part of our work – to negotiate our way to solutions that will enable all of us to sell a final DDA outcome in our domestic political processes, as the G20 leaders pledged to do. We all need to be as forthright as possible about what it will take for each of us to make that case, and the United States will continue to do so.

In the past and again today, I have heard some say that the U.S. approach needs to be more “realistic” in its expectations for the Round. But we hold a different perspective on realism in Doha. What is not realistic is the notion that a few of the world’s most powerful trading nations can play by a set of rules that gives them largely unfettered access to global markets – without giving appropriate reciprocity in return.

That is not the basis for a sustainable trading system. And it cannot be the outcome of this Round. Next year has been described as a window of opportunity. But if we are to seize this opportunity we must make full use of this year to lay the necessary groundwork.

In this connection, we welcome that Chairs are already increasing the pace of work. We need to head into the new year with a spirit of determination to get the job done, understanding that this will require us to get into the give and take of real negotiations on solutions to the hard issues that have eluded us thus far.

The United States is ready, willing, and able to negotiate and we look forward to working with our negotiating partners to conclude a package that is truly worthy of this once in a generation opportunity.