Statement by Ambassador Peter Allgeier at the WTO General Council

Ambassador Peter F. Allgeier
U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization

Geneva,
May 26, 2009

I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome the new ambassadors here today; we look forward to working with all of you. We also thank the Director General for his report as Chairman of the TNC.

I had not planned to speak under this agenda item but wanted to react to some of the statements made by Members and to express confusion over the use of two terms fundamental to our work–“modalities” and “mandate”.

I agree with the EC’s statement that modalities are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. This is even more true for specific modalities. The formula is not the only modality. I’d like to remind Members to what we agreed on five years ago as part of the July 2004 Framework. We agreed to multiple modalities with respect to tariff reduction, including sectorals and request-offer. Where does it say that modalities precludes Members from knowing what’s on the table and what’s not on the table? This would be a rather odd way to get to a conclusion.

We need to look pragmatically at how we get to the finish line. This doesn’t mean ignoring or dismissing progress we’ve made, but nor does it mean rigidly refusing to see if some modification of envisioned negotiating paths would be a more certain and effective path to get us there. We are not making any specific proposals today, but we would like to express our eagerness to engage with other Members on how to get to the final stage of negotiations sooner rather than later.

On the mandate, there have been lots of discussion about not changing the mandate. We agree with that. The United States is not proposing a change in the mandate, but we’d like to remind Members that a fundamental principle of the mandate is the Single Undertaking. We don’t see any need at this point to change that part of the mandate.

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