Statement by U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee
April 7, 2014
Thank you, Roberto. It is good to be here today following an active and useful period of reflection, consultations, and meetings convened by our chairs.
Our task in defining a post-Bali work program is daunting but will offer new opportunities to chalk up results in the Doha negotiations. The United States remains focused on the new opportunities part of the equation, and we welcome the chance to outline today some of our broad perspectives on how we can make progress by the end of this year.
As we move forward, it will help all of us to remember the significance and lessons of the Bali Ministerial. We can’t rest on past accomplishments. But we can draw practical inspiration from what we accomplished.
- In Bali we achieved the first new multilateral agreement in the WTO since its creation. The Bali outcome is substantial, but the credibility of the WTO will depend upon our ability to finish what we started, completing the steps necessary to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement, and indeed all elements of our Bali outcomes, so that all can benefit. We’re heartened by the efforts on TFA implementation to date. My sense is that the vast majority of Members are treating their Bali commitments and deadlines seriously.
- Even with the Bali results, the credibility of the WTO’s negotiating arm is tenuous at best. This is why it is essential that we meet the modest deadlines established in Bali, in order to ensure our capitals and stakeholders will remain engaged in the WTO’s next steps.
- We know, of course, that targeted, practical technical assistance is a key part of the equation of successful implementation of the TFA. In this context, the United States is pleased with the successful engagement we have already undertaken with Members such as Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Macedonia, Tunisia, Morocco, the Philippines, and a number of Central American countries. The United States stands ready to engage directly with any interested Member. We’re encouraged that many Members already are reaping the benefits of moving forward.
- The parameters that the DG laid out in the first post-Bali TNC—development, doability, balance, creativity, inclusiveness and transparency, and urgency—reflect exactly the factors that led us to success in Bali. If we abandon these tenets and return to the stale debates and impasse that prevailed prior to MC8, we certainly will fail. The inescapable reality is that, while we have been negotiating the Doha Round, time has passed, and the world has changed. The term “recently acceded,” for example, had a different context in 2001—or even 2008—than it has today, years later. We can pretend otherwise, but it won’t help us to solve problems.
We welcome the DG’s ongoing efforts to move us forward, and I am pleased that President Obama was able to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the WTO’s work when Roberto recently visited Washington.
It has also been useful to reconvene the dormant negotiating groups. For us, those meetings have involved listening as well as speaking. They have been inclusive and instructive. But let’s recognize that the frequency and number of meetings in coming months will not be the most reliable indicator of prospects for future success. What we need most are new ideas and an ability to break away from engagement modes that have simply not been successful. Rather than opportunities to repeat rehearsed narratives, we need creativity and a spirit of pragmatism. We will welcome and give our closest attention to any new idea, from any quarter, that is genuinely motivated by a desire to take us forward.
Let me make a few points to reflect our thinking on the key areas of agriculture, NAMA, and services.
- As we noted in each of these negotiating groups, it is essential that our work in these areas is well-informed by the latest data on trends in trade and barriers to trade. This data must include an accurate picture of agricultural subsidies as they exist today. Agricultural subsidies may be a 20th century issue, but to address this issue in the 21st century, we must understand who is subsidizing today and how. In a global commodities market, no other approach can be effective. We can’t make progress if we’re still looking to the past—sometimes decades in the past—to provide the factual basis for our negotiations. This starts with required and in many cases long-overdue notifications. Members who clamor for progress in Doha but fail to meet this basic obligation will have little credibility.
- Furthermore, any impulse to return to previous ways of working, with a rigid focus on the same negotiating texts that failed in the past, will doom our efforts now. This shouldn’t mean that we can’t draw on ideas that may have been circulating at earlier stages of the Doha negotiations. But nor should it mean that we can’t draw on new ideas. Again, pragmatism represents the key.
- In addition, as in Bali, we will also need to continue with a process and a way of working that allows all Members’ contributions to be explored, particularly those who benefit the most from their participation in the global economy.
Balance will be the key to finding a successful path forward. Any deal must be balanced among agriculture, NAMA, and services. It must be balanced within individual pillars, and with regard to individual issues.
As many have reiterated today, this remains a round of negotiations with development at its core. We made deliveries on that at Bali, and we need to follow-through. A post-Bali work program that is broad-based and increases global trade will surely deliver additional development results.
- We are all familiar with the data from WTO economists and other reliable sources, such as the World Bank, that increased integration of more developing countries into the global marketplace offers increases in the value of their trade and resulting increases in jobs and incomes. It is easy to look around this room and point to the dozens of compelling examples of developing countries who have promoted their development through greater integration into the global economy. There are no examples of countries that are succeeding by increasing their isolation.
We all have a profound stake in generating another success in the WTO – in fact, a considerably bigger success than we achieved in Bali. The more that result can increase South-North trade, North-South trade, South-South trade, and yes, even North-North trade, the better for all, particularly those developing countries most in need of increased trade.