USTR - Remarks by USTR Portman Before the Heads of Delegation Meeting
The Office of the United States Trade Representative

Remarks by USTR Portman Before the Heads of Delegation Meeting
As Prepared 12/18/2005

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you, John, to you, Ambassador Mohammed, and your team for your patience and diligence in getting us to this point. And I believe we all owe a debt of gratitude to the leadership of the Director General and the Secretariat.

The United States team, including the Secretary of Agriculture, came to Hong Kong ready to work with our partners to make tangible progress across the board, from development to agriculture, manufactured goods and services. We are pleased with the strides we have been able to make this week - and hope it creates a platform to make the more difficult decisions - to do the harder work - to meet the Doha promise of economic growth, development gains and a better life for all our citizens.

The United States is not happy with all elements of the declaration - nor is any member as I have heard tonight. However, we want to join together with others tonight in accepting the text. We appreciate the consensus building it represents.

Please allow me to address a few specific concerns:

Regarding agriculture, we join so many other members who have spoken tonight in seeking the necessary breakthrough in market access to permit us to achieve the development goals of the Doha Round. We had hoped to make more progress on reducing agricultural tariffs this week.

But we did make some gains.

On export competition we now have a clear direction. Eliminate all by 2013, but substantial elimination in the first half of the implementation period. This is not the earlier date we had advocated, but it gives us needed certainty and predictability on a commitment we had made in the July 2004 Framework Agreement. We appreciate the willingness of the European Union to agree to this date and thus make this conference more successful.

In market access, we had at least hoped to lock in through the text what we had thought was a growing consensus in one area: where agriculture products are declared sensitive - meaningful market access would be provided through TRQ expansion based on consumption.

With regard to manufactured products, we had hoped the establishment of a firm date would lead to commensurate progress on industrial tariffs - specifically confirmation on the use of a simple Swiss formula with two coefficients under NAMA.

In services, we should accept the declaration as it is now. But we should also be aiming for stronger results and we should resist any efforts to weaken the text.

More ambitious strides in these areas further enhance the potential for economic growth and the creation of new opportunities in the developing world.

On cotton, we worked very hard this week with our African partners to achieve our common goal to create new opportunities for West African cotton producers providing it is in the context of a comprehensive effort on agriculture.

In fact, even while we were here in Hong Kong, we have been pushing hard back home to fulfill the export subsidy commitment as soon as possible and anticipate doing so soon with the elimination of the cotton Step 2 program.

On food aid, instead of trying to limit the "safe box" to emergencies we should be doing everything possible to promote the most flexible flow of food to where it is needed. We think the "safe box" must be expanded to cover both emergencies and the needs of the most vulnerable. Food aid can be the difference between life and death for starving people.

For Least Developed Countries we have worked to help bring them into the global trading system and have worked to flesh out our current commitments to duty free, quota free treatment for goods from these countries.

Many nations showed their commitment to development with new pledges for aid for trade. This will help countries create the administrative and physical infrastructure needed to fully participate in the market openings we hope to achieve in the Doha Round. The U.S. is proud to lead the world in providing aid for trade. This week we announced a pledge to double our contributions from the current level of roughly $1.3 billion a year to $2.7 billion annually over the next five years.

We also formalized a landmark breakthrough in the TRIPS Agreement concerning pharmaceuticals that balances the needs for protecting patient rights and the human need for life-saving medicine.

We all worked hard this week, with respect, courtesy and determination to achieve our common goals. Nerves can sometimes fray with little sleep when 149 countries are working their way through complex and often politically charged issues. But the rules-based multilateral trading system is intact and I think we saw here in Hong Kong the strengthening of a consensus among a diverse group of nations that through trade we can spur development and opportunity.

As we wrap up here in Hong Kong, let's harness this spirit of cooperation and apply it with renewed greater energy to this unique opportunity in front of us to energize the global economy and lift millions of people out of poverty. We need to return to the larger objectives of the Doha Round - expanded market access in agriculture, manufactured goods and services. That is where the real development gains will come from and that is where we still have a lot of work to do. That is how we will fulfill the responsibility that history has placed on us.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.