USTR - Remarks by USTR Portman at the Closing Press Briefing
Office of the United States Trade Representative


Remarks by USTR Portman at the Closing Press Briefing

Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman
Closing Press Briefing
WTO Ministerial Conference, Hong Kong
December 19, 2005
12:00 AM

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Thank you all for still being here. The hard core is here. It's been a long week, and as I said to some of you this morning, I found out this week that sleep is overrated. The less sleep we got, the better we did. As a result of our sleepless nights and our hard work, we were trying to reach some compromises.

We were able to make some progress this week. I think the news on balance is good. We were able to bring the work of the Ministerial here in Hong Kong to a close with a sense of pride on accomplishments in a number of areas, particularly in development but also making incremental progress in other respects.

I said in my opening remarks that the Doha Development Agenda is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to not just energize the world trading system, but really give a shot in the arm to the global economy and therefore help lift literally millions of people out of poverty. My concern was that given the low expectations for Hong Kong that we might move backwards this week. We did not. We moved forward. And that's the good news. And we moved forward, as I said, in a number of different respects.

I think if you look at what we've accomplished in terms of the developing world, it is primarily making it clear to least developed countries that they have a stake in the success of this round. And this happened in a number of ways, as you know, including the additional commitments on aid for trade and duty-free, quota-free and in specific areas throughout the text. We still have a lot of work to do.

After a needed rest, we need to immediately focus our energy and commitment on advancing the work that has begun here in Hong Kong. This conference made it clear that there is a consensus among countries rich and poor, North and South, large and small, that more open trade is the road to more prosperity. This is an important consensus because there are tough decisions to be made.

We've go to keep in mind that this vision of the peaceful pursuit of commerce and economic opportunity is the critical element to keep us working, to keep us at this as we go into the new year.

Throughout the past few weeks, I've talked a lot about market access, particularly in agriculture, and its importance to achieving a breakthrough in the round. I've got to say I believe that more than ever now. Having spent this week with my colleagues from around the world, I heard repeatedly -- both in private meetings and negotiation sessions and in the public sessions, as you heard again tonight -- of the absolute need for us to let countries know there will be new market access opportunities in agriculture, that tariffs will come down in order for the rest of the round to come together.

It's true that we need to also see progress in other areas -- industrial goods, services -- but in order to see the round come together, we have to unlock the agriculture deadlock. The United States came here a week ago ready to make tough political decisions. We pressed our partners to match our ambition, and we're going to continue to do so. We'll continue to press for making real progress in opening markets and reducing subsidies and doing so in a comprehensive manner.

Even without the breakthrough we hoped for in agriculture market access this week, though, we did agree to eliminate export subsidies by 2013 and remove many of those subsidies well before that. This was an import statement to make. 2010, as you know, is the date that the U.S. had hoped for, the developing world has also hoped for that date, including the Africa group, the G-20 group, the G-90 group, the Cairns group and others. But I think it was more important that we had a date that is certain and predictable than continuing to argue over this issue going into the new year. So, as some of you know, I was willing on behalf of the U.S. to move forward with the date of 2013 because I thought it was important for us to make progress.

And I want to commend the European Union for its willingness to finally set a date. After all, it's been a month and a half - a year and a half since we made the commitment to eliminate export subsidies and it was time to set a date.

In industrial goods and services, we worked with our trade partners to sustain the achievements from July 2004. I believe we accomplished that. While trade is the best development tool we have at our disposal, I'm also pleased that one of the more tangible aspects of this conference was what we achieved in traditional development assistance. As some of you know, a lot of nations showed their commitment to development this week with new pledges for aid. This will help countries create the administrative and physical infrastructure needed to fully participate in global commerce and to take advantage of the market openings that we hope to achieve in the Doha round.

The U.S. already provides more aid for trade than any other country in the world, and we're proud of that. And we agreed to continue that leadership by doubling our commitment to aid for trade from $1.3 billion this year to $2.7 billion annually by 2010.

We also worked hard to, I hope, bring least-developed countries into the global trading system with the commitments to duty-free, quota-free. The United States is already very open to the products from the least-developed countries. In fact, based on the World Bank and IMF studies that are done every year, we are the most open market in the world to the products from least-developed countries. And we'll continue to be.

What we have committed to this week is to even increase the number of products that will come duty-free and quota-free. We excluded no countries. Every country is included in the U.S. proposal that was ultimately adopted this week. We were able to have 97% of tariff lines from all countries include a duty-free, quota-free. For the vast majority of least-developed countries, it will be 100%. But for some limited imports, we will continue to have a tariff in place.

In addition, we were able to formalize the landmark breakthrough in the TRIPS agreement regarding pharmaceuticals that balances the need of protecting patent rights with the need for life-saving medicines. That was an accomplishment that was achieved, really, in Geneva a couple weeks ago but was formalized here.

And then, one issue that didn't get much attention this week that I think is actually quite an accomplishment is an agreement on trade facilitation - basically, the elimination of red tape and additional costs and customs procedures. Two years ago in Cancun, you may remember this was a big stumbling block in the talks. This year, our negotiators in Geneva, coming from a diverse group of countries, were able to present a work product that the ministers adopted at this conference. This is very significant in terms of reducing costs of trade for a lot of developing countries.

The cooperation among a diverse group of countries on these issues underscored something that I had observed throughout the week, which is this long-established notion of the WTO being between the rich countries and the poor countries, or the North and the South, is I think being replaced by a system where countries can work together in pursuit of common objectives. I'll give you a couple of examples.

This week, the U.S. worked in common purpose with countries from Brazil to Zambia on issues such as market access, particularly in agriculture, setting the specific date for export subsidy elimination. We worked closely with the Africa group, the G20 group and others. At other times, we teamed up with India and Chile, for instance, on the services text. And we worked with our traditional partners, the Europeans, and Korea and others on reducing industrial tariffs.

The late nights and lack of sleep sometimes led to nerves being a little frayed. When you've got 150 countries working together on a consensus basis, dealing with some tough political issues back home, sometimes it's amazing to me that we accomplish what we can in the WTO.

But I think we leave this week with the rules-based multilateral trading system in better shape. I think we also continue to again have this consensus that spurring growth through the free-flow of commerce is what the WTO ought to be about.

President Bush has put open trade at the center of his vision for a more prosperous and peaceful world. It was in Glen Eagles where President Bush stood up at the G8 summit and said that we ought to reduce and eliminate subsidies. That was the basis for our proposal we submitted in October that helped reenergize the talks at that time. It continues to be this vision that President Bush has laid out which motivates us and which puts our commitment to the Doha Development Agenda at the center of the President's policies.

We leave here with an undiminished faith in that vision and with high hopes of building on our efforts here in Hong Kong. We think we've established a platform here to build on.

We believe it will take two things to complete the Doha round by the end of next year. One is hard work, and the other is political will. I think this week we proved that we can work hard. I now think we need to muster the necessary political will to get the job done and we need to redouble our efforts quickly given the 2006 timeframe. I'd be pleased to take your questions on any topic.

REPORTER: Tom Mitchell from South China Morning Post. I understand that going into the final meeting some countries were upset with the services text and threatened to give you another night without sleep. What was the issue there? How was the Venezuelan rebellions quelled?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Well there were some concerns about the text. I had a number of conversations with developing countries, not just tonight, but actually over the course of the last couple of days about some of these concerns. We talked about it in the Chairmans' Consultative Group, otherwise known as the Green Room. And the concern was there was a sense that this could become mandatory, that countries would be force to open up their services markets in ways that they felt could harm some of their service industries. And I guess there are two responses to that. One is if you read the text and read it carefully, it does not establish mandatory targets or benchmarks. It does establish a so-called plural-lateral system, classic WTO word that no one in the real world understands, including me until I got this job. But it means basically like-minded countries coming together and agreeing to reduce barriers to particular kinds of services, say telecommunications, so I think part of it was a communication issue just being sure that members understood what was being required in the text and a number of countries ended up accepting the text once they understood that it was not a mandatory requirement but rather one which would be voluntary. Second is, I think there was more information provided this week about the development aspects of services. That to be able to modernize one's economy, studies indicate, as would be sensible, that bringing in services can be extremely helpful. I mentioned telecommunications; another example would be any kind of other infrastructure, including express delivery services, including the ability to have financial services come in, to permit consumers to be able to save and invest more, mortgage systems, insurance, so these are all aspects of services that I think there was a little better appreciation of this week as some of that information was provided that these are ways to, indeed be able to modernize an economy and in some respects be able to take more advantage of the trade openings that might come through the agriculture negotiations and the NAMA negotiations so at the end of the day I think most countries were able to go along with the text.

I don't know specifically what changed Venezuela's mind at the end of the day. I know there was an effort on behalf of the Director General and others to be sure that there was a consensus at the end and we were able to achieve that. There was also a statement I believe made at the plenary session regarding that by Venezuela.

REPORTER: Jerry Hagstrom National Journal's Congress Daily. Good evening. On the duty-free quota-free, the 3% of tariff lines that you have reserved. What products do you intend to protect for the United States? Sugar? A question of sugar in particular? And will cotton be allowed in duty-free quota-free, or may that be not allowed at that point either? AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: We have not made the decisions yet of course and we don't have to yet. We tend to go through the normal process of determining what would be additions to our already very generous duty-free practices with least-developed countries. As you know, about 83% of lines are already duty and I again we intend to offer this to all LDCs.

The sugar question is an interesting one because there we do have a program in place where we think duty free access could create a problem and that's one reason we wanted to have some flexibility. The other major issue I think would be textiles where we still have a domestic industry that has some serious concerns about globally competitive LDCs and their products.

We also heard a lot this week as you all did in the open sessions about countries that are developing countries that currently do not have duty free treatment and would not receive it under this proposal. Now having to compete with LDCs that currently do not have duty free treatment and they're concerned about the loss of jobs and then finally the LDCs themselves who currently do have duty free treatment being concerned about additional LDC exports particularly in the textile area.

Example the United States now imports more than half of the textile and apparel that comes from Least Developed Countries. Over a billion dollars today is duty free, quota free. So we already do provide duty-free and quota free access to a lot of LDC product but not all and there are some countries that are very competitive. They're doing very well in our market. We're glad they're doing well. Bangladesh as I've said before is a significant share of the market now - $2.5 billion last year. US imports some 20% increase. So they're globally competitive and our sense is at the end of the day countries like Bangladesh will receive a benefit from this commitment we made because they'll be additional lines that will be duty free but not all lines will be duty free depending on our analysis.

So Jerry we have not decided yet. We don't need to go through that process yet as you know until 2008 and there'll be a process similar to the ones that set up now under GSP to do that but we think we've left ourselves enough space to be able to deal with sensitive products and deal with any concerns in Congress.

REPORTER: It's quite strange that in this meeting the US and the EU have quite a lot of different opinion in quite a number of issues. Is it because of the so-called bottom up system in this meeting or the rising of the power of the developing country and the LDC? What is your comment on the Chinese government role in this meeting?

PORTMAN: First of all we agree with the European Union on a number of different issues but we don't agree with them on all issues as I said earlier it's not their traditional breakdown of developed countries vs developing countries. United States has made a decision that we will commit to reforming agriculture trade globally. This happens to be the core issue in Doha as you heard again and again this week. And we've made a specific commitment to reduce our trade distorting subsidies substantially and eventually eliminate them. And then we made a decision to substantially reduce tariffs as part of that so additional market access which again is critical to so many developing countries and then finally to eliminate export subsidies and there we have a difference of opinion with the more protected agriculture markets in the world including the European Union.

So that's really the area where we have some differences. They are honest policy differences. They are based on our sense that the Doha round should provide market access in agriculture because it's the best way based on analysis to provide real development gains. Most developing countries believe agriculture is an area where they have a comparative advantage in. It's the single largest employer in developing countries. It's critical to their exports so we think it's the right thing to do. We also believe it's critical to getting progress in the other areas to the extent you have a more bottom up approach as we do now in the WTO as you indicate it's not possible for the United States, the European Union or any other trading bloc or country to be able to dictate the terms. It's going to come from the membership. And the membership in the WTO cares deeply about agriculture. That's where the highest tariffs are. It's where the highest trade distorting support is and it's where the most development gains can be found.

China's role. China was active in the meetings including the "Green room". I was with the Chinese delegation until all hours the last few nights and I think their participation was constructive and appropriate. I do think China has a role to play in the WTO because of the benefits they currently receive from the global trading system. And I believe they took on those responsibilities this week. Ultimately the responsibilities that we all take on at the end of the round will be the way we measure the extent we have contributed.

REPORTER: Today on the final day of the Ministerial conference how hard the US push to try to secure that Swiss Formula in the NAMA talks with two coefficients and what do you think you can do between now and April 30 to get a Swiss Formula with two coefficients locked in for modalities?

PORTMAN: We made some progress there as you know. The language doesn't preclude a Swiss Formula with two coefficients. It's a Swiss with coefficients but doesn't designate whether it be two or more than two. So we think the overwhelming majority of countries do support the Swiss Formula which simply means you reduce highest tariffs the most. It's sort of a harmonizing or so called non-linear formula but it's just a mathematical formula. There's no real magic to it except that it's consistent where most countries are so we think we'll get there eventually.

In terms of the coefficients for a while the EU was talking about one coefficient. We've now shifted to two coefficients which is what we supported previously which is one coefficient for one developing countries and one for developed so you would have some differential in terms of the commitment on reducing tariffs but there would still be a commitment that everybody would take on. And particularly in reducing again highest tariffs the most so I'm pretty pleased with the language. We would have liked to have gone further as you know and I expressed that today in the Heads of Delegation meeting. But I don't think we went backwards I just don't think we went forward as much as we could have.

How do we get there? It's very simple. Agriculture. Maybe my calculation is wrong but I just don't see us as being able to make progress in NAMA and Services unless those countries who care most about agriculture see that have true benefits in this round and they've indicated if so they'd be willing to make what they view as some trade offs in the area of NAMA and Services. That's how it comes together. That's the ultimate bargain in my view.

REPORTER: Some of the African nations were saying although there was a clear promise on export subsidies that they only constitute a very small part of the reasons why they can't get a good price for their cotton. And the far bigger issue is the domestic subsidies which have not been...there's no commitment there in clear terms in this paper. They also say the aid package on this issue is a short-term fix rather than a long term solution. How do you respond to those sorts of comments and on the main issue of domestic subsidies - why is there any reason to think there will be progress early next year when you couldn't achieve progress this time around?

PORTMAN: First of all I was very pleased that we were able to come to a resolution on the cotton issue and I applaud our friends and our partners in West Africa for working closely with us. We agree with them. We all want to reduce subsidies and eventually eliminate subsides. That's our proposal and the only question was whether we'd do it in the context of the agriculture negotiations or pull cotton out separately and our view was the most effective way to get it done is to keep it with the rest of agriculture. We're also able to meet their concerns as you know in a few other areas and we made some significant commitments this week in export support which is significant issue to them although not as big an impact in their view as domestic support. Still important. That was 2006. I'm hoping we can do that sooner. I'm hoping we can do that in the next couple of weeks here with the Step 2 program possibly being up for a repeal in Congress which is something we've been pushing really hard even from Hong Kong. Lobbying on that.

And then market access, they asked for duty-free access. We have provided that. Some have said that doesn't do much. It will help and it was their request. And then finally with regard to assistance, we've very targeted assistance on the area of productivity and efficiency.

As you know, I've talked a lot about that this week, and I think we would be missing a huge opportunity by not just having the United States, but also other countries help with regard to making sure the West Africa cotton farmer is more productive.

If we don't do that, then all the subsidy reduction in the world is not going to solve the problem. The studies - and there are 11 of them out there we've analyzed, that we know of - show that the impact on cotton prices by the U.S. subsidy programs is somewhere between 2-12%. The World Food Program study and the IMF study both show it's about 2%. Two percent. Is that important? Yes, it is. We agree with them, and we've made commitments to work with them on eliminating the subsidies. We'd like to do that tomorrow, if we could. We need a little help from the Europeans and others on market access to be able to put a package together that makes sense to get through our political system.

But it's not going to solve the problem. And I think it would be very irresponsible to tell the poor farmers in West Africa that the U.S. subsidy program elimination is going to solve the problem, because it won't. Their yields are half the yields of other cotton farmers around the world, less than half of U.S. cotton farmers. The marketing system is antiquated. It's a monopoly, and it doesn't permit the revenue to come back to the farmer that the farmer deserves. I think in the U.S. the average is something like 80%, 80 cents of every dollar of revenue comes back to the farmer. In their system, it's about 40 cents.

So these are problems that must be dealt with and grappled with. And the U.S. has stepped up to the plate to help already through specific initiatives to deal with everything from production to marketing of cotton. And we want to do more there, and other countries ought to help as well because other countries that are very productive in cotton and many are represented here in the WTO, including countries like Australia, countries like Brazil, have expressed a willingness to help.

In terms of market access, the United States is not the most logical market for West African cotton. It would be, frankly, some of the bigger developing countries. They should help. China was mentioned earlier - largest market in the world for cotton, largest purchaser.

So there's a mix, I think, if we're really interested in helping the West African cotton farmer, which the United States is. It will include the subsidies but also some of these other factors, which will ultimately provide the kind of help to the West African cotton farmer that is needed.

QUESTION: Washington Tariff and Trade Letter: I know that I and my colleagues are standing between you and a good night's sleep, so I apologize and also thank you for your forbearance.

Earlier, during his exit presentation, Mr. Lamy said that this conference has firmly tilted the WTO towards the developing countries. My first question is whether or not you agree with that. And secondly, during the week as we listened to these developing countries, it seems that their agenda is S&D, wide flexibilities and cutting tariffs and opening markets, special treatment on services and NAMA and agriculture. So how do you foresee reconciling an agenda that is so adverse to opening trade to the traditional mission of the WTO and the GATT, which was opening trade across the board for all countries and all products?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: I think it's a fair question. I don't disagree with the director general. I think we made a lot of progress, as I said, on development this week. Some of it was LDC-specific; some of it was broader. The aid for trade package, for instance, is for developing countries generally, not just LDCs.

There is no inconsistency, at least with regard to U.S. interests and U.S. farm export interests, between us and the G90 or the African group and others, who have been terrific in promoting market access because it's in their interest. It's also in our interest.

So in terms of putting together a package that works for the American farmer and rancher, you know, we're on our way to something that is really significant. In terms of the other areas - industrial products and services, you mentioned - I don't necessarily agree with you that we're going in reverse of what the WTO has done traditionally. Any special and differential treatment would be because of a market opening. In other words, it assumes there's going to be a reduction in tariff, and the question is whether it will be differential, whether it will be more for developed countries than it will be for developing countries. So it does assume market openings. And I think that's significant and shouldn't be forgotten in terms of the S&D treatment that is provided throughout the various core negotiating areas. Thanks.

QUESTION: PBS: Ambassador, what's going to be the effect of what you've accomplished here on the U.S. trade deficit?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Well, the obvious effect is, if we can get this agreement across the finish line, more exports. The U.S. is a very open economy, as I said earlier, not just to least-developed countries but to everyone. We are running big trade deficits in part because our U.S. economy is doing so well relative to other economies right now. We have a high consumer demand, we are the envy of the industrialized world right now with over 4% growth last quarter, with 5% unemployment, and with a booming consumer demand. It's a good place to do business.

Second is our savings rate tends to be relatively low, and other countries are saving more, and we're spending more. So those are macroeconomic issues that aren't going to be solved by a Doha round.

But the third reason is the fact that we are open in terms of our tariffs. Our average tariff on industrial products is 3%. The world average is 30%. On agricultural products, our average tariff is 12%. The world average is 62%.

So at the end of the day, what will the WTO do? It will reduce higher tariffs more. It will harmonize tariffs so that the United States, not having a lot to reduce in terms of industrial tariffs in the first place, we'll see that our tariffs will be reduced relatively less and other countries relatively more. So that will be beneficial to our exports, which will help in terms of the trade deficit.

I'm not suggesting what we are doing here this week is going to be the magic wand that Pascal Lamy had out that first day to solve the trade deficit problem. There are other, bigger macroeconomic issues like the consumer demand and like the savings rate that are probably more important than tariffs. But to the extent that we can reduce barriers in this round - and we will, the question is how much - it will have a beneficial impact on the U.S. trade deficit.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: BBC News: Ambassador Portman, could you address the political difficulties that you might have at home in selling the sort of trade deal that's emerging. How difficult do you think it will be to get it through Congress and what will you need to accomplish in the next six months to a year to make it acceptable at home given the difficulty there has been in recent years in getting any trade deals through Congress?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Good question. I think two things. One, we sometimes forget, this deal all comes together at the end. So, for instance, the undertakings we've made this week - with very few exceptions - would not come to pass unless there is an ultimate agreement. An exception would be aid for trade, which we've now made the commitment to and it's not conditioned upon the Doha round coming to a successful conclusion. But the other agreements, if you think about it, for the most part are contingent upon that and tied to it. So the answer would be, it depends what it looks like at the end of the day.

A second is the answer I just gave the gentleman who asked about the impact about the deficit. From a U.S. point of view, because we have chosen to be a relatively open market - and by the way, we've benefited greatly from that. Again, you look at our economic success today, it's in part due to the fact that we are so open and we believe in trade and its efficiencies and the comparative advantage of trade. So anything that reduces barriers globally, including in developing countries as well as developed countries, will be a beneficial to U.S. exporters. And, you know, it will be something that from a political point of view should be sale-able.

So that's not something I have a deep concern about at this point. We'll see how the round goes. It's really just a question of how beneficial it will be, not just for our economy but for the global economy and then for development. When President Bush laid out this vision of a world without tariffs and subsidies, he did so because he really believes that results in more opportunity for all citizens, and the ability to pull literally millions of people out of abject poverty. That is the potential opportunity we have here.

If we can keep our focus on high ambition, if we can again keep our focus on what the economic studies are showing -- which is by reducing barriers we can truly have development gains -- trade can be win-win, which is the wonderful thing about it. You know, because it is beneficial to the manufacturers or service providers in the U.S., doesn't mean it's not beneficial also to the developing world. In fact, if it's done in a way in which we've envisioned under Doha, it will be beneficial to each and will increase overall global economic growth in a way that truly benefits all citizens.

QUESTION: Canberra Times: You were - earlier on when you were talking about the two things which were needed in success in these negotiations, you referred to hard work, which you were certain about, but you seemed to draw a subtle distinction between that and the political will which you said was needed. If I could put -

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: You picked that up.

QUESTION (continues): If I could put that in the context of Europe and the European Union and the difficulties to which you've alluded, I was wondering one, whether there were any specific aspects of the negotiations between now and particularly the end of April which will be a challenge for the United States vis à vis Europe? And secondly, what has been the relationship and the working relationship between Australia and the United States in these general negotiations?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Good question, and I do think that's the ultimate challenge we have, is whether we have the political will to make the tough decisions. We work very closely with Australia, as you know, on a wide range of issues ranging from services and NAMA all the way to agriculture. We really have a very common interest. Agriculture's an issue that we have a common interest in because Australia's a major exporter, and a very competitive exporter. And we both believe in the power of markets and the fact that market opening ought to be core to this round. So there Australia and the Africa group and G90 countries, G20 and Cairns and so on are pretty much focused on the same thing.

With regard to Europe, I don't want to speak for them, although I do from time to time. But I think there are obvious challenges. How do they open up their protected agriculture market in a way that is consistent with the requirement under Doha? Remember, Doha is a substantial improvement in market access. That's what we've committed to. So they've got to meet that requirement. It's not our requirement. It's not the G20 requirement. It's the requirement of Doha. And at the same time, we've seen some benefits to their service providers and their manufacturers, and I think this can happen. I think the bargain is there.

Two quick questions, or three quick questions here, and then someone else has the room, I'm just told. Fire away.

QUESTION: Thanks. Dow Jones: Pascal Lamy told us a few moments ago that although there is this April deadline for setting the modalities, he wasn't at all sure that it would work out that way, trade talks being what they are. What do you see as the chances that we'll come back on time with something to show for it in April? And if not, what then?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: I think your changes are much better after this week. 150 ministers came together and had a good chance to compare notes. We now have a better sense of where everyone is coming from, what their political concerns are back home. We've identified the issues. We've position ourselves to be able to make progress, as I said. I think we've created the platform for progress. So I think we can do it. I don't think there is a whole lot of mystery about what we have to do. I think it's just a matter of making the trade offs and making the tough political decisions.

Quickly on timing and go to the next question to relinquish the room. But recall that from the U.S. point of view, we really are focused on getting this done by the end of the year, the end of 2006, which means letting it slip beyond April would be a problem.

QUESTION (follow on): But Brussels has just put into place this budget for the next seven years, and certainly Commissioner Fischer-Boel was telling us she thinks that's where they are for now. So can they move over the four months to help you get to where you need to be?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Well, I think the budget was relatively positive from [inaudible] because who's a relatively reform-minded budget as I am told. So I think that could actually helpful to move the process forward. Second is, you know, we all have our mandates. Sometimes we need to stretch those mandates to do the right thing.

QUESTION: Just one simple question. Have you complicated the coming negotiations through this declaration by having this proportionality between agriculture and market access? And having a deadline of 31 April (sic) in which if you don't reach modalities in agriculture, how can you determine the proportionality in NAMA?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: Well, you're right, we've sort of set ourselves up for a potential challenge there, but I've been very supportive of creating this proportionality between agriculture and industrial tariffs. Why? Because as I said earlier, I think that's the key to unlocking this round. I would add services to the mix as well, although there there's not an explicit formula, so it's more difficult to find the comparison. But I think it's the obvious bargain to be made, is that countries that have a concern about opening up their markets too much on the industrial side will see a big advantage on the agriculture side, most of them. The converse is true for countries like the European Union. So I think it was an interesting and wise addition to the text and may in the end give us the incentive to be able to achieve the Doha promise. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: China Post: I was wondering if you could identify any positive and/or negative effects from bringing NGOs outside, basically bringing them right into the conference? And also, the minister of economic affairs of Chinese Taipei had basically accused China pressuring the apparatus to keep the 13th largest trade country by volume out of certain discussions. I was wondering if you had any feedback on that?

AMBASSADOR PORTMAN: I think on the NGOs, I think it was helpful. I had good meetings with some NGOs, and I think that was - and I'm not saying that couldn't have happened had they been outside the conference center. We could have had meetings at hotels, but it's just - I think it was helpful to have NGOs present. I think for them to see what we're up to is a good thing. The transparency helps. I think some of them are surprised, frankly, to hear countries like the United States again, as I said earlier, aligning ourselves with some of the least-developed countries and others, particularly in agriculture. And I think, you know, the U.S. commitment to reduce our trade-distorting subsidies is something that many NGOs find very interesting, and we had some good discussions about that. They need to help us get there by providing the match, which is market access. And I think they understand that.

So I thought that was good. I don't know about the Chinese Taipei, the issues there. I'm sorry, I just - I saw my colleague, I think she was there tonight at the heads of delegation meeting. But I just don't know enough about that. Thank you all very much. Have a great holiday.

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