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Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee
July 31, 2015
*For the Record*
Thanks, Director General. Thank you for your report on the state of Doha negotiations, and we also appreciate the reports from all of the negotiating group chairs. They are, of course, quite sobering. But we all need to hear the unvarnished reality of our situation today.
Our statement will be brief. After seven months of extensive engagement and sometimes intense debate, each of our positions is well known to each other, and need not be repeated today.
Like others, we are disappointed at the collective failure to produce a Post Bali Work Program by today’s deadline. And we recall that today’s deadline is itself an extension of the original deadline of December 31, 2014.
The December 31, 2014 deadline was set after the success at Bali in December of 2013, when there was some hope that we might return to the core Doha agenda and make progress. Prior to that, at MC8 in December 2011, Ministers had temporarily set aside the core agenda, after declaring that the DDA was “at an impasse.“
Before that, of course, was the deadlock of Geneva in 2008, and before that, the deadlock of Cancun in 2003.
Much has changed since Doha was launched in 2001. What has not changed, unfortunately, is our inability to find consensus on the agenda laid out in Doha. We have had many mandates over the years, but none of them has led to agreement. In an institution based on consensus, we disagree fundamentally on how to move forward.
All of us are grappling with the question, “What will happen in the fall?” All of us remain stubbornly hopeful that the first ministerial conference hosted in sub-Saharan Africa can be a success. Certainly one area in which we must succeed is in finding meaningful outcomes for the LDCs.
One thing that all of us certainly must know is that the sure path to failure is to continue in September the dialogue that has characterized the past seven months. And as many have noted, failure in Nairobi will have inevitable consequences both for the Doha Round and for the institution of the WTO.
If we want success in Nairobi, and success in the Doha Round, the fall will need to be a season, not for debating, but for deciding. The basic contours of “doable” outcomes are quite clear, and have been for months. Likewise, we all have a clear sense of what is not doable, even if it is hard to admit. Of course, each Member of the WTO will make its own decision about whether or not the outcomes are sufficiently meaningful to accept a deal. But the moment for making that decision can no longer be avoided.
We all claim to value the WTO as an institution. If we do, we will take the hard decisions necessary to prevent the institution from sleepwalking into the second half of a second decade of deadlock. We can do better than that. This institution can do better than that.
The United States will continue to play its traditional leadership role in this institution. We stand by our clear track record – including at Bali, in November of last year, and as recently as last week in pushing the ITA deal across the finish line. But leadership, to us, does not mean the rote repetition of reassuring but hollow platitudes. We are ready, and we urge others to be ready, to make tough decisions and then deal directly with the consequences.