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Ambassador Punke: DOHA Negotiators Must Seriously Deepen the Level of Engagement
March 8, 2011

Statement by U.S. Delegation at World Trade Negotiation Committee Meeting

March 8, 2011

Ambassador Michael Punke

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative


U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization

As Delivered

Thank you Mr. Chairman for your comprehensive review of negotiations. We agree with the contours of the lay of the land as you described it.

We are clearly at a critical juncture in the negotiations.  While some are focusing on various mileposts in the months to come, I believe that our most important focus has to be on the here and now –the immediate tasks at hand today.

The end game is now – one way or the other. We must act with the sense of urgency that this requires.

While our level of worry is growing, there continue to be glimmers of hope.

In the case of NAMA, we are encouraged by the constructive engagement from many of the Members we have met with and talked with over the past several weeks on sectorals and the product basket approach. We believe that we can jointly develop a modality that can achieve an ambitious outcome, that also addresses Member’s sensitivities, and that is mutually beneficial for all participants.

In the case of services, a few weeks ago we participated in a useful initial exchange among a group of 30 services delegations, roughly equivalent to the Signalling Conference participants, on key areas of importance to an acceptable services outcome. This meeting began to examine in greater detail Members’ sensitivities. It also provided an opportunity to explore possible flexible approaches that could lead to improved offers in sectors and modes of supply for many Members. We look forward to participating in another meeting of this group next week, along with a number of plurilateral and bilateral meetings.

In the case of agriculture, we take encouragement from the constructive engagement among Members seeking to clarify various parts of the draft text. A number of issues remain to gain a meaningful understanding of the actual calculations and implications of the Rev.4 draft text. Preparatory work in various configurations and established groups has been a quite valuable to ensure that the clarification process takes on board Members’ views. This practical and meaningful engagement now from Members provides encouragement.

A common element of all of these hopeful signs is that they are part of Member-led, bottom-up processes.

While we welcome these positive signs, I think all of us would agree that there remains significant cause for concern.

Time is not our ally. In November, our Leaders described what was already a “narrow” window of opportunity and with each passing day this window narrows further.

Likewise, there remain sizable substantive gaps that must be bridged if we are to succeed.

We will not succeed unless we pick up and the pace and, most importantly, seriously deepen the level of engagement.

Now is the time for serious discussions of possible gives and takes on a “what if” basis. As my colleagues know, the United States’ view is that much of this work can only happen successfully in the context of bilateral negotiations.

At the General Council two weeks ago, I heard very clearly that many Members have grown impatient with the pace of work among the larger players.

We share that impatience.

We fully understand that the major players carry a special responsibility and that successful engagement among us will be a necessary, though not sufficient, requirement for success.

All Members are full partners in this negotiation and must remain engaged.

We need to be creative in trying out different formats for bringing together Members to work through issues including bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral approaches.

We have seen some of that creativity already but more is needed – both in form and substance.

For instance, to build successful NAMA sectorals, all interested Members need to participate in collaborative and informal discussions at a product specific level. Such discussions are, of course, without prejudice to any Members’ final decision to participate in a sectoral outcome. We are seeing this type of engagement now from some Members and it gives us reason to be encouraged. Our time is short, however. We hope to intensify our work and to see the same level of engagement from all relevant delegations.

In services, we need to build on the initial exchange among the participants in the informal group to get greater clarity on what the outcome on services may look like – and it will take active engagement on the part of all members of that group to achieve that clarity.

In agriculture there are a host of important and difficult outstanding issues that have been identified and which must be addressed.

In the end, Mr. Chairman, each of us is looking for a balance so that each of us can go home and say that the final deal, while not perfect, is reasonable.

It will require the active involvement of all of us to find that balance.