Office of the United States Trade Representative


Remarks to the General Council WTO by USTR Rob Portman
Geneva, Switzerland 07/29/2005

Thank you, Ambassador Mohamed, for allowing me to address the General Council.

I wanted just briefly to reinforce the message that I asked Ambassador Allgeier to convey yesterday regarding our U.S. commitment to the DDA negotiations.  That support comes from the highest level.

President Bush is an ardent supporter of the Doha Agenda, as I know Dr. Supachai saw first hand at the G-8 meeting in Gleneagles.  He’s challenged us to be bold and visionary, and to ensure that we don’t miss the opportunity to have trade make its important contribution to global growth and development. 

The key is creating new opportunities and demonstrating to our citizens that enhanced trade can make a significant, positive difference in their lives. This is true for the United States, but also for our developing country partners as well.  That’s why we all are seeking to ensure that the Round results in new opportunities for the products and services of developing countries.

For the United States, the momentum is positive, but trade is not an easy issue at home these days: 

o       earlier this spring, the Congress reviewed and determined that it was important for us to remain in the WTO because a rules-based system is essential not only for our economic and strategic interests but also for global economic prosperity, growth and the alleviation of poverty;

o       the President received approval of a short extension of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), enabling us to negotiate a completed DDA agreement by the end of 2006 for Congressional approval;

o       Secretary Johanns is beginning his work on agricultural reform and renewal of U.S. Farm legislation .   This fits well with our common goal for Hong Kong to secure modalities for agriculture; and

o       Passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) early yesterday morning by the House of Representatives and today by the full Congress was extremely significant.  The agreement is important in itself, but it is fundamentally related to making progress here in the WTO and advancing our broader trade liberalization agenda.

We have high ambitions for all areas of Doha – starting with agriculture.  We have made clear that we are ready to explore different approaches that can bring the DDA together and deliver real results in all three pillars. 

I understand that discussions yesterday confirmed yet again that market access in agriculture is the major sticking point in the negotiations.  It is behind the other areas of the agriculture negotiations, and we can see that it is holding up progress not only in the rest of agriculture, but in NAMA and services as well. 

We have also listened carefully to the particular concerns and sensitivities that have been raised by our developing country partners in the negotiations.  We are prepared to work with these Members to address their concerns in ways that build upon and strengthen the rules based system that is so vital to us all.

We need to be ambitious in all areas of the negotiations if we are to meet our goal to complete negotiations in 2006.

My purpose in coming to Geneva was to meet with Ministers and Ambassadors and WTO Officials and to see first hand how to overcome the blockages we face, how to make progress and to ensure that we all keep uppermost in our minds what the potential gains of a successful round can be for our workers, farmers, service providers and consumers.

All of us here have a calling. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.  Our calling is to improve the lives of our citizens and the global economy by succeeding with Doha. We all need to do a better job of keeping focused on the gains that can be realized through trade liberalization – and in meeting the adjustment challenges that we will all face as that process goes forward. 

The United States played a leadership role in launching these negotiations.  We will continue to show leadership in trying to bring them to a successful conclusion.  We are ready to be bold and creative, and to bridge differences.  But this must be a shared endeavor of the entire WTO Membership.

I hope we will all use the summer wisely to find creative ways to build bridges so that we can meet the substantial challenges ahead of us and deliver the results that are needed in Hong Kong to finish these negotiations in 2006.

Thank you, again, Madame Chair, and congratulations again on your stewardship of the General Council. 

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