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U.S. Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee

U.S. Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee

Geneva, Switzerland
April 27, 2015

*For the Record*

"I want to thank the Director General and the Chairs for their reports – and their work. I will be relatively brief today, as it seems that we’re at a moment meant for reflection rather than extended speechmaking.

"As has been made clear by this morning’s reports, we are, collectively, in a very difficult spot.

"The effort for recalibration that reality dictates, and which most Members acknowledge as necessary, is proving every bit as challenging as other modes and mechanisms we have tried in the past.

"Nonetheless, recalibration has been happening.  Like others, the United States is deeply disappointed that its original aspirations for the Round have not been realized.  We have consistently believed that we had a real opportunity, from 2001 forward, to bring about significant, new liberalization that would advance the economic development prospects of all Members, particularly developing Members.  That opportunity, if not completely evaporated, has certainly been extensively eroded.

"So our expectations have taken a big fall.  Nevertheless, in order to arrive at a work program that reflects balance and at least some acceptable degree of ambition, there are still some things we expect that we know are difficult for certain of our counterparts.

"We know that our insistence that all major agricultural subsidizers participate in taking on new disciplines for trade-distorting support is difficult for certain other Members.  We know, as well, that some other Members do not want to hear that it cannot be acceptable for only some Members to contribute cuts in applied tariffs while others contribute only policy space.

"We know that many Members are deeply attached to the texts known as Rev 3 and Rev 4.  We find this misguided, since those texts never found consensus.  And indeed, the very reasons that prevented consensus in 2008 have grown more profound in the seven years since, namely the changed role of emerging economies. 

"We hear frequent references to the mandate.  But of course, if finding a solution were as simple as adhering to the mandate, we would have done so a decade ago.  The truth is that the mandate is ambiguous, and we have never agreed on what it means. We certainly have not agreed how to operationalize the mandate as an actual trade agreement. Some of those who cite the mandate most seem always to skip over the parts they don’t like, including the guidance from 2011’s MC8, when all of our Ministers directed us to “explore different negotiating approaches.”     

"So, we are all finding that recalibration may not be as easy as we would have liked, in that it doesn’t do away with a constellation of conflicting political and policy difficulties that are simply extremely hard to reconcile.

"We do not discount the political difficulties being voiced by a number of our negotiating partners.  Indeed, we take them at face value.

"The great difficultly, of course, is that taken together, and combined with the reality that the United States and others will not contribute disproportionately to results, as seems to be expected by some, we are left with a set of conflicts that appears very challenging to resolve.

"We have been honest and direct with our capital and with our stakeholders.  We hope that others are doing the same. 

"We cannot bury our head in the sand and wish reality away, and in April 2015, our choice is clear:  either we adapt our collective expectations significantly and quickly, or the WTO must begin to confront the prospect of a definitive failure.

"At this juncture, 3 months from the end of July and 8 months from December, we still have time – just barely – to adapt our work to reality. 

"We should not delude ourselves, however, in believing that the world’s patience for the Doha Round is without limits.  If we do not have results at Nairobi, many outside Geneva are likely to disregard this institution as a forum for problem-solving.  This would squander the momentum and good will that we all worked so hard to achieve in Bali and the year after.

"Over the coming few weeks we will be reflecting carefully on this assessment, and looking for opportunities to engage with our partners and to explore productive options under these difficult circumstances.

"Director-General, we appreciate your role in encouraging all of us today, even in the face of obvious difficulties. You are right to remind us of the difficulties we overcame—against the odds—before and after Bali.

"The United States will continue to work creatively. But we will insist that our conversation take place in the real world. The future credibility of this institution is at stake, and the clock is ticking."