Statement of Ambassador Michael Punke
U.S. Permanent Representative to the WTO
Trade Negotiations Committee
June 22, 2011
Thank you, Director General.
I would like to start by thanking you for your report and observations.
We have participated actively in the DG’s consultations and had the benefit of talking with a number of Members. These conversations have been helpful in better understanding our different perspectives.
At the last TNC, we attempted to be clear and honest in explaining our viewpoint on the current stage in our negotiations. In particular, we made clear that in looking forward to a possible package for December, it is essential that all major players make a major contribution.
In this regard, we continue to be concerned that some are quite willing to support a package that asks little or nothing of them — but are quick to find difficulties with any result that would require them to contribute. That is not a formula for a successful outcome.
Since the last TNC, we have been asked to clarify our expectations for areas in which we are seeking a December result. We have done so. And where we have put ideas on the table, we have taken care not to suggest what others might consider to be maximalist positions.
We, in turn, have been open to consider proposals from other delegations.
The good news is that we have found some who are willing to consider ideas, even in areas that are sensitive to them.
The bad news is that there are others who have not shown such willingness thus far.
Even on issues of particular importance to LDCs, such as cotton, we hear an insistence on carve-outs from the July 2004 framework, carve-outs that are not consistent with that framework.
The framework says very clearly we will address all trade distorting cotton policies in all three pillars. And that means all of us. Certainly it must mean all major subsidizers. Certainly it must mean the world’s largest subsidizer.
If it does not, how can anyone argue credibly that we have addressed what is asserted to be the underlying problem? We live in a global marketplace, and distortions to that marketplace – wherever they occur – have global impact.
It is also essential that if we are going to deliver something in December that there is a shared understanding that we are developing a package, not an a la carte menu.
The DG’s suggestions on areas where we might focus represent a useful input to that discussion — but they are clearly not the conclusion of it.
Consultations thus far suggest that Members would want to discuss both deletions and additions.
Time is short between now and December. We must know where to focus our energies and we need to know that we are all pulling towards the same broad objectives. In that regard, there is a threshold determination that we – collectively – need to make soon. That threshold question is this: can we reach agreement on the core elements of a December package?
Our viewpoint, strongly held, is that we need to make this determination quickly. If there is agreement on core elements, we will need the fall to negotiate the details. If there is not agreement, we will need the fall to plan for an MC8 that will not have a December package as a deliverable.
Some may say it will be too hard to agree on what a package would include. I certainly do not suggest it will be easy. The doubts I expressed at our last meeting remain very present in my mind. But what is difficult now will not become easier as the months pass by. Frankly, I believe that all of us know today the range of their flexibility.
We also need to look to our recent experiences and draw lessons. Between January and April of this year, we attempted to focus our collective efforts into a major push in our formal negotiating groups. This effort did not produce the results we all hoped for, in part, because the groups did not have contextual guidance in the form of “big picture” agreement concerning the direction of the Round.
This time around, we need to give that guidance – or acknowledge that we cannot come to consensus. Whatever our determination, making it quickly will give us time to adjust. Otherwise, we risk continuing deadlock in the fall. And at that juncture, recovery will be difficult.
As painful and difficult as the weeks ahead may be, let us not shirk from our collective responsibility to engage directly and honestly. As many have noted, with justification, the credibility of the institution is at stake.